A tiara that once belonged to first lady Ida Saxton McKinley is now sitting in a pawn shop in Las Vegas, and a Canton museum is racing to get it out of hock.
OK, this is no back alley pawn shop. It’s Gold & Silver Pawn, the setting of the History Channel series Pawn Stars. And the tiara’s former owners didn’t exactly pawn the headpiece to pay the rent. They sold it to shop co-owner and series star Rick Harrison for $43,000.
Ida McKinley was a Canton native and the wife of President William McKinley, the namesake of the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum in Canton. She died in 1907, and her diamond-accented headpiece was passed down through her sister’s family.
The museum knew about the tiara and even borrowed it a couple of times to display at special events, Curator Kim Kenney said. But its sale took the institution by surprise.
Kenney sprang into action after learning from a museum member that a possession of Ida McKinley’s would be featured on the March 7 episode. She said she contacted the pawn shop but initially was told the tiara was not for sale. About two weeks ago, however, Harrison called back and offered to sell the adornment to the museum for what he paid.
“It’s been appraised at $75,000, so it’s a good deal,” she said.
There’s just one catch: The offer is good only until June 24.
Now the museum is engaging in a fundraising blitz to try to scrape together the money to buy the tiara, which is more like a metal headband accented by a pair of detachable diamond wings that can double as brooches.
Because the museum doesn’t have an acquisitions budget, it’s soliciting donations and trying the get the word out via social media. It hopes to hold a fundraising event, Kenney said, but this has all happened so fast that the museum hasn’t had time to cook up a plan.
“We never do this,” she said. “This is extraordinary for us.”
The museum, Kenney pointed out, is not one of the federally funded presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. “We’re just a nonprofit trying to stay open,” she said.
Donations may be made by phone at 330-455-7043 or mailed to Ida McKinley Tiara Fund, McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, 800 McKinley Monument Drive NW, Canton, OH 44708.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or email@example.com. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckABJ and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.