A Stockton resident sent in a drawing depicting an 1860 campaign
button with Abraham Lincoln pictured on one side and Hannibal Hamlin
on the other.
It's a really nice item to have. Like our most recent presidential election,
historic mementos of which you can expect to soar in value over the
coming decades, the 1860 campaign drew intense interest. Hamlin, who
died in 1889, served as the nation's first Republican vice president
during Abraham Lincoln's first term and was replaced as running mate by
Andrew Johnson during Lincoln's run for re-election. Political
memorabilia from the 1860 campaign can command sometimes
stratospheric prices, such as a nomination broadside poster that brought
the hammer down for $11,000 in a Nov. 15 online auction. Another rare
item, a picture ribbon, is estimated to be worth $7,170, a rare apron
$9,200 and a red-and-white metal horn $2,468 ("Kovel's Antiques and
Collectibles" price guides).
It's difficult to be certain without a photo, but I believe yours is known as a
ferrotype, which preceded modern pin-back buttons. Designed by Col.
William Leggett Bramhall, these were photos printed on iron featuring
back-to-back images encased beneath clear celluloid. Small piercings in
the frames allowed the pins to be worn on clothing in an early show of
partisan support. These ferrotypes range in value, with a
23/4-by-61/4-inch example showing Lincoln without a beard listed at
$285 in "Kovels Antiques and Collectibles" 1998 price guide. Another
version, a 1-inch round ferrotype in a brass frame, is listed at $2,248 in
Kovels 2006 guide. Other versions are priced between $475 and $1,610.
A two-sided ferrotype medalet was sold Nov. 7 on eBay's Live Auctions
feature for $225, but this example had considerable wear. However,
another - in even poorer condition - is listed for sale on noted political
memorabilia dealer Ron Wade's Web site for $1,096. So like everything
else in the antiques and collectibles market, value depends as much
upon how much the buyer is willing to pay as upon the item itself.
Learn more about political memorabilia in Theodore Hake's
"Encyclopedia of Political Buttons" series ($40 at www.hakes.com) and
"200 Years of Political Campaign Collectibles" by Mark Warda.