The Anatomy of a Five-Figure Political Button Sale

This extremely rare pin sold on an Internet auction site last month for $11,600. The seller reportedly bought it for $8.

Sometimes the back story of a collectible sale is the most interesting part.

Pricing items that rarely, if ever, come on the market is always a lesson in supply and demand – mostly the demand part. A recent sale of political pin on eBay.com is a great illustration of this.

In mid-November, a Theodore Roosevelt pin from 1903 that had only been seen twice before showed up on the Internet auction site. It showed TR on horseback, leading black soldiers charging up a hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. This 1 ½ inch pin had one word on it in large type: “Equality.” In smaller letters, it said “San Juan Hill July 2. 98.” But it had something else going for it. It had great color. The condition was listed as excellent.

The pin had been seen in a political mail auction years before, but then wasn’t seen again publicly until one showed up this past summer at the American Political Items Collectors National show in Columbus, Ohio. A well-known dealer there had the pin for sale for $25,000. The pin sold at that show, although the exact selling price is not known. Was it the same pin that sold at auction years before? Who knows, but at most two were known in the hobby at that point. Until November, that is.

The pin offered on eBay.com was started at $9, “hesitantly with no reserve,” the seller said. The pin soon passed $1,000, on its way over $6,000. Then the last few seconds of the auction came, and the pin closed at $11,600 after 24 bids. It was quite a nice return for the seller, who reportedly bought the pin recently for $8.

It turns out the buyer of the pin was the same dealer who sold the one in Columbus. Apparently, he has a second customer who wants one.

And that, as they say, is the rest of the story.




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