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Articles: Button Collecting  


Button collectors are a sharing bunch of folks, who love to show and tell. Experienced collectors are always willing to help newbies with questions regarding their finds. We treasure these bits of history, marvel at the craftsmanship, and the ingenuity from the oldest right up to the most modern ones.

Button collecting became an organized hobby during the great depression. The first meeting of the National Button Society was held in Chicago on November 19, 1938, with 15 members. Today there are button clubs in many communities in nearly every state, as well as Canada and overseas, and even an on-line button club, Button Bytes. Emphasis is on history and preservation of buttons. There is a National button show as well as many State sponsored shows, where collectors compete, buy and sell.

Buttons come in sizes from very tiny to some that are well over two inches across, and in every shape imaginable, including realistic and geometric. They may be sew-thrus, or have self-shanks or various attached types of shanks. Buttons may be made of one material, or several different materials combined in numerous ways. They may be plain or patterned, and there are picture buttons including those with people, animals, plants, and nearly anything else that exists in the world, and in the imagination, as well as the various uniform buttons.

Until nearly the 19th century, most of our buttons came from Europe. Nowadays they may be from most anywhere in the world. They may be made of wood, bone, ceramic, metal, glass, paper, plastics, pearl, cloth, even some woven of hair. There are also hard rubber buttons which were made in the United States during the latter part of the 19th century for just a few years, with an interesting variety of patterns and pictures on them.

The history of buttons covers the world and goes back as far as pre-historic and ancient burial sites, made of stone, pottery, jade, bone or metal. Many of the earlier buttons from the 13th and 14th centuries were made of gold and jewels and were sewn on for ornaments, with as many as 50 or more small buttons decorating a garment. Few of these have survived. Most of the buttons collected are from the 18th century to the present.

Information on buttons is available in the bulletins published by the National and State Button Societies. There are many excellent books on buttons as well.

Collectors may organize their collections by time period, materials, subject matter pictured on the buttons, etc. as outlined in the Classification Booklet published by the National Button Society. And some collectors just collect what they like.

A few of the good button books:

THE BIG BOOK OF BUTTONS by Elizabeth Hughes & Marion Lester. Just recently out-of-print.

ABOUT BUTTONS; A COLLECTOR'S GUIDE, 150 A.D. TO THE PRESENT by Peggy Ann Osborne.

THE COLLECTOR'S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BUTTONS by Sally C. Luscomb.

BUTTON BUTTON; IDENTIFICATION & PRICE GUIDE by Peggy Ann Osborne.

2002 Janet S. Gerhardt



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