Politics and buttons together equal big bucks

I’m not about to discuss the recent election. That’s for the editorial page to do. Instead, I’m going to discuss how people of any party can create a collection out of political campaign memorabilia.

First, a brief history. If you think modern-day politics are bad, with negative commercials and mudslinging all over the place, they are nothing compared to the campaigns of the 19th century, where blatantly offensive attacks on opponents were standard.

From a collectible point of view, political campaign items are desirable for several reasons. First of all, they are only produced for a limited amount of time. It is easy to date campaign memorabilia because of the candidates, especially the losing ones. Second, because elections are always taken very seriously, there is usually a lot of visually interesting material produced. Third, and probably most important, is that collectors of these items are preserving American history, and the fact that the election process is still very important in the United States today brings together eras long past with the present.

Am I saying that all the Corzine or Forrester stuff is going to be valuable someday? Not necessarily. Usually, items become more valuable when the candidates have more of an impact on society. If Corzine someday decides to run for president, the “Corzine for Governor” (and especially “Corzine for Senate”) stuff will definitely be more valuable. I’m not saying this from a Democratic point of view, I’m saying this from a collector’s point of view.

But as far as investing, if you can get your hands on older political campaign memorabilia, you’ll be putting money in a good place. Material for candidates like Abraham Lincoln or Theodore Roosevelt has always been desirable. In the case of Lincoln, such an iconic figure of American history, not a lot of campaign material was produced, especially in the 1864 campaign when America was in the throes of the Civil War.

If you are serious about starting a collection, get a hold of “Encyclopedia of Political Buttons” by Ted Hake. This wonderful guide will give you an idea of what is out there in the way of political collectibles and an idea of value. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, don’t worry. Let’s say you want to get a William McKinley pin for your collection. Some of the more desirable ones can be worth a couple thousand dollars, but you can usually get a really nice example for about 20 bucks.

The other thing to keep in mind with any collectible is not to collect something solely for its value. Be sure to collect something you love. If you are a big Jim Florio fan (I’m making a little joke here, people), there are certainly items from his campaigns. They aren’t terribly valuable, but this will allow you to amass an impressive collection for relatively little money.

So before you burn all of your Corzine or Forrester stuff in some voodoo ritual, consider the history you’ll be preserving by putting it aside. Maybe, just maybe, this article will inspire something big in my fellow geeks.