The Golden Ticket Meets Supply and Demand


The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies wants the January 20 Obama inauguration to be “one of the most accessible in U.S. history.”

But the the laws of supply and demand are making accessibility hard for the average citizen.

To get a free ticket to the inauguration ceremony, you either need to know someone (a senator or representative from your state, the president-elect, the vice president-elect, etc.), or you need a lot of money: ticket brokers are asking as much as $20,095 for a single ticket, reports CNN.

Tickets along the parade route, meanwhile, where Biden and Obama will walk between the White House and the Capitol, were only $25 apiece, but they went “blazingly fast,” reports the BBC, and if you want one now, you’ll likely pay a dear price.

Even if you do secure a ticket, you’ll likely encounter overpriced and scarce transportation and hotel rooms: some area hotels have as much as quadrupled their prices, reports the Boston Globe.

Some would-be inauguration attendees are even canceling their trips due to concerns about travel and expenses, reports, and Washington’s officials have reduced the estimated number of inauguration attendees from four to five million to two million.

If you were given a ticket, would it be worth your while (and money) to go? Or if you’re one of the people who does have a ticket, what’s your survival plan?


What's the going rate that Gov. Blago is selling his tickets for? Is trying to turn his allotment into a Cabinet seat as well?


If I were given a ticket I'd go, but only because I could walk there from my house, and because I don't have to work, because DC is pretty much closed, save for bars and restaurants.

I'm not going anywhere once I get home from work on Friday until Wednesday morning.

Oren Nimelman

Well that's easy; I'm staying in Toronto and watching it live on TV.


I wouldn't go if I was given free tickets because of the spill over costs of attending. Airfare, hotels, food and not to mention that I hate super crowds. :) I guess I am not a candidate for a history making inauguration. Trying to say that they are making it accessible to everyone is a bunch of bull considering that you have to be rich to be able to afford the travel costs.


I'm working a concert at The Shakspere Theatre across form the Verizon Center. Yes it will be hard to get there but from 9am-2am I am earning double my pay and get to see acts like Elvis Costello from backstage too boot!


Like the NFL, this event might best be viewed via HDTV.

Eric M. Jones

I would pay a substantial amount to stay exactly where I will be--in front of my HDTV with a bag of popcorn and my wife and cats.

I don't get it. Everything is an illusion anyway. Quantum Mechanics proves that this thing about "REALLY" being there is all just fantasy. But I'll be safe and warm at home.

On the public-safety side, gathering a huge number of people together seems extremely risky business. Certainly 100,000 people is a crowd. two million people is twenty-times too big for health and safety to rationally support.


If I had a ticket I would certainly sell it. It'd pay for a semester of tuition at 20k a pop.

Anyway, my first day of class is on the 20th, so I'll be busy in New York. And I have no interest in "experiencing history" first hand. I bet the inauguration will be a lot like your average NFL game -- Better at home, where the temperature is better, TV makes the view and sound better, and the beer will be cheaper.


Sixteen years ago, Robert Reich presented a piece on NPR's Market Place show. Reich, who became Clinton's first Labor Secretary, told the story of a “friend,” close to one of the candidates, who was trying to reserve a room for the inauguration, pre-election, before all of the rooms were gone.

The hotels were double or triple their normal rates; there was a four or five day minimum stay, and there were no refunds or cancellations. The friend really had to think long and hard about making a reservation. If his candidate won, he'd surely be invited to the festivities. But if his candidate lost, he'd have no interest in traveling to DC.

He decided to book. The last question the hotel asked was, “What's your political party?” which he thought was an odd question. Then he realized that they hotels were double booking, and possibly even triple booking (remember Ross Perot) the rooms betting that losers wouldn't show up.


party time in the capitol city!

Just for some scope, the fourth of july is considered an enormous event in Washington, DC. Estimated about 500k tourists. This is apx. 2,000,000. It will be a fun weekend in DC, thats for sure, especially with the law passed letting bars stay open until 5am for the weekend.

and as a side note, the top of the washington monument would probably be the most amazing view you could have given the sea of people that will most likely be beneath it.


So where is the "approved" protesting section located - Gaithersburg, MD??? I would love to see that.

Obama is just another in a long line of empty suits- he just gets a big boost from the public as the first multiracial American to be elected president. (He is not African American as in the descendant of former slaves but African American as in the child of Kenyan and American citizens...)

If people could understand that the journalism industry is business controlled then maybe they would understand that this industry never reports on alternative political parties because those parties are not "news worthy" (ie will sell papers, magazines, or generate web advertising).

The public should be educated tp vote for someone who would actually change things not just "say" they are going to change things...and then do all the same stuff again.


I was in Grant Park for election night, but only because I couldn't sell my ticket (sold my guest pass). If I had a ticket, I would certainly sell, plus rent out my apartment, etc. Even adding the benefit of being able to say "I was there", it's not worth the price tag.


As a high school student, I was given the opportunity to attend the inauguration as a participant in Close Up, a program to show high school students first hand how the government operates. Tickets were free, hotel was booked through the program, and everything is already planned. The only drawback, as far as I'm concerned, is the sheer number of people who will be there.

Barbara Ruckel

I'd go. This is an incredible opportunity and I would love to be a part of it!

E, a U of C alum

I'm going. I don't have a ticket, but I live in Baltimore and have family in Washington. I'm driving down this weekend, sleeping on the floor, and walking the five miles to the Mall.

If I had a ticket I would certainly use it for the better seats. But if someone offered me $20,000 for it, I suppose having to stand all day would be worth it.


I admire your participation in the Close Up program and the fact that you will get to attend the inauguration.

One thing to be aware of is how the donars to the program seek to influence political policy or politicians. Someone has probably spent alot of money for you to attend the Close up program so you should look for sponsorship influence or freebies and ask deeper questions.
If our (and later your) government keeps acting like as a business and removing legitimate alternative opinions from discussion (re: non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates which created self limits to 3rd party candidates) because these opinions are not "marketable" to a certain two political parties goals then we are done for as a country.

Politicians should serve their country in the same respect that soldiers do. Again, just be aware and concious of those who seek to influence your attitudes while you attend the program.

Have fun along with your work.


Bobby G

This reminds me of the story about how concert musicians can't sell their tickets for $10 anymore because of sites like et al. (did I read it in Freakonomics? I feel like I did).

Even when musicians wanted to offer cheap tickets so that everyone could attend, those websites would hire homeless people to stand in line at the ticket booths, buy up all the tickets for the site, who could then "auction" them off at closer-to-real market value. With limited capacities, "cheap" tickets would run out quickly while demand would still remain the same, hence the price inflation.

It's the same issue here. Obama (or really, the Congressional Committee in charge of Inaugurations) failing to understand this economic concept is a step in the wrong direction regarding my confidence that he can fix the economy...

Brian F.

I was actually lucky enough to win two tickets in a senator's lottery. I've decided to keep and use the tickets. I live in the DC area and have friends who live near the Mall, so I will be ok getting to the ceremony. Rumor is that people will be lining up as early as 4am on the day of the ceremony. I don't know if I'll get there that early, but I won't be too far behind. I seriously pondered selling the ticket, but after internal deliberation I decided that the whole experience was truly priceless. Of course, in twenty years when I can't put my kids through college, I'm sure I'll kick myself for improperly valuing the opportunity cost.


I would sell my ticket in a heartbeat.

Andy from Texas

I have a ticket and I'm not selling it. If they had given away tickets to MLK's Dream speech, and you had sold it, how would you feel now? Smug for the money made, or like you had cheated yourself of a chance to view history?
But that said, more than the memories of the inauguration, I'll probably remember the people I met while working my butt off on the campaign trail. I'll admit to having a bit of contempt for the people with $$$ to pay to airlift into the event without having done a lick of work to actually make it happen.

Frankly, if you want to see Obama, and you haven't yet, you'll feel much better waiting for years and volunteering for the campaign. You will get a chance to see him, guaranteed. Everyone I know who worked over 100 hours on the campaign found some way to attend a rally or town hall meeting and see him in person. You'll feel like you made history, instead of just watching it.