Washington button sets $225K record at Heritage Auctions

This rare George Washington portrait inaugural button quickly surpassed its $50,000 estimate and sold for a record-setting $225,00. Heritage Auctions image

DALLAS, Texas — Not only did the earliest artifact referring to George Washington as the “Father of His Country” set a world record when it sold for $225,000 in Heritage Auction’s Feb. 24 American & Political Auction, but the sale itself set a world record as the highest grossing auction of political memorabilia collection ever offered. Absentee and Internet bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

The David and Janice Frent Collection of Political & Presidential Americana, Part II, realized a record $1.2 million from 641 bidders. The sale eclipsed the previous world auction record when the Frent Collection debuted at Heritage in October 2017, generating $911,538.

“To say this auction was a pulse-pounder is an understatement,” said Tom Slater, director of Americana Auctions at Heritage. “It’s been a career highlight bringing this collection to auction and the results have just been astounding.”

The rare Washington artifact (above) is now the world’s most valuable Washington button, created to celebrate the first president’s 1789 inauguration. It features a crisp, stamped bust of Washington and the words “Pater Patriæ,” a Latin phrase meaning “Father of his Country.” Modern collectors avidly seek a wide variety of coat button designs honoring Washington that were sported by patriotic Americans. The Frent Collection features some 50 assorted examples, believed to be the largest such holding ever assembled.

Surprises did not stop with Washington, as an 1868 silk campaign flags for Ulysses S. Grant (below), one of just three believed known in this design, raced to $62,500, more than triple its estimate.

Rare 1868 silk campaign flag for Ulysses S. Grant. Price realized: $62,500. Heritage Auctions image

A stunning 1860 brooch featuring an ambrotype portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Mathew Brady, depicting the president in the iconic “Cooper Union” pose, sold for $35,000 – a new high water mark for this item at auction.

Front and back views of the Lincoln ambrotype brooch. Price realized: 35,000. Heritage Auctions image

Considered one of the finest designs among historic political textiles, an outstanding example of the “Ship of State” silk campaign flag from Henry Clay’s 1844 campaign ended at $32,500.

Rare 1844 Henry Clay ‘Ship of State’ silk campaign flag. Price realized: $32,500. Heritage Auctions image

Another 19th-century textile, an important and near-mint 1864 jugate silk campaign ribbon for Lincoln and Andrew Johnson sold for $21,250.

1864 jugate silk campaign ribbon for Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Price realized: $21,250. Heritage Auctions image

A unique 1920 jugate postcard featuring Democratic running mates James M. Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt led the auction’s extensive selection of 20th-century memorabilia when it sold for $27,500 — more than 10 times the highest previously reported price for a political postcard. The record price resulted from an epic contest between a leading collector of political postcards and a top specialist in items relating to the Cox candidacy.

1920 postcard featuring Democratic running mates James M. Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Price realized: $27,500. Heritage Auctions image

“Sometimes bidders will just dig in their heels,” Slater observed, “and such battles are particularly likely when an item holds interest for two different types of collecting specialists.”

A large Cox and Roosevelt jugate poster backing the League of Nations, also believed to be the only known example, sold for $21,250.

Additional highlights included:

—A figural “Plumed Knight” display piece, depicting American political leader and 1884 GOP presidential candidate James G. Blaine, sold for $17,500.

—A campaign broadside from Lincoln’s 1864 reelection campaign sold for $16,250.

—A gilt brass “Eagle with Glory” inaugural button for Washington, a prohibitively rare variety and the first example ever offered by Heritage, sold for $15,000 after opening at $1,000.