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'Eye-opening' history, pop culture convention coming to Harrisburg

Before the days of social media, presidential candidates used just about anything to promote their campaigns.

Cigarette packs, whiskey bottles, posters and license plates. And of course, there were the pin-back buttons.

Well, starting July 9, Harrisburg will be host to an annual national convention that puts on display those historical collectibles, and more.

The Historical and Pop Culture Collectors Convention will be free and open to the public, allowing anyone to get a glimpse into American politics both current and as far back as two centuries ago.

"It's really fun to see what's been made over the last 200 years," said Ted Hake, co-chairman of this year's convention and founder of Hake's Americana & Collectibles in Springettsbury Township. "Some people collect since the time they started voting."

Hake and his co-chair Scott Mussell helped organize this year's event. And the timing, as the Republican and Democratic candidates approach the ever-looming November election date, is perfect.

"History is being made right now," Mussell said. "That's one of the beauties of this hobby. To do it right now, in the heat of this election, could be a lot of fun. People may not like either of the candidates, but the way the media has covered (the election) has made it a part of political culture and pop culture."

Prior movements in American history like civil rights, pro and anti-abortion and the Vietnam War also used buttons and other items to promote their ideas. The convention will have them, too.

"It's almost anything to do with history and pop culture, with a heavy emphasis on the political," Hake said.

The convention has its own members who will explore Harrisburg and the region in the week before the public is welcome to view the items. On Saturday, July 9 and and Sunday, July 10, there will be 215 tables set up at the Hilton Hotel ballroom and somewhere close to 100 dealers or collectors.

Anyone who has something they want to sell can bring their item to the convention and have it appraised, Hake said. Once the item is appraised, those interested can attend an auction inside.

The convention takes a 10 percent commission for items sold, Hake said.

But, Hake said, "you don't need to have stuff to come. If you're interested in history, it's eye-opening."

The convention is part of the American Political Items Collectors, a group that formed right after World War II, according to Hake. The group started with around 10 people, but grew and grew over the years. A newsletter soon grew into a convention.

Those conventions are now held once every two years. The last one was in Denver.

So what's one of the better items on hand at this year's convention?

There's a reasonably priced President William McKinley pin-back button from 1896 selling for $10.

Or, you could go with a Donald Trump button that says "I got punched at a Donald Trump rally" or one that features the candidates face and actual synthetic hair sticking out from the top.

If you go

What: Historic and Pop Culture Collectors National Convention

When: Open to the public Saturday, July 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, July 10 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Hilton Harrisburg, 1 N. 2nd St.

Cost: Free

Details: For more information, visit