I always enjoyed show-and-tell day in elementary school. Once a week you’d bring in a neat rock, paperweight or maybe a shell casing from an artillery round and show it to your classmates. One of the favorite items I brought in was a photo of my cousin Tim shaking hands with President Gerald Ford. This was probably in the second grade.
Tim’s dad was a Secret Service agent for Nixon and Ford, so Tim was able to get his photo taken at the White House. I didn’t know much about politics at that age, but I knew who the president was. I thought it was really cool that my cousin got to shake his hand, and Tim had a photo to prove it.
I recall that there was little reaction to the photo from my classmates. Maybe they didn’t know anything about the president. Or maybe they just didn’t care.
Readers of this blog may feel the same way about this posting, which isn’t much different than show-and-tell day. It’s about my political button collection.
Early last year I didn’t have a collection, just two buttons tucked away in a box somewhere. They’re remnants from my childhood. I think my brother Pat was cleaning out his stuff and gave me a McGovern button from 1972. In 1981 there was an incident with Libya, and my brother Matt gave me a button about it. I tucked these away in a box and, for some reason, kept them.
Early last I was at a rummage sale and came across a couple buttons, probably a Nixon, maybe a Goldwater. There are interesting historical artifacts and only cost a couple bucks, so I bought them.
When I got home it occurred to me that I should put all of my buttons together – all four of them. A collection was born.
But can you call four pathetic buttons a collection>? Not really. I needed to fill in a few gaps. So I found a couple more buttons at a different sale.
Then, at an event at Redwood Acres, I hit the Mother Lode. There was a bucket with at least half a dozen old buttons, along with a Nixon bracelet. I paid $2 for each button, $5 for the bracelet.
Now I had a real collection. But there were so many gaps, and the collection was dominated by Republicans. I needed more Democrats.
So the search continued. Later, after learning about my collection, family and friends started giving me buttons.
It kept growing and growing, and continues to grow today.
Why collect buttons?
My wife and I enjoy hunting for treasures. We go to garage sales, rummage sales and antique stores. We look for interesting kick knacks and household items. Lately, we’ve become “rummage snobs” and often come home empty handed.
Unless, of course, I find some buttons.
Each political button has a story to tell – politics, history and a personal story. As a bonus, buttons are inexpensive to collect and they don’t take up too much space.Value?
How much is my collection worth? Answer: Very little.
There are serious collectors out there who pay top dollar for rare political memorabilia, none of which I own.
The buttons in my collection cost 50 cents, $1, or maybe $2. Sometimes I pay a little more than they’re actually worth.
If I want a button that’s worth 25 cents, but an antique store has it priced at $1.50, I’ll pay for it. After all, the store owner has to pay rent and utilities. But would I pay more than $3? Probably not.
Note that this particular collection is limited to national candidates, with a few exceptions. Scattered about my office and elsewhere I also have buttons from local candidates, but that’s a different collection for a different time.
Here’s the collection:
1924, Coolidge and Dawes
I'm not clear on the age of this button. Some internet sources claim it's from the race of 1932.
1936, Landon and Knox
1940, Roosevelt and Wallace. Also shown is an anti-Roosevelt button, year unknown.
1944, Dewey and Bricker
1948, Dewey and Warren
1940, Willkie and McNary
1952 and/or 1956? Eisenhower, and Eisenhower and Nixon
Here is some Ike jewelry.
1958-62? Pat Brown
1966-70? Ronald Reagan
These are among the exceptions to my "national" button rule for this collection. Pat Brown can't be ignored, and Reagan later became president, so they fit in the collection.
1960, Nixon and Lodge
Here's a Nixon bracelet from 1960. I imagine that Republican women received these after making sizable donations.
1964, Scranton, Goldwater. I don't know the age of the "Time for a Change" button.
1964, Johnson and Humphrey
Jan. 20, 1965. Here's a book of matches for inauguration day.
1968, Nixon and Agnew
1972, Pete McCloskey. McCloskey was a Republican who was against the Vietnam War. He ran against Nixon for the Republican nomination, but lost. I'm told this button is from that race, but it could be from Pete's other races.
1972, McGovern and Shriver
1968, Wallace and LeMay. What a ticket! Wallace was racist asshole segregationist. LeMay was a proponent of using nuclear weapons.
Jan. 20, 1977 – Inauguration of Carter and Mondale. This cost a buck or two on eBay. I failed to look at the size. It's too big to fit in my display cabinet. Owning it is a burden. I need to get rid of it.
1980, Carter and Mondale
1984, Mondale and Ferraro
1984, Mondale and Ferraro. Please excuse the water on this button. My display case is located over the dog bowl. Twice today this button jumped out and took a plunge.
1988, Michael Dukakis. I like the severed head floating over America. Very inspiring.
1988, Socialist Party. I love a button like this because I had to research who the heck these people were.
1992, Ross Perot
1992, Jerry Brown
2008, Barack Obama
Date unknown. Herb Caen for President. I love this button. A friend I haven't seen since high school recently mailed this to me.
Collection as of 9.7.11