Just how much should you pay for a current Barack Obama or Mitt Romney political pin? Tough question. I always advise people to buy what they like, and don’t buy with the idea that a new pin will go up in value. There’s less chance of being disappointed then. Here’s a case in point.
Political collectors see a presidential campaign as a once-every-four-years Super Bowl of politics. But that collecting frenzy can sometimes lead to buyer’s remorse.
Back in early 2009, Obama fever had reached a pitch as the new president was about to be sworn in on Inauguration Day. The nation’s first African-American president was taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, and much of the nation was planning to watch on TV.
That excitement was spilling over to political collectors as well. In fact, just two weeks later on February 3rd, that excitement became a frenzy as an Obama pin for the new president’s first elected office – Illinois State Senate – was gaveled down for $3,682 against a minimum bid of $600 in Anderson Americana, a political auction based in Troy, Ohio. What could possibly make a 1996, 2 ¼ inch word pin (no photo) worth that much? A couple factors were in play.
First, pre-presidential pins for presidents generally fetch a premium in the collectors market. For example, a Franklin Roosevelt pin for State Senate, or a Woodrow Wilson for Governor pin will always be sought after. The reason is that when these candidates were running for lower office, fewer items were made because the voting block was smaller. These were not national elections. The same is true of this 1996 Obama pin from his first run at an elected office. There had to be many fewer Obama pins made for this South Side Chicago race than most presidential buttons.
But secondly, the excitement of the moment of the campaign and inauguration can creep into these things. As can happen with any auction, the “gotta have it” mentality gets involved. I once bought a pin as part of a collection and paid $200 for it. I was told at the time by a mail order auctioneer whom I discussed it with that he had three buyers who said if the pin ever came on the market, they would own it. So I put the pin in the next auction. Sure enough, it sold for about $7,800. This is how a possibly $600 Obama pin suddenly becomes a $3,682 pin.
The truly interesting part of the story is that eight months later, as often happens when a record is set with a pin, another Obama for State Senate District 13 pin was offered by the same auctioneer. The high price of the first one brought out another seller. This second time, on Oct. 30, 2009, the exact same pinback brought $887.70, nearly $3,000 less than the first time.
That’s not to say the buyer of that $3,682 pin is sorry he bought it. He’s probably thrilled to have it in his collection since not many have turned up. But will the Obama for State Senate 13th District pin hit that $3,000-plus level again? It’s really difficult to say, but one thing’s certain. It will always be better to be the October winner than it was the February winner in this case.
Keep that in mind as you buy, sell and trade those 2012 buttons.