President Joe Biden received more than $46,000 in gifts from foreign leaders in his first year in office, according to an annual report from the US State Department’s chief protocol officer.
Foreign officials gave Biden 22 gifts worth more than $100, including four pen-related gifts, the report says. The gifts ranged in value from $433 to $12,000 — both of those were pens.
The gifts belong to the US government, so most are transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration for safe keeping, though Biden has the option of buying them back from the taxpayers. In 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken repaid the government $1,457 to purchase gifts he received from Pope Francis.
Often, the items reveal the personalities of both the giver and the recipient. During Donald Trump’s administration, foreign leaders wooed him with gifts including a Louis Vuitton golf bag from French President Emmanuel Macron and a gold-framed portrait of Trump himself from then-Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
Here are some of the most expensive and unique gifts Biden received in 2021:
- A $12,000 writing set from Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Geneva in June 2021. (Biden gave Putin a pair of custom aviator sunglasses and a figure of an American bison.)
- Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani gave Biden a silk carpet worth $9,600 in June 2021 — two months before the US completed it’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, which fell to the Taliban.
- Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc gave a sand painting artwork of Biden himself, worth $2,700.
- Queen Elizabeth II gave Biden a photograph of herself in a silver frame, worth $2,200.
- The most thoughtful gift: A pen drawing of Biden’s childhood home from then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel, worth $780 alongside a tea set.
- King Abdullah of Jordan gave both Biden and the first lady mother-of-pearl jewelry boxes worth $2,400 each.
- The most high-tech gift: A Tissot Touch Connect solar wristwatch worth $1,050 from former Swiss President Guy Parmelin.
- The most gifts came from former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who gave Biden two dog bowls, two wool blankets, a ceramic cup and mug set, a fountain pen with a bottle of Oxford blue ink, a photograph of a Frederick Douglass mural in Edinburgh and a G-7 summit-branded face mask. Total value: $536.20.
- Former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave Biden leather boots from R.M. Williams of Australia valued at $500.
- The cheapest gift: A $433 Dupont fountain pen from French president Emmanuel Macron. But it’s the thought that counts.
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Author: Gregory Korte, Bloomberg