In New Hampshire, the presidential campaign used to start in the
year of the election. That is, in 1980 the campaign started in 1980,
and so on. No longer. This time the 2012 campaign started in 2010,
with hopefuls poking around the Granite State and doing their best to
This year it went into overdrive, never mind that the election is
still nearly a year away. Michele Bachmann came to Concord and told
listeners that it was great to be in our state capital, where the
first battle of the American Revolution took place. Never mind that
Concord, Mass., is what she may have had in mind.
Joe Biden, our current vice president, famously stated that during
the stock market crash in 1929, President Franklin D. Roosevelt went
on television to address the nation. Never mind that Herbert Hoover
was president and there was no commercial television.
Now to numismatics:
Time was also when presidential elections offered the chance to
distribute tokens and medals proclaiming the merits of one candidate
or another. The first flood of such took place in 1840 when incumbent
Martin Van Buren challenged William Henry Harrison, military hero
remembered for the Battle of Tippecanoe that gave Harrison his
nickname. The rallying cry was “Tippecanoe and Tyler too!” Van Buren
had a little problem: the financial Panic of 1837 was still being
felt, and, as usual, the occupant of the White House was blamed by
many. Harrison captured 234 electoral votes to his competitor’s paltry
60. Harrison caught cold the day of his inauguration, March 4, 1841,
and died a month later. Vice President John Tyler took the oath of office.
As to what was the first presidential campaign medal, opinions are
mixed. Some consider the undated success to the united states tokens
with Washington to hold that position, but he was chosen by Congress,
not by popular vote. Some Washington coat buttons are also in contention.
In 1832, a number of Andrew Jackson tokens were issued, this the
year of his second campaign. If you want to learn more, track down a
copy of J. Doyle DeWitt’s 1959 book, A Century of Campaign Buttons
1789-1889, or Edmund B. Sullivan’s 1981 updating of it. The
“buttons” are nearly all tokens and medals.
A representative collection of presidential campaign tokens and
medals would include hundreds of different varieties, an obscure one
of which is shown here. Today, we have plastic buttons, but I’ve yet
to see a 2012 campaign token or medal. Too bad for tradition.
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.