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Glossary of Terms

Information on political memorabilia collecting including definitions and glossary of terms
Below you will find a listing of terms frequently used
 when describing items in our hobby.

3-D Items – 3-dimensional Items that incorporate width, height, and depth into their design.  Examples: china, umbrellas, statues, clocks, etc.

Altered – an item which is recognizable in one form, which may have been changed or transformed into another form.  Examples: adding a ribbon to a pinback button for which the ribbon was not originally attached to the pinback button, putting manufacturer’s papers inside the back of buttons, replacing original ferrotype photos in a shell badge with a cutout paper or cardboard photo.

 

Ambrotype – this was a technique originally patented in 1843 for applying a positive photo image onto glass.  Usually, the image is backed by a dark color.  Ambrotypes were used during the campaigns immediately following its invention, particularly the 1860 campaign.

 

Backname button – this is a clothing button, not a pinback button.  On the back of the clothing button, a political campaign slogan or candidate’s name will appear.  This was seen during the early part of the 19th century on brass-shanked buttons.  Examples are known to exist for Jackson, Van Buren, Clay, William Henry Harrison, Monroe, and others.

 

Bartender’s Button – this is a pinback button that usually includes photos of the candidates from both parties (known as a jugate).  This is to reflect a neutral position (a position that a bartender might take).  Examples exist for Taft and Bryan in 1908, FDR and Willkie in 1940, and others.

 

Bourse – this is the buying, selling and trading portion of a show where dealers setup with their collectibles.  Most APIC shows, both regional and national include a bourse that may be one or more days.

 

Broadside – this can be a poster, a banner, or a flier that has print on one side only.  These were particularly popular in the 1800 campaigns.

 

Brummagem – this term is used to describe any showy, but inferior and worthless object.  The APIC considers all fakes, reproductions and fantasy items as brummagem and is heavily frowned-upon.

 

Bug – this is short for ‘union bug’.  Items manufactured using union labor are generally stamped with the label associated with that union.  Most union bugs are oval in shape and contain the union name and number.  These union bugs can appear on the front of the item, around the curl of a pinback, stamped into the metal back of a pinback, or on manufacturer’s paper inserted into the back of a pinback.  Posters and other campaign artifacts also have union bugs on them.

 

Button – collectors generally refer to pinback buttons as ‘buttons’, but shank-back clothing buttons may also be referred to as buttons.

 

Cabinet Card – this is a photographic print mounted to a card measuring 4 ¼ inches by 6 ½ inches.  These were popular from the late 1860’s forward.

 

Campaign Torch – these were usually made of wood and/or metal and were carried during campaign parades starting in the 1800’s.  Some torches have political candidates names on them; others do not.  They were meant to carry kerosene and lit during night parades.

 

CDV (Carte de Visite) – this is a closely-trimmed portrait photograph approximately 2 ½ inches by 4 ¼ inches.  These were used as a substitute for a visiting card passed out by the candidates.  These cards became popular in the 1860’s.

 

Cause – items that fit into this category are ones that relate to a particular political issue such as woman’s suffrage, prohibition, civil rights, etc.

 

Celluloid Button – this refers to a pinback button.  There are various methods for making a celluloid pinback button, but the most common method for construction is as follows: an image was printed on paper, celluloid was placed onto the paper, then the combination of the paper/celluloid was secured (wrapped) onto a metal disk.  The paper/celluloid application was held in place on the metal disk by wrapping it around the curl of the metal disk, then stabilized by a metal rim (or collet) that was pressed onto the back of the pin.  Celluloid has not been used in the manufacture of pinback buttons for decades, now replaced by acetate.

 

Clasp-back – as the name implies, an item would have a locking catch or clasp on the back of the item that firmly secures the pin when attached to clothing.

 

Clothing Button – these are usually made of metal only or cloth-cover metal with a shank-back.  They were used in the 1800’s on gentlemen’s coats in commemoratin or honoring a political candidate or military hero.  Clothing buttons are also referred to as shank buttons.

 

Coat-tail – this term is used to describe a campaign item (most commonly a pinback button) where a candidate is linked or attached to another candidate in order to strengthen the potential of winning the election.  This comes from the phrase ‘riding on his coat tails’.  Examples of this might be a pinback button that pictures the candidate for President of the US and a candidate for the Governorship of a state.

 

Collector’s Item – this term is generally used to refer to an item that was not originally conceived to be used in a political campaign, but was created specifically for the purpose of selling or trading to collectors.  These items may be created prior to, during or after a political election.

 

Collet – this is the metal band used in the manufacture of a pinback, placed on the backside  to secure the paper and celluloid attached to the front of the button.

 

Companion Piece – this refers to a campaign item that has an exact matching mate for the opposing candidate.

 

Crack – this is a term generally used when describing a defect of an item.  Celluloid pinback buttons are susceptible to cracking, thus this term is often used when describing them.  Cracks can adversely affect the value of an item.

 

Crazing – this is a term generally used when describing a defect of an item.  Craizing is the same as cracking, except that crazing if often very small, almost undetectable cracking.  Celluloid pinback buttons and ferrotypes are often described using this term.  Crazing can adversely affect the value of an item.

 

Curl – this refers to the outer edge or rim of a pinback button.  The curl of a pinback button is a common location for union bugs, the manufacturer’s name or other text such as the entity responsible for the creation and funding of the item.

 

Daguerreotype – this is the name of an object where the world’s first practical photographic process was used to create a photograph.  The photograph was produced on a silver-coated copper plate.  The completed plate was usually housed in a protective leather case.  These were first introduced during the 1848 campaign of Zachary Taylor and are quite rare.

 

Defect – this is a blemish which detracts from the appearance and appeal of an item.  Defects can be responsible for significant reductions in the monetary value of an item.  Defect includes cracks, fading, foxing, centering problems, scratches, splitting, spots, discoloration, stains, and yellowing.  Defect can adversely affect the value of an item.

 

Delegate Button – these are pinback buttons produced to be worn by members of a specific delegation to a national or state political convention or meeting.  These buttons are generally very limited in number, which can contribute to their scarcity and desirability to collectors.

 

Ephemera – this term refers to the general area of paper collectibles.  The official definition of ephemera is “an item developed for very short life or duration”.  Paper ephemera may include such campaign items as posters, tickets, ballots, handbills, programs, newspapers, etc.

 

Elongated Cent – this is a campaign piece made by pressing a penny between two rollers into an oval shaped planchet upon which a candidate’s image or campaign text was stamped by a die.

 

Encased – this refers to any item that is held within a frame.  Examples: a celluloid pinback button with a brass shell fram around it, a mirror in a gold encasement.

 

Fading – this term is used to describe a defect common to celluloid pinback buttons and photographic items.  Items exposed to sunlight easily fade, particularly the color red in pinback buttons.  Fading can adversely affect the value of an item.

 

Fake – this term is used to describe an item that is not original, but was intentional created to deceive collectors.  Other related terms used to describe fake items include fantasy pieces, re-runs, reproductions and re-strikes.  Fakes are strongly frowned upon by the APIC.

 

Fantasy Item – this is an item that purports to be authentic, but did not exist in any form at the time of the campaign.  An example would be a Reagan for President pin that was manufactured in 2006 that appears to be an original Reagan campaign button from one of his campaigns in the 1980’s.  Fantasy items are strongly frowned upon by the APIC.

 

Favorite Son – this term is used to describe a presidential or vice-presidential candidate whose name has been place in nomination at a political convention by their home state.

 

Ferrotype - this term is used to describe a particular type of campaign item used mostly in the 1860’s and 1870’s.  The item consists of a photo on tin encased or attached to a brass shell.  In some cases, a ferrotype may have tin photos on both sides of the item.  Others may have a stickpin on one side for attaching to clothing.  Some ferrotypes include the candidates name and/or year on the out brass shell.

 

Filled Back – some forms of pinback buttons were manufactured such that the back of the pin is a solid metal back (a disk-shaped collet) rather than the more common ring-shaped collet.  Pinback buttons with filled backs generally were manufactured during the early days of pinback buttons from 1896 to 1912 or so.

 

Flasher – these items are manufactured using a process that allows the image to change (or flash) when the item is viewed from different angles.  Oftentimes, the presidential candidate is seen from one angle, and the vice presidential candidate is seen from a different angle.  Flashers were first used during the Eisenhower and Stevenson campaigns.

 

Fleck – this is term used to describe a defect in a ferrotype.  If the photo emulsion surface of a ferrotype is chipped away and is missing, this is referred to as a fleck.

 

Fob – this is a particular type of campaign item used to attach to a top of a pocket watch.  A fob would hang out of a gentleman’s pocket where he kept his pocket watch.  Some fobs were all metal while others has the appearance of a celluloid button attached to a cardboard backing.  A fob may be attached to a leather strap or possibly a gold chain.  Many fobs were produced during the early 1900’s with portraits of political candidate or names of political candidates.

 

Foxing – this term is used to describe a defect that appears as discoloration, spotting, or brown specs.  Pinback buttons, paper items, and textiles are susceptible to foxing, which generally results from exposure to humidity.  Foxing can adversely affect the value of an item.

 

Frame – metal circular frames can often be found surrounding celluloid pinback buttons.  These frames are often removable, but were originally added to enhance the appearance of the item and/or to attach a ribbon to the button.

 

Gold Bug – this is a campaign item in the form of a bug or bee that was made specifically from the presidential campaigns of William McKinley in 1896 and 1900.  These items were not really made of gold, but McKinley supported gold as the monetary standard during these campaigns (his opponent William Jennings Bryan supported silver as the monetary standard), thus these items were called gold bugs.  There are numerous varieties of gold bugs including mechanical versions.

 

Grand National Banner – this term refers to a color, jugate print of both presidential and vice-presidential candidates first issued in 1844 by N. Currier (of Currier and Ives fame).  These prints were issues from 1844 to 1876 and are highly desirable.  They are often found in their original wood frame covered in glass.  Besides Currier, they were also manufactured by Kellogg and Comstock.

 

Holed – this is s descriptive term used when describing tokens and medals.  Many tokens and medals were originally created with holes near the top edge intended for allow for suspending the item for viewing.  Item manufactured with their original holes are not considered defects, however some tokens and medals have been drilled at a later date.

 

Holograph – a holograph is a document that was written in its entirety by the author.

 

Hopeful – this term is used to describe a political candidate that is not an officially nominated candidate by their party, but is a ‘hopeful’ candidate for the party nominiation by others.

 

Inaugural Item – this term is used to describe an item that was created specifically for the inauguration of an elected official.  Inaugural items are not considered campaign items because the outcome of the campaign has already been determined before the inaugural item is used.

 

Incused – this is a descriptive term used mostly with tokens and medals.  Lettering that has been stamped into the metal of a token or medal is considered incused.  This is is the opposite of raised lettering.  This type of incused lettering is found on numerous items from the 1800’s.

 

Jugate – this term is used to describe any campaign item where two candidates are pictured; generally the president and vice-president.  This term may also be used for an item where a governor and lieutenant governor are pictured.  Jugate images are found most commonly on pinback buttons, but they may also be found on poster, pennants, postcards, textiles, and many other forms of political campaign items.  Many collectors have a stronger interest in jugates simply because it shows an image of both candidates, rather than a single picture or no picture at all.

 

Keynoter – this is the name of the publication produced by the APIC on a quarterly basis.

 

Lapel Stud – this term refers to a campaign item that is meant to be worn through the whole in the lapel.  The backside has a metal shank that is designed to hold the item in a label hole.  There are forms of lapel studs that look like a pinback button from the front, but the back is made like a stud.  The late 1800’s and early 1900’s is where this type of campaign item is most prolific.

 

Litho (lithograph) – a litho is a pinback button where no celluloid is involved.  The process of making a litho is done by stamping out the button from a piece of lithographed tin.  There is no collet on the back of the pin as is true with celluloid pinback buttons, and the pin in the back is help in place only by the curvature of the metal rim.  Lithos were commonly used starting around 1916.  Litho are more susceptible to scratching since the surface of the button is not as protected as with celluloid buttons.

 

Lithograph – this refers not to buttons but to printed matter such as prints and broadsides that have been created using the lithograph printing process.

 

Locals – this is the general terms used to refer to campaign items of all types from non-presidential campaigns such as state offices for governor, senator, representative, etc.

 

Mechanical – this term is used to describe certain types of campaign items where the item has moving parts.  During the late 1800’s, campaign items such as tin shell items were created using a spring mechanism.

 

Medalet – this is a small piece of metal similar to a coin usually issued to commemorate a person or event.  Early examples exist from Washington throughout the 19th century.  Both sides of the medalet generally have images of the candidate and/or campaign slogans and text.  Smaller medalets are known as tokens.

 

Medallion – this term is used to describe a medal, but a medallion is generally used when describing larger medals.

 

Media Button – these are pinback buttons produced to be worn by members of the media or press that traveled with a candidate on the campaign trail.

 

Memorial Item – an item commemorating the death of a President.  Many memorial items include the color black, which helps distinguish campaign items from memorial items.

 

Metamorphic Card – these are cards that include some type of moving parts or have the ability to fold in such a way as to create different pictures or images.  For example, a card could be folded to show one candidate in one position, but folded another way would show the opponent.

 

Multigate – this refers to a campaign item such as a pinback button, poster or postcard that shows multiple candidates for office, generally four or more candidates.

 

Nose Thumber – this is a mechanical version of a metal watch fob used during the campaigns of Garfield, Hancock, Cleveland and Harding where the item has a spring action allowing the candidate to thumb his nose, indicating an derisive gesture to his opponent.

 

Obverse – this term is used to describe the front of an item.  This is the opposite of reverse.

 

Off Center – this is a term used to describe a defect in an item where the image is not centered.  This term is often used to describe pinback buttons.  Centering problems can adversely affect the value of an item.

 

Official – this term describes any campaign item that was approved of sanctioned by a political party, candidate, or committee for use in support of a candidate’s campaign.

 

Pinback – this term is used to describe any button that has a pin on the back used to attach the item to one’s clothing.  This includes all types of buttons; lithos, celluloid, metal, etc.  In general, most pinbacks were produced from 1896 forward.

 

Portrait Badge – this is an actual photographic image of a candidate that has been mounted in an ornamental brass or metallic frame.  This badge generally has a pin or fastener on the back.  The use of this terms has been used to describe items produced between 1860 and 1890 or so.

 

Press Button – see Media Button.

 

Re-pinned Buttons – this term is used to describe a pinback button where one or more of the components are old, but other components are newer (of recent manufacture).  The nost common scenario for re-pins is where some unscrupulous individual has taken the original button papers and has combined those with newer components (such as acetate covering, new metal, new collets and new pins) to create a new item.  Re-pin buttons are frowned upon by the APIC as they are not 100% legitimate, even though one or more of their components are old.

 

Reproductions – this term is used to describe an item that was created after the campaign, but was meant to be an exact imitation (or an image as close as possible to the original) of an original campaign item.  Reproductions have been produced both intentional and unintentionally to deceive collectors, and it is important for a collector to learn the difference.  Reproductions are strongly frowned upon by the APIC.

 

Re-run – this term is used to describe an item that was intentionally re-created by the manufacturer after the event or campaign, using the same materials as the original.  These items are similar to reproductions except the intent is somewhat different.  Re-runs are generally frowned upon by the APIC as they were not created during the original campaign.

 

Restrike – this term is used to describe a metallic item such as a token or medal where the manufacturer intentionally created the item after the event or campaign using the same materials as the original  These items are similar to reproductions except the intent is somewhat different.  Restrikes were done throughout the 1800’s using the original dies and materials, and are often difficult to distinguish from the original.

 

Riker Mounts – these are show cases originally created to display butterflies, but have been used for small collectibles such as pinback buttons, medals, tokens, ribbons, etc.  Many APIC members use the show cases for their smaller collectibles.  They are made of a hard cardboard frame, glass covering with a cotton-type padding inside.  They come in a variety of sizes, but the most common sizes are 8x12 and 12x16 inches.  They are relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain.

 

Sepia – this term is used to describe items that have an overall brown-tone.  Photographic images on pinback buttons, posters, photographs, etc;, are often described using this term.

 

Sets – this is a group of two or more items issued at the same time by one source which are related in some way.  An example of a set is the 1964 Goldwater foreign language pinback button set.

 

Shank Button – this is a button that is suitable for stitching to clothing by sewing through holes in the shank extending from the back of the button.

 

Shell Medalet – these items were first used in the 1844 campaign.  The item is constructed of a two very thin sheet of metal (obverse and reverse), where each piece was joined to the other.  In some cases, they item was ringed at the top so that the item could be worn as a locket or pendulum.

 

Silver Bug – this is a campaign item in the form of a bug or bee that was made specifically from the presidential campaigns of William Jennings Bryan in 1896 and 1900.  These items were not really made of silver, but Bryan supported silver as the monetary standard during these campaigns (his opponent William McKinley who supported gold as the monetary standard), thus these items were called silverbugs.  There are numerous varieties of silver bugs including mechanical versions.

 

Split – this term is most often used to describe a defect in a celluloid pinback button where the item has a noticeable separation in he celluloid covering.  Splits can be found on any part of an item, but are frequently found along the outer edge of the curl where the celluloid is stretched over the metal backing.  Split can adversely affect the value of an item.

 

Spoof Button – this term describes an item that is humorous in nature and does not support a bona fide candidate.  Examples are ‘Archie Bunker for President’, ‘Bart Simpson for President’, and ‘Vote for Morris the Cat’.

 

Spot – this term is used to describe a defect.  Spots are intermittent areas of foxing or discoloration.  Spots can adversely affect the value of an item.

 

Staff Button - these are pinback buttons produced to be worn by members of the campaign staff that traveled with a candidate on the campaign trail

 

Stain – this term is used to describe a defect.  Stains are intermittent areas of foxing or discoloration that may be described as light, dark, heavy, even or uneven..  Spots can adversely affect the value of an item.

 

Stereograph – this term describes a horizontal card that shows a paired photographic image (same image side-by-side).  These cards were meant to be viewed through a stereoscope which, when viewed, produced a 3-dimensional image.  Stereographs were popular from the 1860’s through the 1920’s and many examples can be found of political candidates and political campaign images.

 

Stevensgraph – this term refers a mult-color woven silk ribbon.  These were popular during the latter part of the 19th century, and often show single or jugate images of political candidates.

 

Stickpin – this is a political campaign item that has a long pin permanently attached to the head.  The head of the stickpin may show an image of a candidate, a campaign slogan, or a 3-dimensional image.  The head may be made of metal, celluloid or fabric.

 

Stud – this term refers to a campaign item that is meant to be worn through a buttonhole in the lapel.  Many studs will have a celluloid or metal front.

 

Sulfide – this term describes a type of brooch found during the early 19th century for such candidates as Jackson, Van Buren, and William Henry Harrison.  The brooches were cameo visualization of a candidate or party symbol set onto an enameled surface.  These are quite rare.  Sulfides were also used as paperweights, perfume bottles and marbles in later campaigns.

 

Tab – this term refers to a lithograph, one-piece metal item that includes a tab at the top that can be bent over in order to attach it to a shirt pocket.

 

Third Party – this is a political party that was something other than Republican or Democrat such as Independent, Socialist, Communist, Labor, States Rights, etc.  They were also referred to as minor parties.

 

Token – this is a small piece of metal similar to a coin usually issued to commemorate a person or event.  Early examples exist from Washington throughout the 19th century.  Both sides of the token generally have images of the candidate and/or campaign slogans and text.  Larger tokens are known as medalets.

 

Torch – these were campaign items used during the mid to late 19th century made up of a small self-contained reservoir, a wick and a long pole or handle.  The reservoir was filled with something like kerosene then light in order to carry around during a night-time campaign parade.  Some torches carry no reference to political candidates while others may include reference to the candidate and/or campaign slogan or year.

 

Trade Card – these cards, also known as advertising cards, were printed in various sizes during the late 19th and early 20th century by various companies.  These cards used references (pictures or slogans) to political candidates, most likely without permission.  The general implication on the card is one of endorsement, but not always.  Many are quite colorful as were many trade cards from this era.

 

Trigate – this refers to a campaign item such as a pinback button, poster or postcard that shows three candidates for office.  Example are often found with the president, vice-president and a third candidate such as a governor or senator.

 

Uniface – this refers to a campaign item where the image only appears on one side or face.  In general, this term is used to describe ferrotypes. 

 

Union Bug – see ‘Bug’

 

Vignette – this term refers to a sketch or word picture.  Vignette are an added decorative item added to various types of campaign items such as campaign ribbons, posters, etc.

 

Volunteer Button - these are pinback buttons produced to be worn by volunteers working on a political campaign.

 

White Metal – this is a soft metal alloy that contains tin or lead.  The color is actually grey rather than white.  The term is used most often when describing tokens, which also can be found made of brass or copper.

 

Yellowing – this term is used to describe a defect.  Yellowing is a condition that is usually seen in celluloid pinback buttons where the celluloid has been exposed to sunlight or some other element that causes the celluloid to turn a yellowish tint.

 

Glossary courtesy of the American Political Item Collectors organization.

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