Photo of the Obama Family
Even the Obama children have to turn over foreign gifts. CC by Annie Leibovitz / Released by White House Photo Office/Wikimedia Commons

Federal officials and their family members are not allowed to accept foreign gifts. The U.S. Constitution disallows it. For the Obama family, this means turning over gifts they do accept over to the National Archives. All told, the first family received almost $1 million worth of foreign gifts in 2010.

Sasha and Malia Obama’s foreign gifts

Giving kids small gifts or tokens seems natural. For leaders of foreign countries, giving small tokens to the daughters of the president seems like a good idea. However, it is no small thing when added up. The leaders of Saudi Arabia spent about $7,275 on gifts to the First Daughters. Michelle Obama was given a $132,000 ruby and diamond jewelry set by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Scarves, Russian nesting dolls, jewelry boxes, jackets and books have all been sent to Sasha and Malia Obama from  foreign countries.

The value of foreign gifts

Often, the First Family accepts gifts to avoid appearing rude. Because the Constitution doesn’t allow gifts to be kept, the family’s gifts become property of the United States. Once the gift is accepted, it is turned over for cataloging and storage as property of the nation. Between $15,000 and $40,000 worth of gifts were sent from Iraq, China, the U.K., Turkey, Jordan and Germany in 2010 alone. Along with that there was more than $342,164 worth of gifts from Saudi Arabia, $73,408 from Qatar, $50,000 from Ghana and $47,864 from Italy. In short, the value of foreign gifts to the First Family add up quickly.

Gifts can’t be kept by Sasha and Malia Obama

Sasha and Malia Obama aren’t allowed to keep foreign gifts until their father is out of office. The federal gifts can be re-purchased by the family after Obama leaves the White House. The gifts are occasionally kept “for official use only” — often sets of dishes, rugs and other large items. If Sasha and Malia wish to keep the gifts they were given in 2010, President Obama or Michelle Obama will have to reimburse the nation for them.

Information from

USA News:

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