Historic Political Collectibles from the Estate of Malcolm Forbes at Heritage Auctions

DALLAS — More than 75 lots from the consigned by the family of Malcolm S. Forbes , including an important representation of rare political buttons from the "golden era" of campaign button designs, 1896 to 1920 will make their auction debut Dec. 3 in Heritage Auctions' Americana & Political auction.  

In the early 1980s Malcolm Forbes decided that a selection of campaign buttons would be an appealing addition to the displays of his renowned collection of autographs and manuscripts - and now the buttons will be available for collectors for the first time in nearly 40 years.

“Of course, Mr. Forbes wanted to collect campaign items of a quality commensurate with other pieces in his collection,” said Tom Slater, Heritage Director of Americana Auctions, “so one of his first acquisitions was an example of the key 1920 Cox-Roosevelt pinback jugate (est. $20,000).”

Forbes’ example is considered one of the rarest jugate buttons known to exist. The Forbes Collection Cox-Roosevelt is an example of the St. Louis Button Company design, widely considered to be one of the most attractive of all jugate button designs. It bears photos of both James Cox, Governor of Ohio, and his running mate - a youthful New York politician named Franklin Roosevelt. Bidding will open at $10,000.

In collecting circles the terms “jugate” refers to a button or badge depicting both the presidential candidate and his vice presidential running mate on the same item. Jugates have been produced for every presidential ticket since photographic campaign items came into wide use during Lincoln’s election in 1860, and the series is very popular among political hobbyists. 

“Although several different designs were issued, all are extremely rare,” Slater points out, “with perhaps a total of 50 examples known of all varieties. It has been posited that these were all manufacturer’s samples, and that no variety was ever ordered in quantity for actual campaign use.”

Another rare and charming jugate was issued when Teddy Roosevelt famously threw his “hat in the ring” and ran against the establishment candidates for 1912, Republican William Howard Taft and Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Early in the campaign Roosevelt was shot and nearly killed in an attempted assassination, but he was soon back on the campaign trail, declaring that he felt “as fit as a bull moose!”  The expression quickly caught the public’s imagination, and to this day his run for the White House is remembered as the “Bull Moose” candidacy.

Numerous campaign novelties reflected that theme, and one of the rarest is the variety from the Forbes Collection, featuring the photos of Roosevelt and his running mate Sen. Hiram Johnson  of California superimposed on the antlers of a moose. Bidding will open at $3,000, however auction prices upwards of $10,000 have been recorded.

Rogue Republican Teddy Roosevelt did not win that election, but he did outpoll Taft, and by splitting the Republican vote allowed Wilson to be elected with just over 40 percent of the popular votes.

One of the most beloved button designs among collectors is the Roosevelt “Equality” button. It was not a campaign issue per se, but rather a novelty issued to celebrate Roosevelt’s invitation to Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House. 

This was the first time an African American had done so, and the event was a great subject of popular discussion. Several different pinback buttons were made showing the two men dining together, all of which are highly prized. The Forbes example is the only one in color, the others being in black and white or sepia tones, and is expected to sell in the $5,000 range.

To view high-resolution images of the more than 75 lots form the Malcolm Forbes Collection, visit HA.com/6168.

Heritage Auctions is the largest auction house founded in the United States and the world’s third largest, with annual sales of more than $800 million, and over one million online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and receive access to a complete record of prices realized, with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com. 

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