by Dr. Lori Verderame
The process of running for the office of President of the United States is always exciting. Some of the most interesting aspects of a Presidential campaign are the objects that the candidates and their campaigns offer as give-aways or donation gifts and those items that companies have manufactured and marketed in order to profit from the campaign. Over the years, these items have become highly sought after political collectibles. What is fascinating about these objects is they relate to the individual candidates’ background or message and serve to document events which took place during the campaign.
The phrase about being “on the ticket” refers to the old process of using paper tickets to choose candidates. These antique paper tickets are still traded by collectors today. Some collect political campaign tickets and Presidential campaign collectible tickets by state or by individual candidate. These tickets depending on who is on the ticket command hundreds of dollars each.
During early Presidential campaigns, supporters collected autographs and wore campaign buttons on their clothing to promote their favorite candidate. Now, the term campaign buttons refer to small pin-back lapel pins worn by supporters. Personal objects and wearable pins and other jewelry are mainstays in our modern political campaigns. Some examples are campaign buttons like the simplistic “Wilson” from 1916 campaign button or the “Smile for Carter” campaign button from 1976. These pieces of campaign costume jewelry feature campaign logos, names of candidates, photographs of Presidential candidates and their running mates, and catchy slogans that address issues of the day.
One of the most expensive and highly sought after campaign buttons on the collectibles market today is from Abraham Lincoln’s run for President, both times. Abraham Lincoln’s campaign offered his campaign supporters a wearable ferrotype, like a daguerreotype and other early photographs, on his campaign button. This campaign button featured a ferrotype image of Abraham Lincoln on the front and an image of his running mate–Hannibal Hamlin in the 1860 campaign and Andrew Johnson in the 1864 campaign–on the back. The two-sided ferrotype photo campaign buttons from the Lincoln campaign are worth thousand today. Along with other tips for selling your antiques, remember that these campaign buttons are most desirable during a Presidential election year.
Other traditional campaign items are campaign posters and ribbons which continue to intrigue collectors. For instance, an original poster for the third term election of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940, a 1980 campaign poster with the images of running mates Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush waving to a crowd under the caption “The Time is Now”, and the podium signs used by the Trump campaign and other Donald Trump collectibles under the popular slogan “Make America Great Again” are used to gain support and are highly collectible in good condition.
Promotional textile pieces, mainly candidate or campaign slogan ribbons like “Prosperity parade” ribbons from the William McKinley/Teddy Roosevelt campaign of 1900 are worth a few hundred dollars to antique collectors of Presidential campaign collectibles.
What to Look For
Home good or small products that can be used at home like Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign throw pillow, Grillary BBQ spatula and H campaign logo cookie cutters, William McKinley’s 1900 campaign bar of soap in the shape of a baby (photo above) for the new century promoting “My Papa will vote for McKinley – Gold Standard, Protection, Reciprocity, and Good Times”, and John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign salt and pepper shakers with an image of Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy transferred onto the ceramic. When selling President JFK collectibles and other similar Presidential items like the blue Swiss army knife with Ronald Reagan’s facsimile signature from the 1980 campaign or a box of bubble gum cigars wrapped in cellophane marked “Bush-He’s the Man” from President George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign, look for good condition and complete sets like the case for the army knife and an entire box of 24 bubble gum cigars.
Rarity in Presidential campaign collectibles is the most important aspect of a collectible. Look for good condition which is no small feat when it comes to posters, paper ephemera, vintage campaign ribbons, and wearable campaign buttons.
Candidates who lost races offer collectors some of the most interesting Presidential campaign collectibles but typically don’t bring as much money for their items as winners.
Collectible objects that document a memorable or unusual campaign happening also attract collectors like objects associated with third party candidates such as Ross Perot, Joe Lieberman, Ralph Nader, or Ron Paul.
The Presidential campaign collectibles that tell us something about a particular historical period or cultural commonality are valuable. For example, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson gave away cigarette lighters during their 1960 campaign in an era when smoking cigarettes was the cultural norm. And, a campaign button stating “I want F.D.R. again” refers to the fact that Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected multiple times making that object of special interest to collectors. In 2008, President Barack Obama’s campaign message of hope was characterized by an action figure doll in the form of the vivacious and youthful senator from Illinois. When you can connect a Presidential campaign collectible with historic events, value is increased.
Get an online appraisal report of your Presidential campaign collectible from Dr. Lori.