While the rest of the nation focuses on the 2012 presidential election, collectors of political items will gather in Columbus to talk about elections past.

While the rest of the nation focuses on the 2012 presidential election, collectors of political items will gather in Columbus to talk about elections past.

The American Political Items Collectors will hold their national convention Aug. 1-4 at the Crowne Plaza North Hotel, 6500 Doubletree Ave. in Columbus.

"You won't find a bigger group of political collectors than at our national convention," said Canfield resident Jack Dixey, one of the event organizers and a political button collector for more than 40 years.

More than 50 collectors will set up exhibits during the event, Dixey said, and collectors will come from across the country to view, share and discuss their pieces.

At one time, Columbus had a regular convention for political items collectors, but this is the first time the American Political Items Collectors has had their bi-annual convention in Ohio.

"It's a walk through history," Dixey said of the convention. "Some of these things may seem meaningless but carried a great significance in their day."

Columbus resident David Foster sees the appeal of collecting political memorabilia -- the American Political Items Collectors member has thousands of presidential campaign buttons that he's collected over decades.

"The older ones you get, they're almost little pieces of art," Foster said. "The background of the badges are almost the history of the day, and the slogans on them reflect the history of the day. Some of them are really works of art."

Foster's collection focuses on buttons supporting John F. Kennedy and John Glenn.

He said he started by collecting buttons supporting Jimmy Carter, the first president he voted for.

He began collecting Carter buttons while his father began collecting buttons for the president he first voted for, Franklin Roosevelt.

Foster said he and his father began going to political memorabilia conventions and from there, his collection grew.

"(Buttons) were cheap. You could find buttons for a quarter and 50 cents, and it was a nice hobby to get into and not spend a lot of money," Foster said.

While Foster's collection focuses on presidential buttons, those showing at the convention will have a variety of memorabilia -- from buttons to posters to license plate tags -- for a variety of political causes, ranging from women's suffrage to opposition of the Vietnam War to Prohibition, Dixey said.

Olentangy Liberty Middle School teacher Fred "Rick" Chittock is one collector who doesn't focus on presidential memorabilia.

Chittock said his collection spans political ideologies and subject matter, though some of his favorite pieces deal with Civil Rights, World War II and Native American causes.

"They all represent people who protest, who had viewpoints, who advocated positions," Chittock said. "You have the artifacts and then you can do the research into the great thinkers, the great leaders to look into how they motivate the followers who support them."

Dixey said the convention, which is likely to attract about 1,000 people, will appeal to those with an interest in history, as well as to those interested in the current political climate.

"If they're following the current presidential campaigns and they think that approaches are new, very few approaches are new, and they are evident in the things of the past. Issues, causes, slander, attacks, negative campaigning have been going on since campaigning has been going on," Dixey said. "This really isn't anything new. The media, the forum, may be new, but the way that people campaign probably isn't all that different than over the last two centuries in this country. We still celebrate the freedom of speech, and it's just interesting to see how that was expressed years ago."

The convention is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 2, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 3 and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 4.

Admission is $5. Children age 12 and younger will be admitted for free with a paying adult.

For more information about the convention, visit www.apic.us.