The History of Campaign Buttons and Badges
The first campaign buttons may be from around 1824, in the form of medals. These metal discs had holes punched in the top, and were worn on a string around the neck. In 1860, the invention of the tintype made Abraham Lincoln campaign badges possible.
During the 1896 race between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan, celluloid buttons made their first appearance. These pin back buttons consisted of photographs and slogans printed on paper and covered with a thin layer of clear celluloid whish was held in place with a metal ring. 1916 saw the introduction of the tin lithographed button. This type of button was made by printing an image directly on a piece of tin and stamping out the circular form.
Most Collectible Presidents
Values for campaign buttons and Badges range from a few dollars to a few thousand, naturally, base on age, the popularity of the President, and the historical importance of the election. According to Ted Hake, renowned collector of political memorabilia, and founder of Hake’s Americana & Collectibles Auction, the most collectible U.S. Presidents include:
Campaign Button and Badge Values
A Lincoln Campaign tintype badge brings in the thousand dollar range. A plain Nixon/Lodge button may fetch $5-19, but buttons reading I’m for Nixon” and Nixon in November brought $60-70 at a Heritage Auction. A tin lithographed Roosevelt/Cox button sold recently on eBay for $50, and a celluloid Teddy Roosevelt for $107. An eBay check of John Kennedy buttons showed examples selling for between $3 and $20, and Ronald Reagan buttons made anywhere between $5-16.
Reproduction Political Buttons
Many, many campaign buttons have been reproduced over the years, and since tin lithography and printing techniques haven’t changed that much in terms of the appearance of the finished products, both sellers and buyers should be wary of spending or expecting large sums for buttons unless their provenance can be verified.