Gifts to Obama: From flashy to bizarre

obama_chavan.gi.top.jpgPresident Obama gets a gift from Ashok Chavan, Chief Minister of the Indian state of Maharashtra in Nov. 2010. By Charles Riley, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The State Department has released its annual list of gifts from foreign governments to federal employees, and as one would expect, President Obama made out pretty well.

In total, the president racked up 54 gifts with an estimated value of more than $160,000 during 2009, the most recent tally that the government furnishes.

The gifts range from the practical -- a small wooden CD holder from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev -- to the weirdly extravagant -- a $395.00 pencil from Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, the president of the European Commission.

By law, Obama doesn't keep gifts of significant value. Instead, most items are transferred to the National Archives or the General Services Administration.

But that didn't stop foreign leaders from lavishing gifts on influential government employees.

Saudi King Abdullah captured the prize for biggest spender, gifting Obama a large gold medallion, a large brass and glass clock and a marble base featuring miniature figurines of gold palm trees and camels worth an estimated $34,500.

The generosity of the King didn't stop there, as he also gave first lady Michelle Obama a necklace made of 33 pearls worth $14,200 and a ruby and diamond jewelry set valued at $132,000.

The first children received jewelry worth $7,275 from the King, while senior White House staffers had to settle for a more modest gift pack consisting of silver cufflinks and watches.

While the exchange of gifts is par for the course in the world of high-pressure diplomacy, some are also downright strange.

Topping that category is a gift received by Alfred Almanza, a Food Safety and Inspection service administrator, who received a book entitled "The Gastronomic World of Don Quixote'' from a Spanish government official.

Once the government receives a gift, it is required to list a reason for accepting it. The standard response: "Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government."

The report also notes that 12 bottles of wine and a bottle of olive oil given to Obama were "handled pursuant to Secret Service policy."

The fate of those gifts remains unclear.  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,098.45 18.88 0.11%
Nasdaq 4,580.27 22.58 0.50%
S&P 500 2,003.37 6.63 0.33%
Treasuries 2.34 0.01 0.39%
Data as of 3:13pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.09 0.08 0.50%
Apple Inc 102.50 0.25 0.24%
Intel Corp 34.92 0.27 0.78%
Facebook Inc 74.82 0.96 1.31%
General Electric Co 25.98 -0.03 -0.12%
Data as of Aug 29

Sections

The deal would value Vice at $2.5 billion. The online media company would also create content for the cable network, delivering a wider audience. More

Gas prices are falling to nearly $3 a gallon in some parts of South Carolina, and that will soon be common in much of the country. More

Chinese tech giant Alibaba is gearing up for a major market debut in New York that could set new records. Here are three things you need to know in advance of their big splash. More

The Coolest Cooler is the most successful Kickstarter campaign in the site's history, raising $13.3 million from over 62,000 backers. More

Five CNNMoney readers share stories about saving that you can learn from: What they would do differently if they had another chance. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.