Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why I collect campaign buttons

My interest in this hobby transcends my fascination with politics. I have collected numerous things throughout my life, from coins, stamps and sports and non-sports cards to die-cast cars and lead soldiers, and not one of them can come close to offering the challenge and element of surprise inherent in this hobby. And none have managed to hold my interest for 30 years. Coins and baseball cards attract a far greater number of hobbyists, but they are too simple and redundant for my taste. They are just manufactured hobbies, in which everything originates from just a handful of sources, and collectors know exactly what awaits them every year. If the bank account is big enough there is very little that is out of reach.

In contrast campaign buttons come from thousands of sources from every pocket and corner of America, and it changes with every election. This hobby requires a lot of searching to amass a decent collection, and money isn't necessarily the prime mover. I have built up a pretty impressive collection over the past 30 years, and my personal funds have always been very limited. All it takes is a little cunning, and a lot of logic. Sherlock Holmes would end up with a better campaign button collection than Bill Gates. I am referring only to the modern campaigns. Older campaign buttons live by different rules, and it is a separate hobby unto itself.

I have been scouring the internet for Barack Obama buttons since early 2007, and I have accumulated more than 3600 different varieties. I have been uncovering quite a few previously unseen gems in recent months, and you can bet there are still many unknowns out there. This is not unique to Obama, as it happens with every election. The best Walter Mondale button was not known to the hobby until 1987, three years after the election. I have a pretty good idea of what Obama button deserves to be ranked as the best, but maybe there is a better one yet to be found by collectors. Maybe it will turn up in ten years, or maybe never. What other hobby can match the mystery of campaign buttons?

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