HISTORY OF THE DAVID AND JANICE FRENT COLLECTION OF PRESIDENTIAL AND POLITICAL AMERICANA
By Tom Slater
Among members of the organized fraternity of political items collectors, the Frent Collection has long been revered as the largest, most extensive, and valuable collection ever assembled. Its history began shortly after the Frents' marriage in 1968, a monumental election year when public awareness of politics was never higher. The young couple soon discovered their shared fascination with American history and they began to collect tangible political artifacts. Little did they know that this shared passion would lead to an unparalleled collection of over 50,000 items, embracing every category from buttons to banners, from George Washington through modern presidential candidates.
By the mid-1970s, their plan had crystalized: they would collect as broadly as possible, seeking to acquire important and representative examples from all categories of items from every presidential campaign, with an emphasis on pieces in top condition whenever obtainable. New Jersey residents, they always placed special emphasis on items from that state, and collectors residing in New Jersey will find a particularly exciting selection in the auctions of this collection.
Around 1990, renowned historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. conceived an ambitious plan: he would assemble essays from respected scholars on every American presidential election, to be illustrated by images of items produced to promote aspirant's candidacies. Schlesinger became aware of the Frent Collection and arranged a visit to view their collection. The Frents still recall warmly that visit, when the historian expressed amazement not only that such a wide range of campaign items had been produced, but that such a diverse and important collection had been assembled by private collectors in one ambitious effort. Dr. Schlesinger opined that the Frents' collection represented a "national treasure," and he was excited at the prospect of drawing upon it to illustrate his planned history of American politics.
The project evolved into a two-volume set titled Running for President, the Candidates and their Images 1789 -- 1992 , illustrated by some 500 selected items from the Frent Collection. With editing assistance from Professor Fred Israel (himself an avid political collector) and David Frent, the resulting volumes, published by Simon and Schuster, present an unparalleled overview not only of American political history, but also of the myriad items produced to support political candidacies. But they also do much more. The incredible industry and ingenuity demonstrated by these diverse artifacts represents in a very real way the American spirit. One cannot come away from perusing these books without feeling a sense of respect not only for our past, but for the unique qualities which led generations of entrepreneurs and public-spirited citizens to create this vast and ingratiating body of artifacts.
Developing a plan for bringing vast Frent Collection to auction has been challenging. Presenting each and every item in an auction format would be logistically impractical. Accordingly, Heritage will hold a series of balanced sales over the next several years, bringing to market all the objects, which in our minds justified minimum opening bids of $100 or more. Each auction, like this one, will consist of two distinct sessions, with one presenting a variety of avenues for live bidding, and the other available only for online bidding (including real-time bidding at point of sale through our Heritage Live! platform).
Since the Frents began their collecting odyssey, numerous political items have appreciated more than 1000% in cost, and many of the best examples have become ensconced in major collections that are unlikely to come onto the market for some years, if ever. In this climate, building a collection like the Frents' is simply impractical, and over the last several decades we are not aware of any new hobbyists who have attempted to take anything like their comprehensive approach. These auctions present an unprecedented chance, surely never to be repeated, to acquire some of the rarest and most interesting items this rich hobby has to offer. We hope that aspiring new collectors and seasoned ones alike will recognize and fully embrace this unique opportunity.
For those who are new to the field of political Americana, I invite you to contact me at 214-409-1441 or TomS@HA.com to discuss possible approaches to collecting.
February 24 The David and Janice Frent Collection of Political & Presidential Americana, Part 2 #6187
March 10 The David and Janice Frent Collection of Political & Presidential Americana, Part 2 Internet Session #6198
RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT:
The Candidates and Their Images
This landmark set of two volumes, published by Simon & Schuster in 1994, is perhaps the inest available introduction to American politics and the wide range of items used to promote candidates over the years. Edited by renowned historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. with the assistance of political history professor Fred L. Israel and Collector David Frent, these massive, coffee table-type books include essays on each presidential election campaign by various respected scholars. They're profusely illustrated with dazzling color images of items from the David and Janice Frent Collection.
Heritage has been able to secure a limited number of sets to offer to our clients. The original issue price was $200, but we are able to offer these at just
$125 postpaid .
These beautiful volumes are a must for aspiring and seasoned collectors alike. The supply is very limited, so order yours today!
Go to HA.com and click the "Order our Auction Catalogs" link. Then go to Special Books, hard bound editions and more. Select Running for President: The Candidates and Their Images from the menu. You may also email catalogorders@HA.com or call Customer Service at 866-835-3243 to order.