Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Heritage Auctions sets record for Political & Presidential memorabilia

An exceptional and singular 1860 John C. Breckenridge portrait banner, perhaps the most important American political textile to appear at auction, lived up to its top billing as it soared to a record final price of $95,600 to lead the day at Heritage Auctions on Nov. 17.

Auction totals have surpassed the $800,000 mark (all prices include 19.5% Buyer’s Premium), eclipsing the previous record total for a political auction, also set by Heritage with the March 2008 sale of the Edward C. Gillette Collection, which totaled $765,092.

“Collectors stepped forward for this excellent buying opportunity,” said Tom Slater, Director of Heritage American. “Not a single significant item failed to find a buyer, and many set all-time individual price records. In fact, in retrospect I confess to a little apprehension regarding this auction. Offering the largest and finest selection of political collectibles ever to appear in a single auction in the current uncertain economy required a bit of a leap of faith. But as is so often the case when a strong concentration of truly exceptional material comes to auction, the bidders respond accordingly. Overall, some 97% of the 884 political and presidential lots found buyers. We’re obviously pleased to have delivered such historic results.”

Breckinridge was one of three candidates defeated by Abraham Lincoln in the watershed 1860 election. A campaign flag banner picturing him was once thought to be non-existent, and represented a true “Holy Grail” piece of political memorabilia. When the present example turned up in the floorboards of a house, the hobby was set abuzz. With the sale of this Breckinridge flag for $95,600, only its new owner can possibly aspire to assemble a complete set of 1860 U.S. Presidential campaign portrait flags.

The importance of a find like this cannot be overstated,” said Slater. “It is a milestone in the history of political items collecting, and the sale of this Breckinridge flag easily erased the previous record high for a political flag, also set by Heritage with its sale of a Lincoln & Hamlin Large Portrait Flag from the 1860 Campaign, which brought $83,650 in February 2007.”

The highly eclectic selection ranged from a 1766 clothing button protesting the Stamp Act, an event that helped catalyze the Revolutionary War, which realized $8,962, to perhaps the rarest Ronald Reagan pinback 1980 campaign button, a design highly desirable to collectors, which realized $1195.

In between were such varied items as a china mug picturing America’s sixth president, James Monroe, with his name quaintly spelled “Munroe,” which realized $14,340; a paper lantern from 1864 picturing Lincoln opponent George McClellan, which would have helped illuminate night-time political rallies and parades (realized: $7,170), and a much sought-after turn-of-the century button depicting Theodore Roosevelt entertaining African-American leader Booker T. Washington for a barrier-breaking dinner in the White House. It brought a final price of $6,871, believed to be an auction record for this sought-after variety.

Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $700 million, and 475,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit