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President Americana Wax Museum Closes After Hot Presidential Election

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now we need to tell you about the passing of another beloved attraction, this one in the town of Gettysburg, Penn., famous for its Civil War battleground and as the site of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The Hall of Presidents and First Ladies, a wax museum dedicated to presidential Americana, announced last fall that after almost 60 years, it is closing its doors due to dwindling numbers of visitors and putting its 44 life-size wax American presidents on the auction block.

RANDY DICKENSHEETS: Who has $10,000 to open up Abraham Lincoln? Ten thousand? Five thousand dollars?

MARTIN: That's auctioneer Randy Dickensheets. He presided over the museum's going-out-of-business sale yesterday, where hundreds gathered to buy a life-sized politician of their very own. Founded in the late 1950s, the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies used to be a bustling attraction at Gettysburg. But museum owner Max Felty says that visitors have dwindled since its heyday decades ago. This past year's hot presidential election didn't bring any more tourists.

MAX FELTY: That's kind of when we said, we're going to cut it loose now before we have to get another president, invest any more money or do any more things like that.

MARTIN: So he shut it down. And on Saturday, hundreds of collectors, tourists and history buffs from around the country packed into a ballroom to bid. George Faber came from Baltimore to say goodbye to one of his favorite childhood haunts.

GEORGE FABER: In short, you have some kids into "Star Trek," some kids into, you know, superheroes, and I was always into wax museums. And, you know, it's like seeing an old friend go.

MARTIN: Stephanie Hoffman drove from nearby Irwin, Penn., to bid on the statue of her distant relative, President Andrew Jackson.

STEPHANIE HOFFMAN: So now we're going home with a statue of him, and he'll be in the front foyer waving to everybody when they come in the door.

MARTIN: And her husband Craig says...

CRAIG HOFFMAN: We bought his first wife also so he would have company.

MARTIN: Robert Shire drove up from Washington, D.C., intending to make a big purchase to take to the inauguration.

ROBERT SHIRE: I would like to bid on Hillary Clinton. I would love to see her at the inauguration.

MARTIN: So still wondering how much it actually costs to buy your very own personal president? Maybe a little pricey for the casual history buff. The biggest bargain, according to auctioneer Randy Dickensheets, was President James Monroe, who was snatched up for just $1,000. And coming in as the most expensive?

DICKENSHEETS: Going once. Going twice. Eighty-five hundred dollars, sold in the back here to 290.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: That's Abraham Lincoln, who, like many of his waxy colleagues, gave up his old Gettysburg address yesterday for a new home in a private collection. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.