Pop quiz: what do you think about when you think about Donald Trump?
For many people, the answer is “MAGA.” This is the acronym for Trump’s famous slogan “Make America Great Again.” He used this phrase to help fire up his political base. Furthermore, Trump made sure that his fans got the message out there by selling red MAGA hats to his followers.
While gaining political clout is good, it’s an open secret that Donald Trump rarely does anything if it doesn’t make him money. Given how many hats he apparently solid over the years, we couldn’t help but wonder: how much did Trump really make from selling MAGA hats?
To find out, we did a deep dive into the world of MAGA. And you won’t believe what we found!
The surprising origin of “Make America Great Again”
These days, it’s impossible to see or hear MAGA and not think of Donald Trump. However, he is not the person who came up with this famous (and sometimes infamous) phrase.
That particular honor goes to Ronald Reagan. According to NBC News, the former president and conservative icon was using that phrase to advance his own politics since 1980. That was when Reagan gave a speech in which he said, “This country needs a new administration with a renewed dedication to the dream of America, an administration that will give that dream new life, and make America great again.” And while Reagan didn’t invent the red MAGA hat, he did sell buttons with the phrase that his followers could wear.
Interestingly, another president made use of this phrase before Donald Trump. Bill Clinton used this phrase in the early 1990s while running for president. There is a certain irony there that Bill Clinton would use a phrase decades ago that would then be used against Hillary Clinton when she tried to run for president!
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Why is the MAGA slogan so appealing?
There is obviously something powerful in the phrase “make America great again.” It has been used by three different presidents to win votes, and one of those presidents (Clinton) had very different politics than the other two. So what makes the MAGA slogan so appealing?
In a word, the answer is “nostalgia.” It’s basic human psychology. According to the New York Times, our brains naturally forget negative memories quicker than we forget positive ones. Therefore, we tend to idolize “the good old days” because we have forgotten most of the bad parts.
This works on a national level as well as a personal level. Many people of different political stripes want the country to return to what they think of as its glory days. And this message is particularly resonant with conservatives whose political ideology is in opposition to most forms of change, leading voters to support a return to an idealized past that never really existed.
Major sales in 2019
Now, let’s get down to it: just how much did Donald Trump make from selling MAGA hats? Trump himself has never publicly commented on this. However, we can extrapolate certain information from statements made by others.
For example, Newsweek once interviewed Brad Parscale, the media director for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. In the 2019 interview, Parscale said Trump had sold almost a million hats at $45 each. This would mean Trump made nearly $45 million on the hats in 2019, and has likely made more since then. And as Parscale points out, we shouldn’t overlook profits from other apparel and merchandise using the phrase.
Solid daily profits on hats
Jared Kushner’s autobiography Breaking History has many juicy details in it. And as the New York Post points out, one of the chapters gets into the sale of Trump’s MAGA hats. According to Kushner, they initially ordered only 100 of the hats. It didn’t seem like this merchandise had much of a future…at least, until Trump himself wore one of the hats on the campaign trail.
At that point, Kushner said that the hats became an $80,000-a-day business. While Kushner doesn’t get so granular, we can take that $80,000 a day and multiply it by four years of the Trump presidency. If that daily number stayed solid, then Trump would have made nearly $117 million selling these hats.
An unclear profit margin
As you can tell, we have multiple sources giving multiple numbers on hat sales. No matter which number is correct, though, it’s unclear what the profit margin of the hats really was.
For example, the Washington Post reports that the hats cost, at most, $3 to manufacture. When you sell a $3 hat for $45, you can make quite a bit of money!
However, Kushner in his autobiography mentioned that Trump and his campaign had to heavily advertise these hats on social media to help fight the rising popularity of knock-off hats. An expensive advertising campaign can eat into profits. Then again, all of this helped Donald Trump become president without dipping into his own money, so it’s fair to say that the value of the hats sold far exceeds their dollar amount.