Washington Buttons at Stack's
By Samuel Pennington
A collection of 37 George Washington inaugural and memorial
buttons and five other pieces brought big prices at Stack's, the 57th
Street, New York City, dealers and auctioneers of coins and medals,
The collection had been formed by J. Harold Cobb, a Connecticut accountant
who bought his first Washington inaugural button in 1950. When Cobb
died in 1968, the collection passed to his son. After his son's death,
the collection was stored in a vault.
The top price was $25,300 (includes buyer's premium) for the "Pater
Patriae" (father of his country) button, the only known type of
button with a portrait of Washington on it.
Word in the trade was that the "Pater Patriae" price was in
line with its rarity and condition, but that many of the other prices
were beyond reason, the result of three very wealthy bidders competing.
But then, that's what auctions are about, isn't it?
Among the lots that brought high prices were a "Liberty Cap"
button with the date 1789 that brought $19,550, a "Script GW with
Indentee Border" at $21,850, and two "Plain Roman, GW"
buttons at $13,800 apiece.
A "Script GW, Fifteen Stars" that the catalog called "very
rare and quite controversial" brought $3450. According to the
introduction to the catalog, this button was part of the "Ruth
find," which turned up in 1950 after the publication of Alphaeus
Albert's 1949 book Washington Historical Buttons greatly popularized
collecting the buttons and led to the introduction of fakes and questionable
From left, top to bottom: “Pater Patriae,” $25,300 (top price); “Liberty Cap,” $19,550; one of two “Plain Roman, GW,” $13,800 apiece; “Script GW with Indentee Border,” $21,850; and the controversial “Script GW, Fifteen Stars,” $3450.
Copyright 2003 by Maine Antique Digest (http://www.maineantiquedigest.com), reprinted by permission