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Intro to Hake's Americana & Collectibles Auction #211

Here is my introduction to Hake’s Americana & Collectibles Auction #211, the company I founded in 1968 and for which I continue to be associated with as a full time consultant. While some of this pertains to Hake’s Auction 211 on-line at on February 25, much of it reflects my views on collectors and collecting after 50 years experience in the field.

As always, thanks for reading!




The 117th birthday of the pin-back button is fast approaching. Get your free Button Birthday button by placing an  order with  anytime between now and July 21st. The buttons will ship in early June.


Why a button birthday button? Two years ago, Christen Carter, owner of the Busy Beaver Button Co. in Chicago ( decided it was time to give the button its due. Pin-back buttons have been helping us communicate since 1896. They are both historic and yet also contemporary. They are capable of funny sayings or dire predictions of our collective demise. They exist as plain Janes or as stunningly beautiful miniature works  of graphic art.  So, if a nation can have its National Doughnut Day, there is certainly room for National Pin-Back  Button Day.


Why July 21st? Christen asked me what date would be most appropriate to declare as the pin-back's birthday. While pin-backs existed long before 1896, that year saw the Whitehead & Hoag Company of Newark, New Jersey introduce the pin-back button structurally designed as we know it today. W&H began the process that led them to their 1896 product introduction  with a patent in 1893 and several other patents followed over the next three years. The  final patent awarded to protect the final design of their instantly and massively successful pin-back button communication device was awarded July 21, 1896.


Christen created her first pin-back birthday button in 2011. It is a simple, but elegant, black on silver 15/16" design proclaiming "I'm 115 years old!"  The next year Christen upped the size to 1.25" and  adapted Whitehead & Hoag's own back paper design, the one they used in 1898, to create her design celebrating the pin-back's 116th birthday.  What design will Christen use for  2013's birthday pin-back?  Truthfully, I do not yet know and you will need to stay tuned to find out or place an order to receive one free. I'm placing my order for the 117th birthday button now at



Ted Hake

May 6, 2013

Collectibles: From A Spark, A Flame- A Sixty Year Perspective

    Welcome to my website and my first blog. I've been told to do this to get robust Search Engine Optimization, so here goes. I hope you and I are not the only ones reading this.

    In May, 2010,  the auction house I founded, sold and still work in full time, held its 200th mail, phone and, since the 1990s, internet auction. I considered #200 a major personal milestone. For that auction's introductory letter, I offered "some thoughts on a lifetime of collecting" from my perspective as the founder of the first auction house to specialize in 20th century popular culture artifacts. Since this website is about what I've personally collected (and continue to collect) during that lifetime, sharing those thoughts here with visitors to my personal website seems apropos. Anniversaries and inaugural events make ideal times for reflection on the past, present and future.

    When I was a kid in the  early 1950s, the major collecting hobbies for American adults were stamps, coins and fine antiques. I joined that world at age eight (I already had a box of World War I buttons, I just didn't yet know I'd devote so much of my life to buying, selling and most of all enjoying buttons). In 1951, I became a coin collector at the suggestion of my father. Coins, girls, and fossils, pretty much in that order, soon became the driving forces of my youth. While my father gave me the direction and primary collectible (that word didn't exist then), my mother gave me the context of the collecting world by taking me along to the local York County, Pennsylvania antique auctions. My first mentor, outside the world of coins, was William C. Rickrode, by chance a former high school classmate of my mother's and a local antique dealer.

    At York's "Playland" roller skating rink, one of the nation's earliest continuous antique show venues, Bill stood out. It was not just his- shall we say-"distinctive" curlicue moustache plus goatee, but also his unique booth. York's long tradition in the antique field, even then in its third decade, was a magnet for fine furniture, long rifles, colonial silver and vast forms of china and glass. Plunked down amidst these refinements of civilization and folk art utilities, Bill's booth was either a dark hole or a beacon of light, depending upon the collector's inclinations.
This was where the pioneers of popular culture collecting would discover material artifacts: their Eagle and Eaglets mechanical bank, their George Washington Inauguration clothing button, their
Old Judge tobacco baseball cards, their Buck Rogers in the 25th Century pocket watch and , dare I say, their Whitehead & Hoag produced presidential campaign buttons.  

    The one thing needed to join Bill's small contingent for whom his booth was a "beacon of light" was an appreciation of American social and political history: our national events and our inventions, our national populace and those single distinctive personalities of each era, all our occupations and all our entertainments, bad times and good. If one possessed that, Bill's booth was a shining gem and it became the core concept I've strived to elaborate upon with my auctions, collector guides, personal collecting, and, now, my personal website. Collecting as a focus for an individual's attention originates with personal memories, a vision of history or some innate sensibility. There exists some inspiration that gets elaborated upon in the mind and acted upon in the "real" world. The collector possesses a personal appreciation of some human concept that runs the gamut from the aesthetics of art to the fine points of the practicalities of barbed wire. Fascination resides in both.

    The past half century greatly expanded the array of cultural collectibles now collected compared to what might have been in Bill's booth in the 1950s. I've had fun with my part of making that happen through Hake's Americana & Collectibles Auctions.  "Collectibles" as a word and concept was in its infancy when I named my business (opting for Collect "ibles" over "ables" ) and launched Auction #1 in 1968 with 155 pin-back buttons and about 20 bidders.  Today, the word "collectibles" holds significance for millions of people, is a multi- billion dollar industry and the term "popular culture" is commonplace in all media.  

    Hake's Americana & Collectibles is and has always been the most diversified source for popular culture collectibles in America. Every auction offers fascinating artifacts spanning two centuries of American life and memories.  This website,, does much the same but mostly in the form of wearable objects, primarily those we've come to call pin-back buttons since Whitehead & Hoag revolutionized the button concept in 1896.

Thanks for reading my inaugural blog. Feedback welcome:

Happy Collecting,

Ted Hake