Auction preview: ‘Important’ George Washington inaugural button highlights Frent Collection Part II

Feb. 24 auction presents mint Abraham Lincoln ambrotype badge

The only inaugural button referring to George Washington as the “Father of His Country”—perhaps the earliest instance of the use of the phrase—will open for bidding at $20,000 USD when Heritage Auctions presents part two of the David and Janice Frent Collection of Political & Presidential Memorabilia Feb. 24.

The landmark Frent collection, widely regarded as the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind ever assembled, will span eight dedicated auctions with everything from buttons to banners dating from the founding of the republic up through recent elections. The 658-lot sale will also include pin backs, banners, campaign flags and assorted campaign paraphernalia.

According to auctioneers, there are ‘certainly less than 10 specimens in existence and likely closer to 6 or 7.’ The example to be offered as part of the Feb. 24 sale ‘may be the finest example known.’

“The record-setting debut of the Frent Collection realized a stunning $911,538 (USD) last October,” said Tom Slater, director of Americana Auctions at Heritage, “and part two is every bit as exciting.”

The collection’s Washington Inaugural Button is stamped with the words “Pater Patriæ” (Father of his Country) and is the only portrait button in the accepted canon of Washington inaugural buttons. The Frent collection specimen is superior to one recently acquired by Washington’s Mount Vernon historic site.


Other highlights include an “outstanding” example of the iconic “Ship of State” silk campaign flag for Henry Clay’s 1844 campaign, which opens with a $20,000 USD bid. According to auctioneers, it’s considered the most desirable Clay flag variety and a rarity that offers “fine display presence and … a very special opportunity for the advanced specialist in political textiles.

Other flags on offer include a “dramatic” 1868 Ulysses S. Grant silk campaign flag, which will open at $7,500 USD. Measuring 83 centimetres by 60 centimetres, the example is likely one of just three others known according to auctioneers.


Several photographic campaign items will also cross the block, and a “stunning” 1860 brooch featuring an ambrotype portrait of Abraham Lincoln known as the “Cooper Union” pose will open at $12,000 USD. The nation’s leading portrait photographer, Mathew Brady, took the image while Lincoln was in New York to give a speech at Cooper Union Institute in February 1860.

“Although Lincoln photographic items produced for the 1860 election were widely distributed, almost every example of the George Clark ambrotype suffers condition problems,” said Slater. “The marvellous Frent example is essentially in mint condition and is the finest known example to exist.”


Rounding out the highlights are the following items:

Bidding opens for the Feb. 24 auction of part two of the David and Janice Frent Collection of Political & Presidential Memorabilia Feb. 5 at 6187.

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