It wouldn’t be too hard to pick out your favorite campaign buttons from a certain time period if you wanted to do it the easy way. Just pick out the most expensive ones. Some might consider those “the best” simply by the price they bring.
The price of campaign buttons is simply a matter of supply and demand. The scarcest buttons don’t always bring the highest prices. The demand from collectors controls that as much or more than scarcity.
I look at design, scarcity and overall beauty when coming up with my favorites. Here’s a list of my favorite pins – in no particular order — from what is known as The Golden Age of Political Buttons, from their first use in 1896 to 1916. Obviously, others will disagree and have their own lists.
No. 1: William McKinley Hobby Horse pin. Cartoon, color, design – wow, this pin has it all. Generally considered to be an anti-McKinley button. Check out the “Napoleon” hat. There is also a William Jennings Bryan mate to this.
No. 2: William Jennings Bryan Ears of Corn pin. This pin also has a great design and color, but it has another thing going for it – its unusual oval shape. Oval pins aren’t rare, but they are far less common than round pins. The slogans on this button are great, tying Bryan and corn together from his Nebraska home as great exports.
No. 3: William Jennings Bryan Cornucopia pin. The blue and silver on this pin make for a great color combination, but throw in an eagle, flag and cornucopia overflowing with silver coins and you have a sure winner. The 16 to 1 slogan refers to Bryan’s support of the silver standard for money at a ratio of 16 to 1 silver vs. gold. Add to this that it’s a jugate, with his running mate Adlai Stevenson pictured, and it becomes an even bigger winner.
No. 4: Theodore Roosevelt Scales pin. This pins is large – 2 ¼ inch – and shows Roosevelt weighing down the scales, with opponent Alton B. Parker on the lighter end. “Good Scales Teddy” is a great slogan. What a design!
No. 5: William McKinley Eclipse pin. A solar eclipse at the turn of the century led to many cultural references to eclipses, including this pin that shows McKinley “eclipsing” William Jennings Bryan in the November election. While color pins are nice, I’m still partial to great sepia pins. This is one of the best. There is a Bryan mate to this, and there are several other versions as well.
No. 6: William McKinley Full Dinner Pail pin. Another great, early sepia pin from 1900. Design and slogans make this one of my favorites. The full dinner pail theme was used on several different pins in this election.
No. 7: Alton B. Parker Shure Mike pin. A rooster dressed as Uncle Sam. What could possibly be better? While the definitive meaning of the “Shure Mike” slogan seems to have been lost to history, this is still considered by many to be one of the best pins out there from this era.
No. 8: William Howard Taft Steam Roller pin. Toot Toot and Ding Dong come from a steam roller driven by Theodore Roosevelt with Taft leading the charge. It refers to TR’s support of Taft for president. Love those cartoon pins.
No. 9: Theodore Roosevelt Pretzel pin. Reading, Pa., might be known as Pretzel Town, but to political collectors it’s known as the Pretzel Pin Town. This 1904 design is a classic, and a tough pin to add to a collection. I got mine a couple years ago.
No. 10: Woodrow Wilson Man of the Hour pin. This simple design is a classic in the hobby.
Coming up in future blogs I’ll look at my favorites from some other eras, but these are my favorites from 1896-1916 – until I look around a little more! Let the debating begin.