Value of Political Buttons

By Jim Orrill

As with other collectibles, the biggest factor in the value of campaign buttons is how highly other collectors prize them. Determining the value of your political buttons is more difficult than appraising other collectibles, though, as there's no regularly published price guide for the hobby. The vast number of counterfeit buttons in circulation adds to the difficulty of appraisal. Keeping current with political button auction catalogs can be useful, though professional appraisal is the quickest and most reliable means of determining the value of your political buttons.

Condition

Like other antiques and collectibles, the condition of political buttons greatly affects their value. Political buttons that still have the luster and eye appeal of a brand-new button have a much greater value than buttons with extensive wear and damage. Foxing, rust that creates dark spots on the button's image, and any defects that deface the political button reduce its value significantly. Unlike many other collectibles, damaged buttons can't be restored to their original condition.

Scarcity

The scarcity of a political button can affect its value, though the production quantity of a specific political button is virtually impossible to determine. Unlike comic books and stamps which have recorded production statistics, political buttons have historically been ordered from many different manufacturers during campaigns, and production statistics aren't usually collected. Still, items that rarely appear at auctions and trade shows will typically bring a premium from collectors.

Demand

Demand for political buttons fluctuates greatly from year to year, as the value collectors attach to political buttons featuring certain candidates or issues shifts. Demand for political buttons typically increases during election years, when new collectors enter the hobby. Momentous political events can affect the value of political buttons as well; when Barack Obama became the first presidential candidate to win his party's nomination, the value for Obama's senate and presidential campaign buttons rose dramatically.

Brummagem

Brummagem are counterfeit political buttons that have no value to collectors. The Federal Hobby Protection Act of 1973 prohibits brummagem from being sold as authentic vintage political buttons, but brummagem still frequently turns up at auctions, memorabilia shows and in private collections. It can be extremely difficult to determine if a political button is genuine; appraisal from experienced collectors or dealers is the best way to ascertain the authenticity and value of your political buttons.

Appraisal

While collectibles such as coins and comic books have annual price guides to provide the values of those items; there's no annual price guide for political button appraisal. Ted Hake's Encyclopedia of Political Buttons is the most commonly used reference by collectors, but it's not comprehensive and supplements are infrequently issued. Keeping track of what political buttons like yours are priced at in current auction catalogs and memorabilia conventions is the best way to determine what their approximate value is.

About the Author

Since 2006 Jim Orrill has produced reviews and essays on popular culture for publications including Lemurvision and "Sexis." Based in Western North Carolina, Orrill graduated cum laude from the University of North Carolina with a bachelor's degree in office systems.