Political Collectibles: “Honest Old Abe” Ribbon

Mathew Brady’s photographs of Abraham Lincoln have long been popular collectibles. Brady’s familiar photo of Lincoln’s bearded face adorns every five-dollar bill and penny coin.

But Lincoln was not always bearded. An 1860 presidential campaign ribbon brought to the WorthPoint exhibit at the American Presidential Experience has a photograph of a Lincoln who appears much younger than when he was photographed by Brady during the Civil War. (Brady’s portrait of Lincoln on the five-dollar bill was taken in 1864).

Beardless Lincoln

The Lincoln campaign ribbon ribbon bears the slogan “Honest Old Abe,” which was the name of Lincoln’s campaign theme song. The ribbon also has an unusual American flag with stars and stripes to represent the original 13 states.

Lincoln campaign ribbon

Lincoln won the Republican presidential nomination at the party’s national convention in Chicago in May. Curiously, he made no speeches between May and November except for a brief address at a campaign meeting in Springfield, Ill.

The Lincoln campaign ribbon has been passed down through the Robson family for generations. It was given to James Gordon Robson during the campaign. Robson lived in Saxon, Ill., at the time. Robson served in the Union army during the Civil War. Some of Robson’s descendants moved to Colorado after the Civil War, and the Lincoln campaign ribbon is now in the possession of Barb and Dale Robson, who live in Golden, just outside Denver.

The Lincoln campaign ribbon shows little signs of wear or fading, even though it is almost 150 years old. Worthologist Tom Carrier, who specializes in American political memorabilia and American flags, puts the value of the Robsons’ Lincoln campaign ribbon at $2,600 to $3,500. “This is a pretty conservative estimate, Carrier says. “It could easily go for twice this amount or more at auction.”

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  1. Great ribbon. Probably worth closer to $7,000. The salt print portrait by William Marsh is unusual and was used on several campaign ribbons from 1860, all of which are rare.

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