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A Presidential Hobby

With Presidents week here I thought I would tell you about an interesting hobby I have, collecting Presidential Campaign Buttons.

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I know it seems kinda strange, most kids usually collect baseball cards, which I did, but I also found the political campaign process very fascinating. It started with a few Nixon/Agnew buttons from the 1968 race, that lead to other buttons from the ’72 campaign. About 10 years ago I picked up where I left off and thanks to on line dealers managed to fill in all the gaps dating back to the first celluloid buttons from 1896.

Some of the most expensive and rare buttons come from the presidential campaigns during the 20′s. A button from the 1920 presidential election was sold recently for $15,100 on eBay. It featured a photo of James M. Cox (the Democratic nominee) and Franklin D Roosevelt (the Vice Presidential candidate). The seller found that rare button at an estate sale and perhaps didn’t know its real value until he posted it on eBay. It was first posted with an opening bid of $10. Only!  But many collectors were interested on it. And a week later, it was sold for $15,100.

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Although campaign buttons were generally produced in mass quantities, many examples made their way to the trash heap when the presidential contest concluded. Of course, mass quantities in the late 1800′s when they were first used to convey partisan loyalty compare differently to the millions of buttons produced expressly for collectors today.

The first photographic image on pins dates to 1860. Abraham Lincoln and his various opponents used the tintype or ferrotype photo process.

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The first mass production of metal buttons dates to the 1896 William McKinley campaign for president with “celluloid” buttons with one side of a metal disk covered with paper (printed with the message) and protected by a layer of clear plastic.

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Recently, increasing advertising expenses and legal limits on expenditures have led many U.S. campaigns to abandon buttons in favor of disposable lapel stickers, which are much less expensive.

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So as we remember all our Presidents this week, I hope you learned a little something about how they managed to get your vote, and how they manage to capture the imagination of collectors like me.

 

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