The Research Desk column from Oct. 12, 2015
issue of Coin World:
Collectors of U.S. political items are served by APIC, American Political Items
Collectors, but there has traditionally been little interest in
foreign political collectibles.
The dramatic warming in relations between the United States and Fidel Castro’s Cuba may bring some attention to
such long-forgotten items as the 138.5-millimeter-long mechanical
pencil distributed in the 1950s by Carlos A. Fernandez Campos, a
fervent supporter of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar
(born 1901, died 1973).
Batista was born in Oriente Province to plantation workers of mixed
race. He joined the army in 1921. Initially illiterate, he taught
himself to read and write and became a skilled stenographer.
The secret alliance called A.B.C. overthrew Cuba’s first dictator,
Gerardo Machado, in 1933. On Sept. 4, 1933, the
Revolt of the Sergeants pushed aside the army’s commissioned officers
and then seized political power. Batista then ruled through four
puppet presidents before taking office himself under the new liberal
constitution of 1940.
His first presidency was progressive and was supported by labor
unions and the communist party. Batista left office freely in 1944 and
moved to Daytona Beach Fla. Two democratic presidencies followed with
epic corruption. Batista returned to run again for president in 1952
and seeing certain failure looming, called out the army for the coup
of March 10, ruling despotically until overthrown by leftist
revolutionary Fidel Castro in January 1959.
The Batista of 1952 was not the Batista of 1940. Corruption and
repression reigned, and the American Mafia arrived to run lucrative
gambling. A personality cult was directed by the colorful Fernandez
Campos, who erected a two story-high billboard in Habana presenting a
towering, smiling Batista with the statement ESTE ES EL HOMBRE, “This
is the Man!”
Collectible today is Fernandez Campos’ mechanical pencil made by
Ritepoint in St. Louis. The stem presents two Batista photos, the
blue-yellow pennant of 10 de Marzo and motto ESTE ES EL HOMBRE, with
CORTESIA DE/ CARLOS A. FERNANDEZ CAMPOS/ PAZ, TRABAJO Y PROGRESO/ POR
LA RECUPERACION DE CUBA, “Peace, Work and Progress for the
Recuperation of Cuba.”
Interest in such items, as well as Cuba’s historic coinage, is
certain to increase with any removal of the decades-long embargo and
the arrival of American tourists.