“General Washington - Pater Patriae” Inaugural Button Ultra-Rare Key Design Type Considered “The Holy Grail”
(1789) George Washington Inaugural Button, “GENERAL WASHINGTON - PATER PATRIAE” Major Design Type with General Washington in Uniform. 25 mm. Copper shell with lead-filled base as made. With Original Shank. Albert WI-19B. DeWitt GW-1789-41. Fine.
Rarity-6 (3 to 5 known) according to Albert, (currently believed 6 to 7 known). 25 mm. This extremely rare “GENERAL WASHINGTON - PATER PATRIAE” type features a central Bust Portrait of General George Washington dressed in his fancy military uniform. Above at its left and right sides reads, “GENERAL - WASHINGTON” and below the bust, “PATER PATRIAE”. This historic button has a Copper shell with lead-filled back, as made with its original iron shank intact. This example is well worn at its center, though the outer inscription “GENERAL WASHINGTON” is clear, plus portions of the well worn lower inscription can be read, with still parts of the Washington design seen.
Another example of this GW Inaugural Button Type in nicer but not choice condition, sold in the Stack’s Cobb Collection sale of January 21, 2003 for $22,000 (hammer price, totaling $25,300), plus a low quality example in 2015. In February 2018 another example was offered at auction from the David & Janice Frent Collection which did not provided a specific grade yet stated to have been “well-struck with strong detail” which this cataloger would have graded as Extremely Fine. That example, being one of the finest known for the type sold for the remarkable world record price of $225,000.
This current example is more typical in its quality and we have provided a conservative estimate range. It is worn on its central high points being Washington’s face. The name “GENERAL WASHINGTON” is very clear whereas “PATER PATRIAE” at the base below Washington’s half-lenght bust shows considerable wear. The original shank on the reverse is straight and solidly in place. This buttom is absolutely authentic and original. Its design features worn from actual use, including most of its central detail, yet much of the text and its overall design showing George Washington’s military hat is unmistakable. A “Key” rarity, this is the only “GENERAL WASHINGTON - PATER PATRIAE” design specimen we have ever offered in thirty-five years. This remarkable rare Inaugural Button type is missing in virtually all collections.
This “PATER PATRIAE” button major type was featured in the popular movie “NATIONAL TREASURE” staring actor Nicholas Cage. It itself played a critical role in that movie, being the only major design type lacking in the George Washington Inaugural Button Collection Design Type Set displayed by the heroine curator of the National Archives in a shadow box displayed on her office wall. In the movie, hero Nicholas Cage presents the lady curator with a lovely “PATER PATRIAE” button as a gift to complete her set. Whether you are the curator of the National Archives or not, this current specimen will be considered a prized highlight in any American Political, George Washington, or Historical Button collection.