High court for sale: Sotomayor magnets, anyone?

Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:59pm EDT
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By Andrew Longstreth and Drew Singer

NEW YORK (Reuters) - What would Scalia do?

That might sound like a rhetorical question about Antonin Scalia, the reliably conservative Supreme Court justice with a razor-sharp wit.

But at cafepress.com, a popular online bazaar, WWSD is not an intellectual query. It is a suite of 110 products featuring an image of the justice, ranging from a hoodie (white with black silhouette of Scalia's head, $49) to a 10-pack of refrigerator magnets with photo, $40). These constitute just a sliver of the site's SCOTUSware. There's also a $5 decal of the neoclassical building, a $10 coaster featuring a portrait of Justice Clarence Thomas and various "Wise Latina" magnets that nod to Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

"Perfect for latinas of all backgrounds! Show the world your wisdom," reads a description of the item.

One of the most momentous Supreme Court terms in recent memory has drawn to a close, but the tchotchkes keep coming. Perhaps surprisingly, given all the attention the court has received, some vendors say it hasn't exactly been a banner year. Sales of Supreme Court merchandise have been flat or slightly down at places like the official souvenir shop at One First Street, run by the Supreme Court Historical Society; Northern Sun, a Minneapolis-based retailer that sells T-shirts with political messages; and CafePress.

Lackluster sales can't be blamed on limited options. At any given time the gift shop at the Supreme Court, for example, is stocked with 1,000 to 1,500 items, ranging from cuff links to mugs to tote bags.

Yet even as crowds outside the court protested and celebrated the landmark healthcare ruling on Thursday, the gift shop was quiet. Business is typically slow this time of year, when school is out, said Kelly Harris, who works on product development and merchandise acquisition for the store.

Still, Harris said many items are popular with tourists. Among them: a pocket-size calendar featuring the seal of the Supreme Court ($4.95) and "Chef Supreme," a cookbook published last year with recipes offered by the spouses of the justices in honor of the late Martin Ginsburg, husband of Justice Ruth Ginsburg ($24.95).   Continued...