Monday, May 4, 2009

Ted Hake

It was a little over 25 years ago that I was in Madison, Wisconsin for a funeral. With some time on my hands on a Saturday afternoon, I was wandering around a Mall that happened to be hosting an antiques show. And there, off in a corner, sat one lonely little guy with a booth full of political campaign buttons.

I wandered over and I was hooked.

Here was a piece of history that I could afford. The buttons were fairly inexpensive. They were colorful. Each told a piece of a story. And each was a tangible link with the past.

So I bought about a dozen of the things, from various elections, and I was off the to races.

I was living in Massachusetts at the time and, wanting to know more about this facet of collecting, I visited the local bookshop. And there on the shelf I found a book that gave a little background and contained a lot of pictures, along with estimated values. It would serve as my major resource for years. I used it so much, in fact, that the pages came loose from the binding. So I gathered those pages together in a loose-leaf notebook. I still have it.

By the standards of the American Political Items Collectors, my accumulated history is fairly small—a little more than 2,700 pieces. Still, I like it and, much to the dismay of my poor, long-suffering bride (PLSB, © 2009), I still add to the collection. Picked up quite a few last fall, as you might imagine from all three major parties (Democrats, Libertarians and Republicans).

That tattered book came in handy as I poured over auction catalogs that I’d receive in the mail from this outfit in Pennsylvania. I couldn’t afford to bid on many of the items, but I could dream. And, actually, I did bid, and win, on occasion.

It turns out that the same guy who hosted the auctions wrote that tattered book. That was pretty neat. And it gave me a little extra confidence in what I was bidding on.

So now we fast-forward twenty-five years and I find myself in York running a used book and curiosity shop. And I make the happy discovery that the guy who wrote the book, and ran the auctions, is also in York.

It was probably a flimsy excuse, I admit, but I used it to make a phone call and invite myself over to his office. For the better part of 25 years I have been worshipping him from afar, as it were, and now I got a chance to shake his hand. And then I made the happier discovery that Ted Hake is really quite a nice guy.

Ted is a recognized expert in the field of political items and in popular American culture. Literally, he is he guy who wrote the book(s) on the subject. He has often appeared on public television’s Antiques Roadshow as one of the experts.

And I was really excited to learn that he had elected to bring some of his items into the shop and offer them to our customers.

Ted Hake! Right here! This is big-time stuff!

Looking at his display is almost like visiting a museum. He’s got original Mickey Mouse watches in there. Buttons celebrating “Lucky Lindy’s” solo flight across the Atlantic. Souvenirs from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Cowboy memorabilia (Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy). And political campaign buttons.

He fits right in with the “& stuff” in our “used books & stuff” sign out front.

So, yeah, I had my picture taken with him when he came to set up. Is that blatant hero worship?

Yes. Yes, it is.


  1. I think it was longer than 25 years since you
    were "hooked"...As I recall your idea of great
    fun was going to antique stores and looking for
    campaign buttons. Happy for You that you were
    able to transfer your love to a profitable
    business!! Best to You and Jonelle

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