When bidders go to war at an auction, it can be a fun thing to sit back and watch – especially if your wallet is not involved. While it’s preferable to do this in person (the facial expressions can be priceless), you can do it through the Internet these days as well, minus the expressions.
On Thursday night, June 21, many political collectors just sat back and watched the fun as an extremely unusual William Jennings Bryan 1900 pin went up for sale in the OldPoliticals.com Auction 14. First the button: It was described as a scarce Bryan jugate (two-photo pin) from the 1900 election that auctioneer Gene Dillman said he could not find being auctioned in the past 15 years. There is a bright red border on this pin, with photos of presidential and vice presidential running mates Bryan and Stevenson in the center on a white background. There was a black star at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock on the design of this small, 7/8 inch pinback (think nickel-sized). At the top, in white letters on the red ring, it said TAMMANY and below it said 1900. There was back paper in the pin showing that it was put out by National Equipment Co. in New York, but made by Whitehead and Hoag, one of the biggest button makers of the era, from Newark, N.J. There was a small brown spot in the center of the pin, but a notation in the auction said it was surface dirt and removed, although a new photo was not posted. The design was centered low and to the right on the pin.
A little history aside here: Tammany Hall was the political machine of the Democrats in New York, started in the late 1700s and lasting until the 1960s. It was at its zenith from the 1850s until 1930s. So this pin was put out in support of Bryan by New York Democrats.
The pin was guided in the auction at $250 to $300, and many collectors thought that was about right, or perhaps a little on the high end. The minimum to get the bidding going was $125.
As the closing night wore on, collectors began commenting about the price on a social media site when it reached $4,000. Who would have guessed that by the time the night would end, with buyer’s premium, this diminutive pin would reach $6,578 – nearly 22 times its high auction estimate.
Whether this was a couple or more Bryan specialists who just had to have it, or some New York collectors (who can be quite intense) going after it, it’s hard to tell. The winning bidder was not announced. I’m sure he’s quite happy, even while the rest of us are left shaking our heads.