The "holy grail" of political buttons

Discussion in 'Politics' started by JohnHamilton, Feb 11, 2020.

  1. JohnHamilton

    JohnHamilton Well-Known Member

    This Cox-Roosevelt button is 7/8 s of an inch in diameter. Would you care to guess what it's worth.

    Cox & Roosevelt button.jpg

    I had the first shot it at political button convention. The price was $20,000. I would have bought it immediately, but I had just spent a small fortune (Some people might think a real fortune.) on the most expensive and rariest coin in my type collection. Someone else reserved it that evening. A couple of months later it sold at auction for $33,000. That's not the record for a Cox - Roosevelt button which is about $50,000 for a somewhat more interesting variety.

    So why is this piece so expensive? The reason is the guy on the right, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who ran for vice president with James Cox in 1920.

    Roosevelt was an up and coming figure in the Democratic Party in 1920. He had been a prominent state senator in the New York legislature before he was appointed assistant secretary of the Navy in 1913. In that position, he got more press than his boss. The Democrats nominated James Cox, a former Ohio newspaper publisher, who had served two terms as governor as well as almost six terms in the House of Representatives.

    The Democratic convention had deadlocked between Treasury Secretary, William Gibbs McAdoo (Who was Woodrow Wilson's son-in-law.) and Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. After 43 ballots, the Democrats turned to Cox on the 44th.

    The Democrats entered the race with a distinct disadvantage. President Woodrow Wilson was extremely unpopular, and the country was looking for “a return to normalcy” which was exactly what the Republican nominee, Warren G. Harding promised. The Democrats were underfunded and had little money to spend on campaign items. Hence, all Cox items are scarce, whether they mention Roosevelt or not.

    Roosevelt hit the campaign trail hard. He spoke and traveled extensively, but it was an uphill fight. On Election day the Harding – Coolidge ticket won with 61% of the popular vote (60% of the popular vote is considered to be a landslide.) and an Electoral College vote of 401 to 127.

    Franklin Roosevelt contracted polio the following year. It would leave him paralyzed from the waist down. Ultimately, he built up his body to the point where he could stand and shuffle a few steps wearing heavy steel braces. His upper body strength was impressive.

    In 1932 Franklin Roosevelt won the Democratic Presidential nomination and the presidency. He is to date the only candidate who lost a run for vice president, but came back to win the presidency.

    A Cox- Roosevelt button is not in my future, but I did find a very worthy substitute. This window decal measures 6 by 5 1/2 inches and features portraits that are nicer than any you will find on a Cox - Roosevelt button.

    Cox & Roosevelt Decal Small.jpg

    To complete the race here is corrisponding piece for Harding and Coolidge

    Harding & Coolidge Decal Small.jpg

    Although Cox and Roosevelt buttons are the "holy grail," the Harding and Coolidge are not for the faint of heart either. They will run you $2 thousand or so. It seems that most Americans were not that interested in politics in the 1920s.
    Mopar Dude and SmalltownMN like this.
  2. SmalltownMN

    SmalltownMN Active Member

  3. JohnHamilton

    JohnHamilton Well-Known Member

    Unless it has preservation issues, you won't be able to buy one for $25k.

    I have seen pieces with problems sell for as little as $5 or $6 thousand. The main problem is usually "foxing." Those are brown spots that appear on the button from rust on the steel below the paper on the piece. The classic button has a steel base, paper and a celluiod covering.
  4. SmalltownMN

    SmalltownMN Active Member

    Wow, for a button? And $5K to $6K for one that has problems? I thought coins were a lucrative hobby.....
    Mopar Dude likes this.
  5. JohnHamilton

    JohnHamilton Well-Known Member

    Coins are a much more lucrative hobby. The record for a single coin is a little over $10 million. That was for what is regarded as the finest known 1794 silver dollar. A sale price of $50,000 or more in a big coin auction is the usual. In a poltical auction, it's a very big deal.

    The highest price I know of for a political item was around $225 thousand for a George Washington clothing button that had his portrait on it. There might be something else out there. I don't follow poltical items as closely.
  6. CoinBlazer

    CoinBlazer de omnibus dubitandum

    My dream political item/coin is a libertas medal
  7. JohnHamilton

    JohnHamilton Well-Known Member

    Libertas Americana O.jpg Libertas Americana R.jpg

    For those who don't know what this is, it is a medal that was conceived and sponsored by Benjamin Franklin that celebrated the American and French victory in the Revolutionary War.

    The obverse is of great interest those who collect early U.S. copper coins because it inspired the Liberty Cap design that appeared on the early half cents and large cents.

    1795 cent O.jpg 1795 Cent R.jpg

    On the reverse, the goddess Minerva (France) is holding off Great Britain (the lioness with her tail between her legs) while the infant Hercules is slaying two snakes which are symbolic of the Battles of Saratoga and Yorktown. The dates of those two battles are below the baby Hercules.

    These medals were struck in gold, silver and copper. The gold medals were awarded to the king and queen of France. They were lost during the French Revolution. Silver medals were given to major dignitaries. The Bronze medals went to others such as members of Congress.

    These pieces are fairly common for medals of this era. Katherine Jaeger and David Bowers estimated that there are 30 to 35 surviving pieces in silver and 100 to 125 in copper in their book, 100 Greatest American Medals and Tokens (The Libertas Americana medal is rated #1 in that book). I believe that their estimates for the copper medal are a little low. I could see the number reaching 200 pieces. No matter, the silver pieces are worth over $100,000 in nicely preserved condition, and the nice bronze examples bring $12 to $14 thousand.

    Sorry to get long winded, but this is a neat item which great political symbolism for the era.
    SmalltownMN likes this.

Share This Page