What's It Worth? Nothing new about getting out the vote

Special to the Tri-City HeraldNovember 3, 2012 

Tuesday is election day across the country, and politics -- state and national -- is on the mind of two What's It Worth? readers this week. They ask about an old item and one that is from the 1970s.

Q. I'm wondering what you can tell me about my antique ballot box. It came from a small mining town in the mountains of southern Idaho and was full of ballots from the 1950 general election. It was made by Geo. D. Barnard & Co. but there is no date on it or city of origin. It is light-weight metal with a cast iron latch and a hasp for a padlock. It measures 15 inches end to end. Any information would be appreciated. -- Mike in Pasco

A. What you have is a metal "mule mount" ballot box, made of tin and cast iron. These were called "mule mount" because the base is curved and the box could be strapped on the back of a mule to be transported to polling places. They can be as early as the 1860s and were used in the election of 1868, when U. S. Grant became president.

By the time of the 1950 election, almost 100 years later, these boxes mostly had been replaced by hand lever voting booths. However, and especially in some rural areas of the country, they continued to be used as late as the 1960s.

George D. Barnard was a very successful St. Louis businessman. He started with a stationery store and small printing firm and rose to be a leader in the community.

He served as president of the Merchant's Exchange and was one of the early promotors of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. When he died in 1915, Barnard's obituary was published in The New York Times.

A box such as this is quite collectible, and they come to auction with some regularity. Value depends on condition and is increased if the box is marked for a particular issue.

One that was used in the vote for women's suffrage -- and is clearly marked "Women's Ballots" -- will be sold next month at auction in Cincinnati and is estimated to bring upwards of $2,500.

A box such as this one, where the condition of the finish is quite worn, would be fairly priced in the $400 to $600 range.

Interestingly, the box was used in the 1950 election, which included an issue to amend Idaho's constitution to give Native Americans the right to vote, serve on juries and hold public office. The measure carried with 73 percent of the voters favoring a constitutional amendment.

If the box had been marked "Indian Votes" or with similar wording, the value would at least triple.

Q. I have this 3 1/2-inch Democratic campaign pinback button for George McGovern, who was overwhelmed in his bid for the presidency in the Nixon landslide of 1972. McGovern died last month and I'm wondering if my pin has increased in value; or if it has any value at all? -- John in Kennewick

A. The short and simple answer is, no.

McGovern campaign collectibles are easy to find. Like most election items made in the 20th century, they are so common that value is small. And, the passing of the late South Dakota senator has not moved the value scale at all.

McGovern, who was briefly a 1968 stand-in candidate for the Democrats after Bobby Kennedy was killed, decided early on to make a serious run for the presidency in 1972.

A liberal leader of his party, McGovern's campaign was thrown into early disarray when running mate Thomas Eagleton was replaced as the Democrats vice presidential candidate.

After the convention, it was revealed that Eagleton had undergone electroshock treatments for clinical depression and he was dropped from the ticket.

Things only got worse and when the votes were counted, McGovern won just Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. He even failed in his home state. At the time, it was the second biggest landslide in presidential history. Richard Nixon won the Electoral College 520 to 17.

This pin is worth less than $5.

* Terry Maurer, Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@ gmail.com.

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