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The President-elect's movie days: price tags go up on Reagan memorabilia

It's boomtime for Bonzo. Even as political pundits laboriously thrash out the weightier impacts of Ronald Reagan's Nov. 4 victory, one simple dollars- and-cents effect is rapidly becoming clear: a surge in the value of and interest in all things Reagan, especially movie memorabilia.

Already, one New York marketing firm is giving it one for the Gipper, so to speak, with a massive push on dolls, posters, and other bagatelles based on Bonzo, the chimpanzee who starred with Mr. Reagan in the 1951 film, "Bedtime for Bonzo."

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In addition, memorabilia dealers report a "brisk business in Reagan movie posters and photographs, lobby cards, and even a World War II training film starring the nation's President-elect as a cocky young fighter pilot.

Prices on many items already have gone sky high. In one Beverly Hills store, "Ronnie as daredevil," in the 1941 film, "International Squadron." (A quick jaunt, however, to Hollywood's decidedly less chic memorabilla stores will turn up the same poster for $125 or less).

The demand is such, complain collectors, that you just can't get your hands on any of the original publicity paraphernalia forsuch choice reagan classics as "King's Row," "Knute Rockne, All American," and "Bedtime for Bonzo," -- the latter being particularly popular, says one store owner, because "it portrays Reagan in the silliest possible manner. It's the antithesis of his office."

The memorabilia madness, however, doesn't really surprise most dealers. REagan, after all, will be the only American President whose resume includes a lengthy, if not critically illustrious, stint -- 53 movies worth -- on Hollywood's silver screen.

Not to mention the fact that while most presidents must wait to be immortalized in history books, Reagan's name already has been preserved for posterity in a concrete- embedded star -- right between the stars of Mickey Rooney and Perry Como -- on the sidewalk of legendary Hollywood Boulevard.

Most memorabilia dealers expect that the interest sparked by the novelty of Reagan's early career will wane -- as will the demand for Reagan cinematic curios. On the question of value, however, dealers are split. It is virtually unanimously agreed that the Reagan souvenirs will never match, for example, the whether Reaganabilia will rise in monetary value or will fizzle as just another passing fancy.

"Ronald Reagan is a very unknown quantity at this time," says Jim Sutton, a memorabilia dealer who adds as a joking afterthought, "both as President and in posters."

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