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The Change Card



Like countless other Americans, Anthony Mantova of Carlotta saw in the election and inauguration of Barack Obama an opportunity -- not for something grand and abstract like restoring the world's faith in the United States or breaking down racial barriers, but an opportunity nonetheless: Mantova is trying to sell Barack Obama's business card on Craigslist for $600. "Or best offer," the ad adds, hopefully.

Dating from our new president's days as a United States Senator, the matte-finished off-white card looks entirely unremarkable save for a gold bald eagle embossed in the upper left corner and, of course, the distinctive, now-ubiquitous name of its originator, stamped in inky all-caps across the middle. The corners of the card are slightly rounded from wear, and there's a subtle hairline crease near one edge, "just because it was in my wallet when I worked in Washington D.C.," Mantova explains in his online ad.

The card came to Mantova when he was in Maryland working for Dr. Donald Devine, director of the Federalist Leadership Center, a conservative ideological leadership institute. Occasionally, Mantova would get together with a friend who worked as a lobbyist for the American Legion, and the two would trade business cards. Obama's was just one of many. "We had no idea he'd be president," Mantova said Monday. "No clue." He held onto it anyway, just because that's what he does. "I don't know why," he said. "I just collect ’em."

Mantova, who grew up in Humboldt County and recently moved back, posted the Craigslist ad in late November. Thus far, he's received just three responses, none containing what he considers a reasonable offer. The first respondent said his ad was in poor taste, snarking, "Capitalism at its worst." The second theorized that "$600 must be a typo," and suggested, "Even at $6, just keep the card." The third was a binary pattern made up of the word "Ha" typed 204 times and accompanied by an animated dancing Obama. Undeterred, Mantova says the price is reasonable. "I figured a thousand might be pushing it," he allowed. "But $600, you know, it's three digits that were conspicuous enough. And I just went for it. I mean, you can win six Uncle Bennies at the casino."

He knows because he works at one. He also reads the news on the air for a local AM radio station and does building inspections. He had his Class B driver's license test scheduled for Tuesday, during the inauguration. Mantova said he's "not a huge supporter" of our new Commander-in-Chief but added that he doesn't like McCain either. Mantova's job at the Federalist Leadership Center largely consisted of facilitating speaking engagements across the country, and a frequent "dignitary" speaker at these events was conservative political commentator and journalist Robert Novak, whose outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame in a 2003 newspaper column was viewed by many as cheap political retribution at its worst.

Mantova insists his own motives are neither political nor cynical. It's simply an opportunity to make some money, he said, and maybe make an Obamaniac happy in the process. "It's not like I'm doing this out of spite or anti-Obama leanings or anything like that," he explained. "I just think there are people out there who are bigger fans than me, and I think they'd like to have this item."

Mantova even hinted that fervent Obama enthusiasm might melt his capitalist heart and convince him to lower his asking price a skosh. "I'm not a jerk," he declared. "I'm not just gonna say, 'Oh, you can only offer five hundred? Then you can't have a seat at the table.' That's not gonna happen. If you only have four hundred and you say, 'I love Obama [and] I'm very interested,' I'm not gonna shut you out. I'm gonna talk to ya. Maybe we can work something out."

-- Ryan Burns

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