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The historical collection could head to the national museum

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Mike Mulhern began collecting presidential campaign buttons six decades ago, and one of the nation’s most prominent museums took notice of his collection.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — From stamps to baseball cards and even coins, many of us had collections growing up.

While these collections may have been important to the person who owns the collection, that is often where the interest ends. A man from Ponte Vedra beach has caught the eye of one of the most famous museums in the world.

His dining room is a page of history, frozen in time, or at least enclosed under glass, which suits the former history teacher. To say that Mike Mulhern has a collection is an understatement.

“I like the ones where you flash them back and forth,” Mulhern said. “They’re lenticular, you flash them back and forth, they have an image one way and another image.”

From Benjamin Harrison to George Bush, LBJ and the other George Bush, Mulhern’s Presidential Campaign Button Collection contains items dating back to Martin Van Buren in 1837. The Presidential Campaign Button Collection began as a pass- time for Mulhern in the 1950s.

“Eventually you pull out these antennae, and all of a sudden you see the pimples everywhere,” Mulhern said.

And as his collection grew, so did his thirst for rare pieces.

“Wherever a presidential candidate shows up, Mike will show up,” Mulhern joked.

The Ponte Vedra Beach resident has campaign buttons from 31 different US presidents, and he’s actually met or been in the audience for nine of them. Mulhern has seen Jimmy Carter four different times.

“We went to his Sunday school class in Plains Georgia, and he posed for a picture,” Mulhern said, “we were especially thrilled about it.”

Some items in his collection are so rare that the Smithsonian took an interest in some of his pieces.

“I wish my grandkids and great-grandkids would go on a field trip to DC with their class and be able to say, this is Grandpa’s collection,” Mulhern said.

A legacy of plastic, tin and paint preserved from American history. A passion for almost six decades, ready to be shared with the world.

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