Happy Fourth of July to all Antiques and History Lovers
What better day to celebrate the past than the Fourth of July?
Antique enthusiasts love a good story with provenance so the past is always in the present when enjoying a finely crafted piece of Federal furniture, a flag from the Civil War battlefield or the many examples of Americana treasures that date to the 19th and 20th century.
My most patriotic collectible is displayed in my entrance hall right now. It’s a plaster statue or bust of George Washington.
The story behind this treasure is how I obtained it. I bought it for about a dollar in the early 1980s, when I worked for a few years at L. S. Good, the big downtown department store that is no longer around.
The store was in bankruptcy and still doing business but there was a sort-of tag sale in the store for employees to purchase any odd display items. Well, this large statue was used for promotional purposes during Washington’s Day (Presidents Day) Sales, every February.
I took George home where he has remained and displayed it when appropriate for holidays.
My eldest daughter Bianca Benson, who studied art, even plastered and painted George to keep him looking good.
He’s now entertaining and educating my grandchildren who enjoy meeting him. Unfortunately, there are no identifying marks so I couldn’t research the maker, but he’s big enough for a pedestal in any formal room done in classical style.
Patriotic collectibles are always educational and serve as great conversational pieces.
Maps are another historic collectible that suits many patriotic collectors and history buffs. Displayed on a den or office wall, a vintage map creates an interesting focal point as it adds an air of mystery and travel to decor.
Battle flags too are highly collectible as an artifact of war. Maps and flags might be worth millions but even those that aren’t rare are interesting to collectors.
Flags, likewise, are collected due to the aesthetic value as well as the historical. Surprisingly, American flags have varied greatly over the years due to the vague language of the 1777 Flag Act. Early flag makers could create their own star formations, resulting in a variety of designs, like the wreath or scatter pattern of stars. It wasn’t till 1912 that today’s flag standards were established, setting stars in rows on a blue background, complemented by stripes of red and white.
To find good quality maps and flags though you must consult a reputable dealer and be very careful about authenticity.
Another political collectible that I’ve written about in the past are political race memorabilia like campaign buttons. History buffs, party activists and collectors of all ages enjoy reminders of hard-fought races and meaningful issues in our political past.
Political pins like we know today have been around since the 1896 presidential campaigns and are a reminder of our nation’s journey.
The most valuable buttons are those that relate to any political figure whose time in office was marked by an event that is unique or important.
If you happen to have one of President George Washington’s buttons, the ones sewn onto his and his supporters’ clothing, these are highly desired. These utilitarian copper buttons read “G.W. Long Live the President” and I see that there’s one on eBay at the moment selling for $3,900.
Have a Happy Independence Day, antique enthusiasts, and thank you for reading my column.