Meditation Rugs, Swords, and Horse Head Fiddles: The Strangest Gifts Given to Government Bigwigs

U.S. officials have acquired more bling from overseas than Kanye West and Kim Kardashian had on their wedding registry. Here’s a sample.

Gary Cameron/Reuters

In the past year, American government officials have acquired more bling from overseas than Kanye West and Kim Kardashian had on their wedding registry. Foreign countries bestow ornate gifts on American officials as a sign of courtesy during diplomatic trips. Unfortunately, ethics laws often prevent these gifts from being kept by the recipient and they end up in the hands of the federal government. But they all end up being catalogued (PDF).

While some of these unusual presents have already been highlighted on Twitter by Dave Maass of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, here are some of the most peculiar gifts that federal officials received in 2013.

Mediation Rug

Whenever CIA Director John Brennan needs to spend a few minutes calming himself, he can take advantage of a 4 foot by 3 foot silk mediation rug with a purple background. The rug, valued at $3500 is on display in Brennan’s office for official use only, was a gift from an undisclosed foreign country. Apparently even when a foreign power simply wants to help the CIA director find inner peace, it’s still a state secret.

Mongolian Horse Head Fiddle

What’s the perfect present for a keen golfer with a taste for red wine? When Zandaakhuu Enkhbold, the Speaker of the Mongolian Parliament, visited the U.S. Capitol in 2013, he gave John Boehner a Mongolian Horse Head Fiddle. The fiddle is not made with a horse’s head. Instead, the two stringed instrument gets its name because the scroll is traditionally carved in the shape of a horse’s head. Boehner did not keep the traditional Mongolian fiddle valued at $850 and, instead, turned it over to the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Scarf With A Obama Portrait

Hillary Clinton stepped down as Secretary of State in January 2013. But before the former First Lady left the Obama Administration, the Tanzanian Ambassador wanted to give her a token of esteem. So he gave her a scarf with a portrait of Obama, whom Clinton fought a prolonged Democratic presidential primary campaign against in 2007, between two illustrations of the African continent. The scarf was accompanied by a framed painting of Tanzanian birds and is valued at $595.

Wilkinson Sword

Upon taking over as Clinton’s successor, Secretary of State John Kerry received a Wilkinson Sword from William Hague, the British Foreign Minister at the time. The sword, which was held in a gold and blue sheath with a lion handle and had ER engraved on the hilt was actually “retained for official use only.” Although its unclear for what official use that the Secretary of State would need to retain a sword for, he is able to keep the weapon, valued at $469, if he ever has to fight a duel against Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

DVD About The 1992 Lithuanian Men’s Basketball Team

Barack Obama is the most famous basketball fan in the United States. But when he visited Lithuania in September 2013, President Dalia Grybauskaitė wanted to remind him that her country was pretty good at the sport too. She gave Obama a DVD entitled The Other Dream Team about the Lithuanian men’s basketball team in the 1992 Olympics which won the bronze medal against the U.S.’s famous Dream Team. The DVD was accompanied by a personalized basketball jersey and a piece of polished amber. Together, they were valued at a combined $439.98.

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!

Daily Digest

Start and finish your day with the top stories from The Daily Beast.

Cheat Sheet

A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know (and nothing you don't).

By clicking “Subscribe,” you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason.

Bottle of Sarajishvili Cognac

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) received a bottle of Sarajishvili 20th Century Cognac from Irakli Garibashvili, Georgia’s Minister for Internal Affairs. The cognac, an effort by the Georgian vintners to replicate the traditional French liquor, is valued at $1400 for a single bottle. Rohrabacher though did retain the bottle for official use in his Washington, D.C. office. Hopefully, he didn’t retain it all in one sitting.

Personalized Honorary Storage Cubby For Moldovan Wine

On a December visit to Moldova where Secretary of State John Kerry sampled the country’s wine, he also received a personalized honorary storage cubby at the Cricova Winery which contained 460 bottles of wine. The winery, famed for its sparking wines is located nine miles north of the Moldovan capital of Chisinau. The cubby and the 460 bottles of wine, valued at $8,339.50 will remain at Cricova to be displayed. It is unclear if Kerry will be able to grab a bottle or two from the cubby the next time he passes through Moldova.

Korean Cookbook

When South Korean President Park Geun-hye visited Washington in May 2013, she have been passive aggressively nudging Michelle Obama to cook more recipes involving kimchi. Park gave the First Lady a book entitled “The Very Best of Korean Cooking.” The book, which was accompanied by a “porcelain tableware set including bowls, dishes, plates, chopsticks, napkins, and spoons” for a total estimated value of $375.00, was given to the National Archives.