Ida McKinley’s Tiara - Atlas Obscura

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Ida McKinley’s Tiara

McKinley Presidential Library and Museum

How did a former First Lady's tiara wind up being sold to a pawn shop on reality TV? 


At the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum is a rare tiara that belonged to former First Lady Ida McKinley. The piece is made up of two diamond-studded wings perched atop a gold halo. Relatives who inherited the diamond-studded tiara wound up selling it to a Las Vegas pawn shop, a sale that was featured on the History Channel show Pawn Stars.

Museum staff had known about the tiara’s existence—they had borrowed the piece from the family members a number of times over the years. But it wasn’t until they saw it on TV that they knew that it was up for sale. 

After the episode aired, curators from the McKinley Presidential Library convinced Rick Harrison, co-owner of Gold & Silver Pawn, to sell it to them. He agreed on the condition that the museum was able to meet the amount he paid for it: $43,000.

The museum put together a fundraising campaign, and hundreds of donations from across the country enabled the museum to buy the tiara back. It is now on permanent display at the museum, in its original velvet jewelry box and inside a protective glass case

Know Before You Go

The McKinley Presidential Library and Museum is on private property. Nestled around a beautiful public park. Plenty of parking and lots of friendly people jogging and exploring the area. The museum has a wonderful look into the life of President McKinley and lots of other historic offerings. 

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