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Campaign buttons make great collections

Nov. 04, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

With the presidential election looming, many collectors of political buttons are scrambling to add to their button chest before the election. These collectibles are interwoven into the political culture of America. Some are winners and some are losers, and it is surprising which ones surface in the collectible world as the most coveted.

Some would automatically assume buttons touting Barack Obama or Sarah Palin would be two of the most sought after advertisers. Not so. It seems the first African American president or the vice presidential candidate that was the second woman to represent a major political party are just not that important to the collector. The reason being is they look for the scarce, rare and limited production buttons.

Now if one of these candidates had a button that had some idiosyncrasy distinguishing it from the masses then collectors would be all about it. An example would be Warren Harding's mechanical button that when squeezed had him thumbing his nose. Now there's a button! Because of the scarcity factor that drives this hobby, third party candidates and the losers of a campaign may offer the valuable buttons. The fickle public will decide.

If you are considering jumping into this fray then you should start by picking up some of the buttons that are presently available. What is free today could be costly down the road. No one can predict what will hold value and what won't. However, there are the indicators of condition and rarity that seem to always count.

As the election passes begin to seek out older buttons found in antique stores, flea markets and of course the online outlets. Joining an organization of other political button collectors will not only offer outlets for buying and selling but will bring you into contact with some experts in the field. It never hurts to pick the brain of someone who is an experienced collector. Sadly, like so many collectibles there are fakes on the market so this is one of those areas where a buyer needs to beware.

Even if you don't get rich collecting buttons, you will find this to an extremely interesting field. Besides accumulating buttons, the history associated with it and the fun stories that are recounted will offer hours of entertainment.

Finally, don't just collect the buttons of the winners and losers, take part in the process -- be sure to vote.

Jean McClelland writes about antiques for The Herald-Dispatch.