Most collectors know how to take care of their collections at home. Political collectors are generally no different. They know that if you have a great autograph, poster or other paper items, keeping them away from bright windows and overhead lights makes sense. Keeping these items put away in a dark, dry place is best, but of course that takes away from the fun of collecting. After all, everyone loves to show off their collection.
But when collectors travel, whether it’s dealer stock or their own collections they are taking for display, extra precautions are needed. This is particularly the case with celluloid-covered pinback buttons. While the rules of bright light apply to celluloids, there are other precautions needed when traveling. Keeping the buttons dry is common sense, but heat can be just as big of an enemy to celluloids. Just look at a tray of celluloid buttons that have been sitting out in the elements at a few flea markets. You can always tell the outdoor flea market buttons by the spots and cracks on them.
As buttons age, the thin layer of celluloid covering them becomes brittle. When exposed to great heat, such as in a car parked in the sun while on a trip to a collectibles show, these buttons can crack or become crazed. The value of a celluloid button decreases dramatically with the smallest little crack or crazing.
One famous story of heat damage involved a collector who bought one of the best buttons in the hobby, but went into the hospital unexpectedly while the button was en route to him by mail. A neighbor picked up his mail, and left the box on the dryer in her laundry room. When the box was finally opened, a $16,000 button was reduced to high three digits. A sad tale, but true. Another well-known political dealer lost a good part of his stock many years ago when he left his vehicle sitting in the sun in Arizona while he went shopping. He then had boxes of cracked buttons to sell.
Summer is a great time to head out to shows, but keep in mind that you don’t have to live in the South for heat to build up in a car. Keep those collectibles safe by parking in the shade, and keeping your stops short.