In a world where many of presidential candidates sound – and look – the same, there is one easy way to tell the difference between them: their campaign swag.

In the 2016 race, political merchandise has moved beyond T-shirts and stickers and into a new realm of creativity.

Rand Paul
Rand Paul can go anywhere you go with ‘Rand on a stick.’ Photograph:

For those designing this new crop of campaign merchandise, one of the main things to remember is that putting a signature on something – anything – means you can sell it for lots and lots of money.

You can buy Scott Walker’s book, Unintimidated, for $12.24 on Amazon. Or you can buy it through his website for $299. The only difference is that the latter is signed. “Due to the exclusive and personalized nature of this product,” however, purchasers must “allow 3-4 weeks for delivery of this once in a lifetime purchase”.

A signed copy of Ted Cruz’s book, A Time for Truth, costs a mere $85. Rand Paul, however, has gone a step further – by flogging an autographed copy of the US constitution for $1,000.

But if old books signed by white men don’t interest you, don’t worry. There’s plenty more out there.

Take a look at this poster of Cruz. Who’d have thought he had that many tattoos? Or that there was a Brad Pitt-in-Fight-Club-esque body lurking under that suit? The tattoos are classic Cruz, though: an American eagle, some guns, the Stars and Stripes and, slightly less obviously, Winston Churchill.

Rand Paul, as his $1,000 constitution suggests, is one of the more creative candidates when it comes to campaign swag. Famously, he is selling “Hillary’s hard drive”, which is a supposedly erased drive that “currently is no longer working”. You can also purchase a “Rand on a stick”, which is exactly what it sounds like and comes in a set of 12, or a Rand bag toss game.

Paul is also selling “Freedom socks”, which look suspiciously like normal tube socks, for $15.

Ben Carson
Ben Carson is a brain surgeon, but he tends not to go on about it. Photograph:

If you didn’t know Ben Carson was a doctor – he’s a brain surgeon but he tends not to go on about it – then you will after a visit to his official store. Much of the merchandise plays on Carson’s famed surgical skills, without ever explaining how or why this makes him a suitable candidate for president.

There’s a T-shirt featuring the message: “I got a fever and the only prescription is more Carson!” There’s another one that says: “Heal. Inspire. Revive.” There’s also a kids’ version of Carson’s book, Gifted Hands. Perfect for bedtime!

Donald Trump, meanwhile, is goodlooking. We know this because he said so himself. Now supporters can tap into some of that captivating Trump beauty by purchasing the “Make America Great Again” baseball cap he has been wearing on the campaign trail. You can also buy a Make America Great Again license plate, if you want your car to look stupid too.

Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit t-shirt
Buyers beware: Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit t-shirt does not include bottoms. Photograph:

Nor are the Republicans alone in knowing how to churn out the dubious campaign swag. Hillary Clinton’s campaign website offers both a “Grillary Clinton spatula” and a H-shaped cookie cutter. For fashion followers, there’s a pantsuit T-shirt.

Buyers beware, though. As the listing warns: “Pantsuit bottoms not included.”

This article titled “‘Once in a lifetime’ weirdness: 2016 candidates take swag to a new level” was written by Adam Gabbatt in New York, for on Thursday 10th September 2015 17.58 UTC

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