Campaign Memorabilia – It’s Now More Than A Button!

Campaign Memorabilia is most often associated with the simple campaign button. That round disk with a photo and campaign slogan on it has become a standard issue for anyone running for public office. Over the years the popularity of this little piece of the election process has developed into huge collector hobby.

The origination of campaign giveaways goes back to the 1824 campaign of Andrew Jackson and really picked up speed by 1840. Since that time, the campaign button and campaign memorabilia in general, have been a consistent part of the democratic election process.

In addition to buttons, campaign memorabilia has come to include almost everything you can think of, including; watch fobs, posters, calendars, pens and pencils, potholders, hand mirrors, toys and a few thousand other items. The list is nearly endless.

Collecting these items is a great way to learn American history. Not only are the winners and losers spotlighted but the causes of the time as well. Causes such as equal rights, the Vietnam war, women’s suffrage and endless list of others give us a snapshot of American history.

How to Collect

The easiest way to get started is to begin during any election year. Start with those items available for free at any campaign headquarters. It doesn’t matter who wins the election each item of you collection is a piece of history.

So called battleground states will likely be the most fruitful locations for campaign memorabilia. Party headquarters in these states will likely be great spots to visit. Also, visit cities where the party conventions are held. These are also good locations to gather items of interest.

During election years, focus on the current election. During off years work on adding older items to your collection.

Most collectors settle in on a limited range of items. Many stick with the old standby the campaign button for all elections while others may focus on all campaign memorabilia for a single candidate. These are just two examples of categories you can dream up. The choice is always yours to make.

Basically all collectable items can be purchased. There are a lot of items online, take a look on eBay for starters. Always check with the political party headquarters as they are always looking for a donation and will likely trade some memorabilia for cash. Garage sales, flea markets and thrift shops very often hold that missing treasure. And don’t forget to check with friends and family for collectables they want out of their way.

What to Collect

As mentioned earlier the list of collectables is nearly endless, but here are a few:

Bumper Stickers


Campaign Signs

Ball Caps

Coffee Mugs


Key Chains






Magazine Articles


Tips for Beginning Collectors

Watch for Jugates. In case you don’t know what that word means, it is a term used for a campaign button that has pictures of both the president and vice-president on them.

Don’t forget the third party and independent candidates. Watch for campaign memorabilia for the Communist, Bullmoose, Libertarians and Socialist Workers parties. Items from these parties will be rarer and possibly worth having.

Keep your eyes open for limited edition or items with errors on them. These will have greater value depending on the circumstances.

Beware of fakes and reproductions. By law these have to be labeled as reproductions, but not everyone is as honest as you and I.

When you go to a campaign headquarters to ask for a button, you will likely be asked to volunteer or help out the candidate. Unless you are ready to roll up your sleeves and help or pull out some cash, you better have some good excuses ready.

What to Do With Your Collection

Here are a few thoughts on sharing and getting more out of your hobby:

Make your collection available to groups, clubs or school classes as an example of history in action. Put your collection in glass cases to keep them safe.

Make labels for each piece that explains what it is and its historical importance.

Make a scrapbook of items in your collection.

Hang posters or banners on the walls of your home or office.

Finishing Up

Elections and their campaign memorabilia are an exciting piece of American history. Being able to revisit that history through your own collection is great fun. Get involved with clubs and shows to share your hobby. Remember, history only happens once!

Other descriptors include political collecting, political posters, political advertising and APIC.

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