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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Jugate (picture) ribbon; Lincoln & Hamlin with portraits taken from Mathew Brady photos; 1860; $7,170. Photo courtesy of Heritage Galleries & Auctioneers.
It was a heated election. Abraham Lincoln, a Republican was running against George McClellan a Democrat for President in 1864. The pressing issue was ending the Civil War and doing it quickly.

Looking at Lincoln’s campaign material, his strategy was clear--peace and maintaining a unified nation.

Thanks to photography, Lincoln’s presidential run in 1860 was the first in history where people 100 miles away from Washington got a chance to see what a candidate actually looked like. A new-fangled photo process called tintype or ferrotype made it all possible.

The process allowed Lincoln and his running mates to have their pictures on campaign buttons and ribbons. Lincoln’s 1860 button, although scarce, is distinguishable from his 1864 re-election button for one reason. His infamous beard was now pictured on almost all 1864 official photos.

The beard gave Lincoln the look of a caring father shepherding his flock through rough terrain. He looked the part of a courageous leader and won his second campaign with a popular vote of almost 55 per cent. Shiny tokens, colorful flags, campaign buttons and patriotic tunes added to Lincoln’s popular appeal.

These campaign buttons weren’t the kind of buttons we think of today either. They were more like metal rings surrounding a tintype picture. With a hole punched in the top and a ribbon attached, they hung from a lapel.

In the field of political souvenirs, buttons are the most popular and common collectible today. But what people collect is mind-boggling.

Many items have been stashed away in attics for years and come trickling onto the market through eBay, yard sales and live auctions. Popularity and scandal are especially desirable.

Everything from locks of Lincoln’s hair and Clinton impeachment debate passes, to Kennedy’s rocking chairs and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s walking cane are sought after.

For some people, it’s as though the memories and magic of these leaders might actually rub off through the relics. For other people, it’s a chance to own a piece of history and in a way, be a part of it.

The McKinley-Bryan campaigns of 1896 and 1900 are especially important to collectors because these campaigns produced the most popular collectible: the pin-back button. The earliest buttons were printed on paper, backed by metal and covered with clear Celluloid. By 1920, pictures were being lithographed directly onto metal.

Portrait badges from the 19th century are also popular. These are basically photographs of the candidate set in elaborate metal mounts. They’re actually photographs, not mechanically printed reproductions. Not many were made and few survived.

A portrait pin-back button goes up in value when both presidential and vice-presidential candidates are pictured. Because of obscurity, a plain button from a little known Democratic loser like James Cox and John Davis can end up being worth more than a well-known President like Woodrow Wilson.

Since 1952 the amount of political souvenirs issued by campaigns has dramatically decreased. The biggest reason is the growth of other media for promotion like television.

On Dec. 15-16 Heritage Galleries & Auctioneers in Dallas, Texas, featured political souvenirs in its Political and Americana Memorabilia auction. Here are some current values.

Political Souvenirs

Put-down ribbons from 1880 election; 8; several deal with Chinese immigrant labor issues; Black Americans; etc., $2,390.

Ferrotype Jugate (picture) pin-back button; Grant & Wilson; brass frame; 28mm; $3,107.

Ferrotype pin-back button; Horace Greeley; bears a lapel stud back; 1872; 29mm; $4,780.

Ferrotype Jugate (picture) pin-back button; Douglas & Johnson; photo flawlessly centered; 1860; 22mm; $6,573.

Jugate (picture) ribbon; Lincoln & Hamlin with portraits taken from Mathew Brady photos; 1860; 2 3/4 inches by 6 1/4 inches; $7,170.

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