Every great hobby needs a great hobby organization. Coin collectors have one. Stamp collectors do too. Political collectors are fortunate that for more than 65 years now, they, too, have had one – the American Political Items Collectors.
Political collectors have been around in our country for more than 200 years. We wouldn’t have all those Washington Inaugural clothing buttons today if it weren’t for the early political collectors. But until 1945, those collectors lacked structure.
In that year, five political collectors got together and organized the APIC, giving each member a number. Joe Fuld served as president and member No. 1, while Monroe D. Ray was secretary/treasurer, and member No. 3. The organization’s purpose was stated as this: “An organization devoted to the dissemination of authoritative information helpful to collectors of political items.”
By 1959, the organization was struggling. It only had 75 members, and despite trying intensely for years to get members together for a meeting and write bylaws and elect officers, Ray’s failing health led the group to decide to disband in May 1960. Fortunately for political collectors, there was a knight on a big white horse coming to the rescue. U.I. “Chick” Harris wrote a letter to all the APIC members asking for opinions on a group reorganization.
On July 24, 1960, just before the Republican Convention was scheduled to meet in Chicago, a group of 20 members met at William’s Restaurant for a six-hour meeting – all business, no button trading or selling. This date probably should be the true birth date of the APIC as it was decided there to form a board of directors, vote on officers, write a constitution – basically all those things a good organization needs as a backbone. Best of all, the group decided to put out news bulletins for members. That bulletin became something which still exists today: The Keynoter quarterly magazine.
Earlier this year, 1960 organizer Harris passed away. He lived to see a healthy organization form and thrive, as APIC has a strong base of more than 1,800 members. More than 16,000 membership numbers have been issued since 1945. The APIC works with presidential libraries and museums on disseminating information about political campaigns and collectibles, holds shows and sponsors a summer internship program at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
As you read this today, hundreds of APIC members have gathered in Columbus, Ohio, for their national convention: a week of buying, selling and trading campaign memorabilia. Dealers and collectors began arriving as early as Sunday for the week of sales, trading, seminars, auctions and just plain fun. It’s held every two years in a different region of the country. This one features more than 200 tables of dealers.
Anyone interested in joining the American Political Items Collectors should go to APIC.us for information. It’s a great group that helps to keep the history of our republic alive.
[Editor's note: Tom Peeling is a regional director of APIC.]