Jamie loves writing about DIY projects, decorating on a budget, craft ideas, and creative ways to reuse and upcycle products.
Vintage and Antique Buttons: The Complete Guide
I recently purchased 10 pounds of vintage buttons. The seller said they were old, but I didn't realize just how old they were. There were many yellow- and brown-toned buttons that I am pretty sure used to be white. There were buttons ripped off of old clothes, and the small ripped pieces of fabric definitely looked to be from decades past. There were a few that had cracked apart. It looked like they somehow disintegrated, and they had broken off in these weird clumps. Some were glass, cloth-covered, and metal, and lots of them were made from plastic.
Needless to say, I have been on a mission to identify and learn about the materials these buttons are made of, and I've learned lots of great stuff! I figured it was a perfect time to write a vintage button article. I have always thought buttons were darling, and I love using them in craft projects, but I really wanted to be sure that I didn't ruin any buttons that may be of value; plus, I wanted to know the proper way to clean them. I am sharing with you in this guide everything I've learned recently while researching antique buttons.
Types of Antique Buttons
There are quite a few different materials used to create buttons; those covered in this article include:
- Vegetable Ivory
- Mother of Pearl Shell
This article will cover the history of each type of button, as well as how it can be identified, and best practices for cleaning and maintaining the quality and integrity of the buttons over time.
Celluloid was the very first manmade plastic, but it wasn't completely synthetic. In the mid-1800s, a British chemist named Alexander Parkes developed celluloid using cellulose, a derivative of plants, more specifically wood and cotton fibers.
Celluloid buttons became very popular during the late 1900s through the 1920s. They can be opaque, transparent, or both, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some had metal on the back. Some celluloids were made to imitate other materials like wood and ivory. Celluloid buttons made to imitate ivory were called ivoroid.
These buttons were used until the 1940s, and by that time, other buttons were becoming popular. After celluloid, another plastic was invented by the name of casein (or Galalith), which was made from a milk protein (casein) and formaldehyde, which celluloid buttons were also made from. Though it made great buttons, there was one downside to celluloid plastic—the substance is flammable.
To tell if a button is celluloid, run it under hot water, then smell it. If it smells like Vicks Vapor or mothballs, it is celluloid.
I've read multiple places that these shouldn't be cleaned in water. Most say just to clean off with a soft, dry cloth. Other places have said they can be cleaned with Simichrome polish.
Bakelite was the first completely synthetic plastic, which was invented in 1904 by Leo Baekeland; however, this plastic was not used for making buttons until the 1920s. Bakelite buttons grew in popularity and were very common until the 1940s. Although these are not the first plastic buttons, today, they are some of the most sought-after and highly collected.
They come in all shapes and sizes and are heavier than celluloid buttons. Bakelite tends to be more opaque than clear. Today, any pieces that were clear and have turned very yellow are referred to as apple juice bakelite, and opaque buttons that have turned very yellow are referred to as cream corn bakelite. It was hard to research these buttons without getting hungry!
One way to identify a bakelite button is to run hot water over it and then smell it. It should have the smell of formaldehyde. Some say they smell like cod liver oil or have a sweet chemical smell. Another way is to put a bit of Simichrome metal polish or 409 All-Purpose Cleaner on a Q-tip and rub it on the button. If the Q-tip turns yellow, the button is made from bakelite.
Some places said it's okay to wash these in warm water and mild soap, but make sure to dry them thoroughly. Most places have said just to wipe with a clean and dry cloth, and some said Simichrome polish could be used to test the buttons as well as clean them.
Lucite is the trade name of a poly-acrylic resin that was used to make buttons in the 1930s. It was produced by DuPont Plastics. It was low density yet stronger than previous plastics. Like some other plastics, lucite could be clear or opaque and different colors, shapes, and sizes and could also be carved.
Some of the old lucite buttons are very colorful with glitter embedded in them, and some also had rhinestones mounted on them. They were also made into shapes like flowers or animals. Lucite buttons were most popular from the 1930s on through the 1960s. Lucite jewelry was very popular as well.
Lucite will have no smell if you run it under hot water and generally stays pretty clear over time.
Clean using a soft cloth or mild detergent and water; dry them completely.
Vegetable Ivory Buttons
Vegetable ivory is a very dense material from the corozo nut that grows on the tagua tree, a type of palm tree. It was named vegetable ivory because it resembles real ivory though it is not as heavy. These buttons were first introduced in 1862 at an exposition in Paris, France.
Vegetable ivory became the choice button for men's jackets, which were introduced during that time and replaced old dress coats. Their production peaked from 1870 until 1920. The vegetable ivory buttons you can find today have a variety of different looks. Some are carved, pressed with fine-lined patterns, painted, or have a shiny, mottled look. Some were dyed with other colors, and some had cloth or even glass mounted on them. Although plastic buttons have largely taken over, vegetable ivory buttons are still manufactured and used today.
One way is to look at the material in or around the shank or buttonholes. You can sometimes see unprocessed materials in or around these holes. When these buttons were dyed, only the outer layers took the color, so the inside of the button remains the nut's natural color. The buttons were usually dyed before the holes were made. Another way is to look at it under a UV light. Vegetable ivory will be a warm orange color.
Most vintage metal buttons were made from brass or copper. Sterling, gold, or pewter buttons were much less common. Some brass or copper buttons had a painted or enameled finish. Some of the most sought-after metal buttons are brass picture buttons from the Victorian era.
Some metal buttons were ornamental, and some were embossed with patterns or pictures. There are metal buttons from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War era that were on military uniforms. Many of these have military symbols on them. There are actually many of these metal "picture"-type buttons. Sometimes they will have writing on the back. This will help with identifying them.
You may need to clean them off with a polishing cloth to see what metal they are but be gentle on painted metal buttons so you won't rub the paint off. A button made of pewter will leave a mark on white paper if you scrape it across the paper. There are tons of different pictures on metal buttons. To see which ones are most collectible, look for books or guides on identifying what the pictures represent.
Some places said if a button is made entirely of metal, it is okay to wash off with mild detergent, but make sure to dry completely as some of these can rust. For others that are made of multiple materials or have enamel overlays, it is best to use a soft cloth to polish lightly.
Many black glass buttons were made during the Victorian era. These black colored glass buttons were made to imitate the true jet buttons that Queen Victoria wore during her time of mourning the death of her husband, Prince Albert.
The majority of glass buttons made during the 20th century were made in what is now Czechoslovakia, handmade by skilled button makers. From 1918 to 1939, popular styles of glass buttons include pictorial, cut crystal, and realistic, which is like pictorials.
Art Deco styles started to appear during the Art Deco period. Through the years, the button production slowed and then started again, and skilled button makers refined their skills. Some of the most beautiful, colorful glass buttons came from Czechoslovakia. Today, many vintage glass buttons are referred to as Czech glass.
To identify if a button is made from glass or not, lightly bump it against your tooth or a glass table—it will clink if it is real glass.
I've seen several different suggestions for cleaning these. One was if the button is just plain glass, washing in mild soap and water is fine, but the ones that have an iridescent finish or may have a coating should simply be wiped gently with a soft cloth.
These buttons were sturdy and made for frequently worn clothing like men's work shirts. These were manufactured in Europe, England, and the United States from 1840 to the 1930s. They were mainly white with sometimes a calico pattern, and some had what looked like a stenciled pattern on them. Some had beautiful paintings on them. They came in all shapes and sizes and could be quite colorful. The patterned China buttons were made to complement patterned textiles made during that time. They became popular and were not overly expensive.
These are all sew through buttons, and many had stencil-like patterns or colored decals on them. They have that smooth porcelain feel to them. Many of the older ones from the Victorian era were plainer.
Clean using a soft-bristled toothbrush, then wipe and polish with a soft cloth.
Mother of Pearl Shell Buttons
These buttons have a pretty translucent sheen on them of a rainbow of colors. Some were made to be in their natural state, and others were mixed with other materials like rhinestones or metals. Some were dyed, and some were painted with images. These buttons feel heavier than other buttons, yet some of them could be very thin. The MOP buttons that have intricately carved patterns on them tend to be valuable to button collectors.
One way to identify a real MOP button is to put it against your cheek. Real MOP buttons will be very cold against your cheek. Some have noticeable layers of thin ridges or lines on them. On many, you can also see brown shell markings on the back.
You can clean these using a soft toothbrush and then polish them with a little mineral oil. They say not to wash these with mild soaps and water because it will cause the colorful layer to come off. Using mineral oil and wiping them with a soft cloth will help restore their beautiful luster.
These were very sturdy carved buttons. Back in the day, there was plenty of bone, and it was very easy to carve. Bone was also used to make home décor and hair accessories. They were made from animal bones, mainly cattle. As time went on, imitation bone buttons were mass-produced, but there are ways to tell if it is an authentic bone button. The true old bone buttons will have a yellowish to light brown hue to them.
Bone buttons were heavier than plastic buttons. They are comparable to glass buttons as far as weight. They will have uneven holes, and inside the holes will be a brownish color. They can have up to three holes, but the buttonholes will not be close together. Many will have two holes widely spaced apart.
Bone buttons also have a very dry feel to them. Although the button will feel very smooth, If you look at it with a magnifying glass, it should have very tiny small holes all over it. A set of bone buttons will never be the same size, only approximately.
The way to clean these buttons is to wipe them off with a soft cloth, or you can take a lemon and slice it in half and dip it in salt and then rub it on the buttons, wipe with a damp cloth and let dry.
The majority of vintage cloth-covered buttons were round, and they came in all sizes, from very tiny to super large. They were made in different colors as well as different patterns and types of fabrics. Some buttons were made from leather, shank, and all. You can pretty much identify a fabric-covered button.
The important thing is if you clean it, be very careful not to scrub the fibers. Vintage fabrics can disintegrate easily. It is suggested to slosh them around in a container with mild soap and water without scrubbing, rinse well, and pat dry. Then finish drying them completely with a hairdryer on low or no heat, or set them outside to air-dry.
Cleaning Antique or Vintage Buttons in General
It's best to take the safest route when cleaning vintage buttons. Just about every source recommended a dry, soft cloth for most of the buttons. Some places said NO water at all, and others said it was okay to use it on some. The suggestions I wrote were a compilation of suggestions from several different sites.
Other Antique Button Materials
How Much Are Antique Buttons Worth?
It's hard to discern a single button's value, but several factors are taken into consideration when determining a button's worth:
- Size and shape
- Uniqueness and number of similar buttons in existence
The value of antique or vintage buttons generally ranges from a few cents to a few hundred dollars, depending on the above factors. Some buttons can be worth thousands, although these are incredibly rare and hard to find.
Generally, buttons from the 19th century and onward are not as valuable as those from the 18th century and earlier due to the massive increase in buttons in women's fashion during the 19th century.
A collection of buttons will be priced higher than a single button when sold at auction on eBay, for example.
The National Button Society is a useful resource for those interested in joining others interested in button collecting or maintenance.
Where to Find Vintage Buttons
If you're interested in starting or expanding an antique or vintage button collection, here are a few places you can look:
- eBay or vintage/antique websites
- Thrift stores or antique stores
- Yard sales or estate sales
- Family members (grandma's attic!)
Button Collections and Organizations
The Smithsonian, as well as the Victoria & Albert Museum house many buttons. There are numerous local, statewide, and national organizations and conventions dedicated to button collecting, as well as online forums and websites for button enthusiasts to ask questions and share their knowledge and collections.
What Else Can You Do With Vintage Buttons?
Aside from collecting or selling vintage buttons, there are plenty of crafts you can do with buttons, such as making jewelry or embellishing clothing. Here are a few examples:
- Embellish a lampshade or pillow
- Make a bookmark
- Create stylish curtains for your doorway
- Accessorize a bag or shoes
- Design simple, elegant wall art
Happy Button Collecting!
There are other types of vintage buttons, but I've covered many of them. I need to add that I am not a button expert—not at all. This is just the information I have found through my own research from what I felt were trusted antique button resources. Most of the images above are actual photos of the buttons I recently acquired. If anyone with antique button experience reads this, I would love to hear from you and get your input.
Thanks for reading, and happy button collecting!
I love Comments as much as buttons!!
Jane Owens on August 06, 2020:
Do you know anything about whistler buttons. I wondered if you know why they are called that?
MichelleCobbin on July 14, 2020:
I've just been given some lovely crystal encrusted button covers.... How do i use them??
Jerri on July 02, 2020:
I've just begun to collect buttons so this information is priceless. It's not easy to find help and there aren't many books on button collecting. I've also found this article helpful for identifying materials that beads are made of. Now I know that some rather stinky black beads I just acquired are probably celluloid! Added bonus - this page prints out really well so I can keep all this helpful info to hand. Thanks, Jamie :)
Niaouli68 on May 17, 2020:
I have always loved buttons and used to play in my nan's odd button tin. Recently, however, I have become more than interested and have amassed quite a collection. I know nothing about them and want to learn. Love the article and have printed it out, but where can I learn more?
Plus I have some lovely little very flat fabric-covered metal ones with 2 large holes, they intrigue me, any clues?
David on May 17, 2020:
I would love more information on clay buttons
What was there use
A friend as several and they have moulded faces of kings, Queens and Shakespeare. Believe there from the 50's
Bronjay on May 14, 2020:
I love buttons, i have been collecting them for about 50 years. My grandmother started me in this collection when I was very small. We used to make jewelry with her botton tin, then at the end of play we undid the string and put them back in the tin for next time.
Annie Oakley 77 on May 04, 2020:
Green and white marbled plastic round button?
Jami on May 02, 2020:
Buttons are like one of my favorite childhood memories..thank you for doing the research....it will make my crazy over abundant collection look and feel it's best
Shannonny on May 01, 2020:
Wonderful DIY resource. Like others, confined by COVID19, and getting to little projects I havent thought about in 10 years! Thanks for your excellent research and footwork.
Joseph jack DELUCA on April 27, 2020:
Thank you so much for the information. Have had these buttons for several years and now have time to learn about them. House arrest, lol, the coronavirus19 that makes couch potatoes of us all. Enjoyed and was taught a lot. thanks joe
Peter Vernon Plumb on April 16, 2020:
TY for your article it was very helpful....I recently inherited my great gmothers button collection which is extensive and need help pricing it. Do you do that sort of consulting work?
CAROLE BEAUMONT on April 14, 2020:
The first two pictures, I'm pretty sure show casein and later plastic buttons, some from as late as the 60s and maybe even the 70s. I used to be a fanatical button collector and I have a massive collection that I am just starting to dispose of. I haven't really thought about buttons for so so long and as I was describing some of mine I couldn't remember whether they were Celluloid Tight Tops or Drums. Is there an easy way to distinguish between the two other than by shape? I'm pretty sure both types have metal backing and the Bubble Glows are easy to distinguish but some if the others are trickier. Anyone out there have any hints or hard and fast rules? Also some of mine are large Stardust Bakelite Circa 1925. When the Applejuice glitter piece has a solid block of bakelite inserted, what is that style called? Please appreciate it is 15 years since I've looked at these buttons and I can't find any comparable pictures on line to help.
cindi86 on March 22, 2020:
People...please,if you are reading this...the information here is mostly entirely accurate. However the first two pics are not. They are certainly NOT Bakelite and they are not Lucite,either. I am sure the author was well intentioned. However this type of misinformation spreads like a virus.
Charles M Haecker on March 20, 2020:
I am a professional archaeologist. I recently conducted a survey of a 19th century Apache encampment located within Guadalupe Mountains, Texas. One of the recovered artifacts is a brass button with a train steam engine design; the engine appears to be a type used during the Civil War era. The Apache encampment was probably in use up until circa 1870, the area then utilized by a rancher up until the early 20th century. Could this button type date to the period when the Apaches occupied this area, or does the button post-date 1870? Also, please provide a published reference.
calvinswishingstar on February 27, 2020:
ButtonGlutton re: The National Button Society.
First, if anyone just cuts & pastes nationalbuttonsociety.org, you'll get an error page. Just put National Button Society or nationalbuttonsociety in the search bar & your search engine will bring their site right up!
Second: There is next to no information if you aren't a member. But, if you're serious about buttons, $35/year is a deal!
Right now, for non-members, there are 3 articles & 3 worksheets available.
calvinswishingstar on February 27, 2020:
Norma: You can sell them on Etsy. Don't try ebay. You won't get what they're worth. Etsy buyers appreciate the details of vintage items, not just getting the cheapest price.
calvinswishingstar on February 27, 2020:
Wonderful introduction to button identification & care!
I recently purchased a few lots of NOS (new old stock - unused) glass buttons. in their original wrapping! My first foray into vintage buttons.
Most are black, with unusual (compared to today) cuts, textures & shapes, like trillion. And a few are definitely Art Deco. Most of the clear are like cut crystal, some with gold highlights like I see in your photo.
The seller (extremely reputable) said 1940's or older. They like to be on the conservative side. They look older to me. After reading your article & seeing the photos, I'm sure they are 1930's or older.
ButtonGlutton on February 09, 2020:
many of questions about buttons and value can be answered by a button expert and collector. You can find out a lot about buttons at the nationalbuttonsociety.org. There are meeting in states all across the country and lots of info. on this website as well.
Buttons is my name on January 27, 2020:
This is a good condensed hand book on Button collecting-is there a printed copy avaivailable?
Charlotte Friedland on January 26, 2020:
I have what appears to be a button- metallic on one side, with a hole in the middle, with a black and white photo on the other side. It is of a woman with an early twentieth -century hair-do, I believe. Maybe late nineteenth century. Was this sort of thing common? What was its purpose?
Judy Neilson on January 19, 2020:
Is their someone in the world that I can send a photograph of a button to know its vintage and kind
Norma on January 08, 2020:
I have several button like your pictures.how can i locate a buyer.
Nikki Danyelle on January 05, 2020:
Hi all! I hope I don't come across wrong by asking this...I have a huge collection of buttons that I've purchased over a period of several years and from time to time I sell my duplicates on Ebay. I haven't worked in a few years due to my chronic health issues getting worse so it helps supplement my husband's income. Funds get really tight in the winter due to my husband being a commercial fisherman so my goal is to start selling buttons regularly (from home) while I continue pursuing my career dream, which is to become a silversmith. I have purchased the tools and other items I need for my studio over the past several years, but due to our financial situation getting alot worse since I stopped working, I haven't had the opportunity to finish setting up shop (I still need several tools and silver). I've come back to this thread several times to see if anyone is parting w/ button collections, but I always seem to be a "day late, dollar short". I never thought to post this before now, surprisingly~lol. If there is anyone looking to donate a button collection, it would mean everything to me if you'd keep me in mind! I don't have much left for duplicates and would really love to start selling buttons full time until I get my studio up and running (better yet, until I start selling my jewelry). I'm sure I can find a way to atleast cover the shipping cost. I'm just shy of 40 years old and desperate to make a better future for myself. I've been through far more than my fair share of trials and tribulations in life and I'm just so ready to become the person I'm meant to be. Any button donations would be beyond appreciated! You can reach me at: email@example.com
Michael klinkhammer on December 16, 2019:
I went metal detecting and found a button, it says1763 its got kk a cross at the top lot of design
Cherry Frasier on November 20, 2019:
I have identified a few of my buttons as whistle buttons, two holes on the bottom and one whole on the top. I think buttons are fascinating!,
Ro on November 07, 2019:
Great article I have recently started to use buttons in my jewlwery making Very informative
Debbie F. on October 31, 2019:
I recently inherited over 9 lbs. Of buttons. I have questions regarding some of these and I can't find anything for some the buttons I have. My grandfather who passed away 24 years ago and bought them at an auction in the early 1970's. If you could help or answer some questions, I'd greatly appreciate it. firstname.lastname@example.org
Melissa on October 31, 2019:
Interesting article. Thank you.
James on October 19, 2019:
I washed one of my buttons and now it smells faintly of old fish, any ideas what it could be made of?
Maria Ordonez on October 14, 2019:
So much detailed information
Sarah Russell on September 29, 2019:
My parents owned a costume buisness when I was little, 40 years ago. I just found BOXES of old buttons. This is so helpful, thank you!
Jenette Hicke on September 26, 2019:
I have 3 black plastic Girl Scout buttons. I have not been able to find any information about them . Can you help?
Bill Auricle on September 20, 2019:
I have unearthed a 2 hole lead button near some battlefields in Scotland of Cromwell era. what can you tell me
Matt on September 10, 2019:
Found a 1972 jeans west mettal button
Jeff on September 03, 2019:
I recently picked up a set of 9 buttons that measure about 3/8 inch with metal backing. Each button has a small picture of what looks to be victorian age men and women. Each button has one person and each button has a different person. They look to be very old. Any thoughts?
Jan on August 19, 2019:
I have wooden buttons shaped like sombreros with woven hat bands.
There is one large and three smaller ones. I believe they are from the 1930’s. Can anyone help me?
Lisa Koch on August 16, 2019:
Not sure what I have found! Appreciate any help!
Buttons from my great-great-grandma, circa 1850 perhaps? Grandma born 1890, I know, so calculating that her grandma was born aprox 1830. I just found a small box from my 93 yr-old Mom's home labeled that they are from her great-grandma! Grandma simply wrote "all buttons & jet beads used by Harriett S Anderson".
I never knew what a jet bead was until 30 minutes ago! Must be 100 of 'em, plus all sorts of other black glass buttons - I think, intricately cut with shiny and matte finishes together. Quite beautiful. A whole new world to me! Who knew? There are a few pearl, and some metal - round, hollow, brass color & intricately cut out and are about the size of a marble. And many other assorted, glass ones.
Now, for you experienced button people .... WHAT DO I DO WITH THEM? All suggestions appreciated. (We have no children to pass them along to.) Thanks.
raymond curtis on August 13, 2019:
found 2 metal 4 hole buttons with the word boss written on them could you tell me about date wise on them?
Candace Sahm on July 24, 2019:
Buttons have perked my curiousity and have found them to be very fascinating. Your article was informative and extremely helpful. Thanks for your help.
cindi86 on June 27, 2019:
..I may have read this wrong...but the first two pics are mislabelled.
They're not Bakelite and not celluloid. Am I getting mixed up?
In the **Bakelite** pic...one or two look to be thermoset but most of them are not.
Jessica Lemasters on June 14, 2019:
I really enjoyed your article. Very informative. I have so many old buttons. Do you know of any collectors or appraisers? Thank you
Heather tavitian on May 24, 2019:
Nice info thank you. I have a button that looks as though it's made from jet..do do know anything about this?
Jeanine L Fardette on April 27, 2019:
I've just recently became an avid collector of antique buttons; please suggest what books are best for finding information; I've some really old beautiful buttons. Thank you
Joan B on April 14, 2019:
Auction find lead to your article. Very welcome information thank you
HollyYoder on April 08, 2019:
Great information! I have Been collecting buttons for years. However had them tucked away for the last 10 years and have Now rediscovered my love for them. Can you recommend any books that have a Good pictures, history, and value? Mine are mostly vintage, Celluloid, bone, glass ...
vb on April 03, 2019:
Great info, thanks for sharing
Torrey Hill on April 02, 2019:
Question on reproducing an antique button ..are there copyright issues.
No marks seen to identify. It is a pewter pressed dog .
Deborah camberg on April 02, 2019:
I am always late when it comes to good luck I would love your old buttons to take up a new home with mine but I am pretty sure you have already let yours move on I have been saving since I was about seven I just love them thank you very much
Sonya Oberreuter on March 24, 2019:
I would love your buttons. I have been collecting for about 8 years so I have a small collection but I lve everything about buttons. Please tell me how to reach you so we can discuss your buttons.
B on March 23, 2019:
I have tons of old buttons that I'd like to give away.
Teresa Phillips on March 10, 2019:
Loved your findings. Excellent job my husband have a hard time even with glass lol but your findings just gave us some hope for identification sake. Thank you,Teresa Phillips
Judith Hall Simon on March 09, 2019:
I have been in love with buttons since my grandmother (born 1898) gave her button can to my mother. This interest was highlighted by the poem "Family Buttons." You may check it out here:
leah godfrey on March 06, 2019:
Madge on February 21, 2019:
Great article. I have been collecting buttons for years. My mother made me a jacket and I sewed many of my mother's collection on the label. Unfortunately now the jacket doesn't fit. I hate the thought of reserving all of thos buttons onto another jacket. I may take the jacket apart and remake the jacket with the button lapels. It's a beautiful jacket. Bobble you can sell your buttons on eBay.
RoxAnn on January 05, 2019:
Is there a market for old buttons....do people actually purchase them? And how do you find their worth?
Jean F on January 02, 2019:
I have my grandmother's buttons in her old chocolates tin. She was born in 1877. I bet there are a lot of surprises in there. You have inspired me to sort through them.
Thank you for the article.
Bobbie on November 19, 2018:
Because I seem to be the only one in the extended family that still sews, I have been the one to whom all sewing and knitting goods of our lost old ones has been directed. Over the years, I am now 76, I have amassed a large (and I mean extensive) collection of buttons, quit a lot of them seem to be from the 19th and early 20thC. I have found your article here very helpful and I shall now use the information to sort the sheer from the goats, so to speak! Many thanks.
Cindy on November 17, 2018:
I have an old antique war button n can't find a pic nowhere need some help on this
Deborah on October 11, 2018:
Thank you for the information. You dd a great job!
Am curious about Jett buttons.
Jainiya on October 09, 2018:
What’s is the person who made buttons
Mary on September 19, 2018:
I have been saving buttons for years! Can't believe how much they cost now!
Sylvia Liszka Durell from Florida on August 19, 2018:
I enjoyed your article and the photos are great. I shared it on our button study group FB page: Hernando County Button Collectors Group. It's this kind of enthusiasm and love of buttons that inspired me to write my poetry book on buttons. You might enjoy reading it-- you can find "Haiku for Button Lovers" on Amazon: www.amazon.com/-/e/B07GDNQJF5
Karen D on July 31, 2018:
I had several buttons I had been collecting for about 35 years, some were my Mother's . Anyway, my plan had always been to make a picture out of them, finally a few months ago I started and ran out of certain colors, and turned to Ebay to find some, and OH MY GOODNESS, I never knew that some could be valuable and there were so many different kinds, I have no clue. I am now trying to learn about them as well. Sure wish I had know before I started breaking backs off, filing down, etc. Hoping someone here can tell me if I have done terrible justice to the buttons I had....lol
Sue Bociek on June 29, 2018:
I have some old French buttons still on the sales card. The bottom of the card is printed " L.I.B " - do you know what that might mean please? Thanks in advance,
Joan H. on June 21, 2018:
Super article, thank you. I do so wish for 10 lb of old buttons! One point about bakelite. That business of a yellow residue being an identification point - it works, only so long as the button has not been cleaned recently. Also, it works with water if that is the case. You don't need anything else. It is a degradation product & easily lost. The smell, though, you are right - always there. Except, I find, in the hayfever season ...
Lila on June 19, 2018:
Hello, I found some buttons that are very old. They are made of a soft metal. Does anyone have any information on buttons made with a soft metal?
Jane Boeve. email@example.com on April 28, 2018:
I love buttons & have lots of all varieties...100’s of them.
firstname.lastname@example.org on April 28, 2018:
I collect buttons & love sorting them!!
Vintagebuttonbabes@gmail.com on April 06, 2018:
There is a national button society as well as state and local chapters across the US. Check on line and come to a meeting near you to find out about buttons. Members have been collecting since the 40s . We are always looking for new members. Buttons are the 3ird largest collectable in the world . Also there are national conventions as well as local. Check us out!
Marthatea@aol.com on March 08, 2018:
Really enjoyed your research and pictures. I make button bouquets from my mothers old buttons,
Wish i could find 10 pounds somewhere!
Keith on February 13, 2018:
Hi I am trying to identify a button and the year need to load a picture
Sandy Hale on February 04, 2018:
"Today any pieces that were clear and have turned very yellow, they refer to as apple juice Bakelite and opaque buttons which have turned very yellow they refer to them as cream corn Bakelite." Not true! These colors were deliberately made.
michele on January 15, 2018:
thanks for your effort. completely enlightening.
dawn on January 03, 2018:
I don't see a single celluloid button in your picture of celluloid buttons.
Julie Carter on January 02, 2018:
I have been collecting buttons since 2005. I have a pretty big collection. My favorite is glass buttons they are so beautiful. I would like to sell my buttons because I will be moving in a few short weeks and I wont be able to take a lot of things and I could use the extra money for the move. Do you have any idea how much I should ask for them and how I might get a hold of someone who would be interested. I have all colors of glass buttons, hand painted glass buttons, bone buttons, all the kinds of plastic buttons and metal buttons. Some of these buttons are pretty old. I would appreciate any help can you give me
Julie L. Carter
Susan Young on November 28, 2017:
Really enjoyd reading about your journey. I have had a similar
Barbara on November 03, 2017:
I have a large collection of buttons from glass to wood to Bakelite and military brass . I cannot find enough information about them. Can you or your help . I have found your sight more informative then most .Thank you
ron on October 16, 2017:
hi i am wanting to no more about my old buttons i have been collecting them for some time i am hoping to find help in identifing the value and timethey were made thankyou please help
Dora Watson on September 14, 2017:
I have been collecting buttons for the past 2 years, I have one found made of stone. My purpose of looking, is going around charity shops and finding unusal shaps designs, colour and the material they are made from.
Patsy on August 16, 2017:
Last week I was in the Blanchard Springs area of Arkansas. We looked down and saw a object that was out of place. With your help I now think that it is a pewter button. No telling how many years this was in the river or where it came from. Thanks for the info.
Louise on June 19, 2017:
Thank you for your blog, it's made me very interested in the buttons I just found in a beautiful wooden sewing box of my great grandmothers.
rob stimson on May 04, 2017:
I am trying to figure the composition of a button I found in the debris while doing demo in a plaster-and-lathe [20's-40's?] house today. It's 2 hole, 7/8" across, dark brown with some type of golden metal flecks inbedded in it, and the main embossing is opposing concave double lines arcing in from opposite sides. Bakelite?
Lorraine Martinson on April 18, 2017:
This information is so helpful. I work in a thrift store and had no idea about the different types of buttons. Thank you
Anne B on April 16, 2017:
This was the most informational site I've visited so far. Thanks button buddy!
Jpellerin on January 21, 2017:
A tip for storage-don,t mix types of buttons. Metal buttons and mop buttons will cause plastics to rot-mop will make metal corrode and the metal will make the surface of mop buttons deteriorate. So separate, and watch what you store them in. Glass jars are still the most reliable and non-reactive.
Lynda @ email@example.com on January 07, 2017:
I have a Victorian high quality vest with hunting scene brass backed buttons Sure would like to know their worth and where to sell them. there are six of them
Sandy on December 11, 2016:
I have a lot of vintage buttons. Is there anywhere in Tucson or Phoenix where I can take some to find out what they are worth?
Anna on November 24, 2016:
Nancy Smith, I am a button collector and love every button I have. study for age, material etc. I also give button shows and love to tell about them. Do you have a price you want for them?
Nancy S. Smith on November 22, 2016:
I have many buttons collected by my grandfather who died in 1948. I know nothing about the buttons and will not have time to study. I have terminal cancer and would like them to go to someone who appreciates them rather than the rubbish. Who would I contact? (I would really appreciate knowing what todo with these. I am not sure if any are valuablr
Gail on October 02, 2016:
I have some red leather buttons with a leather shank, I think they came from Germany, is there any value to them?
Rachelle on October 02, 2016:
My mom and I recently purchased 5 gallons of assorted buttons from a store that was opened in 19-teens and closed sometime in the last couple if years. The buttons were saved over the years by the seamstresses that worked there. We have thousands of buttons of all the sorts you listed here plus rubber, paper and so far unidentifiable materials. Our work is certainly cut out. We have not cleaned any as when we are finished sorting, we will leave that job to the future owners. Age patina is often an asset to vintage items and we did not know if buttons are the same. Thank you for the warning on celluloid, we will now be punching holes in the plastic baggies we have been using for matches. There certainly are some wonderful buttons in our massive collection. We will be creating a website for our collection when we have finished putting it in order. (Identifying the different types of plastic is looking to be an enormous undertaking) thank you again for thd information and also for tge references to other resources.
Wendy, UK on September 27, 2016:
Thanks for your button blog, I've just started to appreciate the different types so this info was really helpful. Wish I'd read it before I washed a batch of mixed material buttons last night, though.
Joy on September 09, 2016:
I have a button marked Burton 1904. Can you tell me about it?
mike on September 08, 2016:
I am doing an jewelry appraisal on some antique hand carved buttons made out of Jet from an old military uniform. I have no idea what to value them at. They are very cool. Jet in general is a great material. Any info? Thanks.
firstname.lastname@example.org on August 09, 2016:
I have a number of older metal, leather covered, and unusual buttons... who might be interested in buying the lot? Any contact information appreciated.
Tina on June 16, 2016:
Hi, Thank You for all the information posted. I was recently awarded a lot of buttons from a NJ based company I believe to be from the later 1920's They are on original boards from salesman(most of them) and are samples. Some are loose. I want to sell them, but dont know the best place to post them and am a bit overwhelmed with prices and where to start. I know some are pearl, but believe most are plastic, some shell, maybe coconut and wood. I really think they are knock offs of greater styles and may not be worth much, but still important to those who craft. Any info would be wonderful. Thanks
Judith Ierlan on April 26, 2016:
A good site! Have you seen rubber type buttons? Where should I go for appraisals on my buttons? Is there a price list. Thank you
Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on April 02, 2016:
No problem Gus.. my leg needs a good pulling now and again!!
Gustave Kilthau from USA on April 02, 2016:
Ms Jamie - My apologies for wording that last comment of mine as I did. Perhaps I should have explained that the "missing button" was impossible to properly record in a photograph - or, for that matter, as a verbal description. It was "missing" and, this, incapable of being recorded or described. It was on my shirtfront the day before it went into the laundry, but it was gone the day I tried to button my shirt. Being as careless as I am about my apparel, I cannot even remember the color of the shirt, much less of that missing button.
In other words, I was "pulling your leg."
Regards (and keep smiling),
Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on April 02, 2016:
GusTheRedneck- Hi there! I do apologize on the delayed response.I am not on HP as much as I would like to be recently. About the photo..I seem to have missed it. Did you forward it through a comment? Please let me know. I would love to help you out if I can! Thank you and hope you are having a great day :)