This is the first part of a multi-part series on Presidential
campaign collectibles from the Nov. 7, 2016, monthly issue of
The road to the White House is paved with many political
collectibles issued during the campaigns of presidential hopefuls and
Political collectibles offer more opportunities to collectors
seeking to represent a particular period in American history than most
other collecting fields.
American Political Items
Collectors, founded in 1945, chronicles the campaigns of those
seeking to become chief executive and the political collectibles used
as marketing tools in the candidates’ campaigns.
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The 2016 presidential campaign comprises one of the most extensive
lists of presidential wannabees ever assembled, with the Republicans
having nearly two dozen contenders in the early stages, before the
field was narrowed.
The victor in the Nov. 8, 2016, presidential election will be the
45th individual to hold the nation’s highest office.
Presidential campaign banners, badges, tokens and medals and more
date back nearly 200 years, each item a window into a campaign and an
age. All are collectible, and depending upon the presidential campaign
and candidate being considered, the items available may cost only a
few dollars each, or as much as thousands of dollars regardless of condition.
Even in 19th and early 20th century campaigns, many political
campaign items were produced in support of the respective candidate
and focused on the candidate’s positive attributes. That approach did
not, however, eliminate issuance of items that took political, and
personal, aim at an opponent.
Approaches to Collecting Political Items
In mapping out a collecting approach, a collector could focus on
memorabilia from a single candidate, or choose examples representative
of an entire campaign, including early contenders.
Political author Kenneth T. Walsh, who covers the White House and
politics for U.S. News, considers the presidential elections involving
George Washington (1788), Thomas Jefferson (1800), Andrew Jackson
(1828), Abraham Lincoln (1860 and 1864), Theodore Roosevelt (1904),
Woodrow Wilson (1912), Franklin Roosevelt (1932), Lyndon Johnson
(1964) and Ronald Reagan (1980) to be the most consequential
presidential elections in U.S. history.
The record has yet to be completely written on the 2016 campaign.
In this article, let’s examine a few of the elections considered
consequential, some that were particularly divisive, and others that
just have many political collectibles available for hobbyists.
The Election of 1828
Although in the election of 1840, when William Henry Harrison
squared off against Martin Van Buren, saw the first widespread use of
presidential campaign collectibles, some of the initial political
campaign items used to pull voters to a particular candidate’s side
were produced in 1824 during the nation’s first presidential election
whose results were contested. The election pitted John Quincy Adams,
Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay and William Crawford against one other.
Four years after that first contested election, the presidential
campaign of 1828 became what is considered by many historians to be
the nastiest in American history, leaving Democrat Andrew Jackson as
the victor to become the nation’s seventh president.
So nasty were the personal attacks between Jackson and the
incumbent, John Quincy Adams, during the 1828 campaign that Jackson
blamed the stress of the attacks for contributing to the death of his
wife, Rachel, just days after he claimed victory.
The ill will in the 1828 campaign was born four years earlier, when
Jackson, representing one wing of the Democratic-Republicans (the
future Democrats), first squared off against John Quincy Adams,
representing the National Republican Party (which had also spun out of
the Democratic-Republicans) and son of the second president, John Adams.
When Jackson and Adams (along with the two other candidates) first
faced one another in 1824, none of the four candidates garnered enough
Electoral College votes to capture the White House outright. Jackson
received the highest number of election day votes, Adams the second
highest number, former Treasury Secretary Crawford third, and Speaker
of the House Clay fourth. Under provisions of the U.S. Constitution,
Clay’s candidacy was eliminated, leaving only the top three
vote-getters to be considered. Clay, a staunch Adams supporter,
delivered the presidency to Adams in exchange for being named
secretary of state. Adams was declared the victor by the House of
Representatives despite Jackson capturing a plurality of the popular vote.
The outcome of that 1824 campaign, dubbed “The
Corrupt Bargain,” set the groundwork for the 1828 contest.
While Jackson’s support was deeply rooted in the South, “Old
Hickory,” as Jackson was known, built support in the North through a
political alliance with New York politician Martin Van Buren, who
himself would later become president.
According to political historian Robert McNamara, “Even though the
two candidates [Jackson and Adams] had strong differences on
substantial issues, the resulting  campaign turned out to be
based on personalities. And the tactics employed were outrageously underhanded.”
Adams supporters attacked Jackson’s reputation of having an
explosive temper and life filled with controversy despite his record
as a military hero, which was earned primarily during the War of 1812
at the Battle of New Orleans.
Among criticisms Jackson faced was his participation in a number of
duels, including killing a man in 1806.
Under Jackson’s military command in 1815, militia members were
executed for desertion. National Republican newspaper editor Peter
Binns endorsed the issuance of the notorious “coffin handbill,” a
poster exhibiting six black coffins with the suggestion that the
militiamen ordered executed had been murdered.
A number of varieties of the handbill exist.
Jackson’s detractors also accused him of adultery and his wife,
Rachel, of bigamy.
When the couple married in 1791, Rachel was still legally married to
her abusive first husband; she mistakenly believed that he had
divorced her. The Jacksons were married again in 1794.
Adams’ camp labeled Jackson as a “slave-trading, gambling, brawling
murderer.” They called Andrew Jackson’s dead mother “a common
prostitute, brought to this country by the British soldiers after
whose service she married a mulatto man with whom she had several
children of which number General Jackson was one.”
Federalists labeled Rachel Jackson as “a dirty black wench” and
“convicted adulteress.” They said she was prone to “open and notorious lewdness.”
Andrew Jackson considered stress from the attacks on his wife as the
primary cause leading to her death Dec. 22, 1828, at age 61.
Meanwhile, everything wasn’t all peaches and cream for the Adams
Jackson supporters spread rumors that Adams — while serving as the
American ambassador to Russia — had procured the sexual service of an
American girl, actually his wife’s maid, for the Russian czar,
Adams was also accused of billing the government for a billiards
table he had installed at the White House, a baseless claim since
Adams had paid for the table with his own funds.
While Adams elected not to participate further in the scurrilous
attacks, Jackson, on the other hand, stepped up the assaults.
Jackson reportedly engineered with newspaper editors when and how
attacks against him should be countered, and how his own personal
campaign against Adams should proceed.
Collectors have the opportunity to add to their collections
political memorabilia that recounts both the positive support within
the campaigns of the respective candidates and the vitriol exchanged
Read our entire series so far on collecting Presidential election materials:
The presidential election that
might have been the nastiest on record
: So nasty were the personal attacks between Jackson and the
incumbent, John Quincy Adams, during the 1828 campaign that Jackson
blamed the stress of the attacks for contributing to the death of
The election of 1800 saw a number
of firsts among American presidential races
: The presidential election of 1800 was a particularly
uncomfortable one in political circles, pitting Vice President
Thomas Jefferson against the president he was currently serving
under, John Adams.
Abraham Lincoln faced
more than one opponent in the 1860 presidential election
: While it is not uncommon today for political candidates in state
and national contents to stump in any small community that will host
them, during the 1860 campaign the tactic was considered somewhat tacky.
Sounds like jewelry, so
why was a ‘cross of gold’ not considered a good thing in 1896?
: The hotly contested presidential race of 1896 pitted former Ohio
Gov. William McKinley, a Republican, against Democratic contender
and perennial presidential wannabe William Jennings Bryan.
How Theodore Roosevelt helped
deliver the White House to Woodrow Wilson
: The 1912 election witnessed the establishment of a new political
entity, Roosevelt’s Progressive Party, also dubbed the Bull Moose Party.
Four-time winner Franklin Roosevelt
generates opposition collectibles
: The election of 1932 put Democrat and former New York
governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt into the White House for the
first of his unprecedented four terms.
The 2016 presidential election
hitting new heights, or depths, of nastiness
: Campaign collectibles are trying to promote the 2016 presidential
candidates amid all the mudslinging.