Knowing how to recognize uncommon antique buttons might assist you in separating precious items. Old buttons are frequently sold by the jar, bucket, or even the pound.Sorting through them all can be time-consuming, but it is easier if you recognize the indications that a button is unusual and potentially expensive.
Learn the main indicators that an antique button may be uncommon, as well as techniques for identifying materials, era, and more.
Guide to Vintage Buttons
Changing your attire need not be a significant undertaking. The simplest method to achieve this is by using vintage buttons. Vintage buttons may radically alter the appearance of a vintage garment.
Vintage buttons are little works of art that can contain significant historical importance. Whether you’re a button collector or simply need to change a garment, Isa’s has hundreds of buttons of every material kind and size to meet your needs.
Even old buttons from Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Valentino may breathe fresh life into your beloved garment. It is essential to comprehend why these small parts may be so significant.
Different Types of Collectible Buttons
This unusual substance is the very first synthetic plastic. They can be opaque, transparent, or both, and they come in a variety of sizes and forms. These buttons were fashionable in the early twentieth century. Celluloid’s disadvantage is that it is very combustible.
Bakelite buttons are in high demand. It was the first fully synthesized plastic material. They are heavier than Celluloid buttons and often opaque rather than transparent. Today, fragments that were once transparent but have become quite yellow are referred to as apple juice. Cream corn Bakelite is the term for Bakelite and opaque buttons that have become quite yellow.
Lucite has a low density yet is more durable than earlier polymers. Similar to other types of plastic, vintage Lucite buttons might be embellished with glitter or rhinestones to add color. They were also fashioned into floral and animal forms. From the 1930s until the 1960s, Lucite buttons and jewelry were extremely fashionable.
Victorian Glass Buttons
During the Victorian era, several black glass buttons were manufactured. These black glass buttons were created to resemble the genuine jet buttons worn by Queen Victoria during her husband’s period of grief. In the 20th century, the bulk of glass buttons were produced in Czechoslovakia.
Old Metal Buttons
The majority of antique metal buttons were composed of brass or copper. Sterling, gold, and pewter buttons were far less prevalent. Some metal buttons were decorative, while others were embossed with designs or images. One of the most coveted metal buttons is any Victorian-era brass image button.
There were metal buttons on military uniforms during the revolutionary struggle and the civil war. Many of these contain military emblems. On the backs of many of these metal “image” buttons is wording that may be used to identify them.
Why Collect Valuable Buttons?
Button collectors assemble simple, practical things that are taken for granted by millions of people on a daily basis into displays that compel reflection. If the button is made of bakelite, celluloid, art deco style, or ivory, it is likely old.
However, as buttons were an ubiquitous component of 19th-century women’s attire, they are not always valued. As they are considered uncommon and costly, valuable vintage buttons are often from the 18th century or before.
How to Identify Antique Vintage Buttons?
From antlers and bone to glass and ceramics to metals and stones, just about everything may be used to create vintage buttons. There are several categories for flat buttons made of lead or pewter, two-part convex buttons, and officer buttons.
Buttons, regardless of their material, size, age, or genealogy, are intriguing tiny things that are so functional but diverse that they practically demand to be collected.
Have you ever considered how buttons are manufactured? There is, of course, the face of the button, which can be painted, embroidered, or carved. The button’s shank is located on the button’s rear. This is the loop that permits a button to be attached to an item of clothing. Some shanks are incorporated within the button; they are referred to as self shanks.
Others feature shanks composed of little metal loops that are joined to the button in a variety of ways. Some buttons have no shanks; instead, they contain two, three, or four holes that allow them to be stitched directly onto a garment.
What Makes A Button Valuable?
Each garment button can cost anything from a few cents to many hundred dollars. However, only rare ones in pristine condition command astronomical prices. The addition of embellishments like as hand painting and enameling can increase the value of antique French or Victorian buttons to at least $200.
American Indians may also create and hand-paint vintage ceramic buttons that can be sold in this price range. In addition, uncommon designs, such as dancing frogs on an antique metal button, might fetch $150 to $200.
Are Antique Buttons Valuable?
Some antique buttons are precious, although most sell for less than $50. However, if you believe you own a rare antique button, its value may be far more. Some instances of rarity can fetch hundreds or even thousands of dollars. However, buttons may also be purchased individually.
Sample Values for Individual Rare Antique Buttons
Individual buttons that are exceptionally uncommon fetch hundreds of dollars each. Here are some lovely examples:
In 2020, a hand-painted button from the Colonial period sold for about $500 at auction. The picture depicts a lady holding a boat anchor.
A peacock-shaped figural enamel button sold for about $400. It dated back to the early 1900s and featured highly intricate details.
A button depicting a lady knitting was sold for around $225, despite being made of brass and not a precious metal.
Value of Button Sets and Collections
When antique buttons are included into a set or collection, their value can occasionally increase. The earliest collections of buttons may include rare and expensive examples.
These completed sets have worth independent of the buttons they contain. As an example, a Victorian button book with hundreds of unique buttons was sold for more than $2,100 as a collection.
How Much Are Antique Buttons Valuable?
It is difficult to determine the value of a single button, although various criteria are considered when calculating a button’s worth:
Size and shape
Uniqueness and amount of buttons that are similar
Depending on the aforementioned conditions, the value of antique or vintage buttons often ranges from a few cents to a few hundred dollars. Some buttons can be worth thousands, but they are extremely rare and difficult to locate.
Due to the significant growth in button usage in women’s fashion throughout the 19th century, buttons from the 19th century and after are generally less valued than those from the 18th century and earlier.
A collection of buttons will command a higher price than a single button, for instance, when sold at auction on eBay.
The National Button Society is a great resource for anyone who are interested in collecting or maintaining buttons.
“Adorable as a Button”
There are various hypotheses on the origin of the phrase “cute as a button,” but the most probable is that the term “button” alludes to a flower bud.
Among other things, the value of a vintage button relies on its size, substance, condition, and age.
Where to Find Vintage Buttons Valuable
If you are interested in beginning or growing a collection of antique or vintage buttons, consider the following locations:
eBay or vintage/antique websites
Thrift stores or antique stores
Yard sales or estate sales
Family members (grandma’s attic!)
Six Characteristics of Antique Buttons Valuable
Buttons have been used to secure garments for ages, but they are much more than simple fasteners. Furthermore, rare buttons are pieces of art. When a garment was worn out and headed for the rag bag, thrifty housewives and maids would often remove the lovely buttons and put them on new garments.
Due to this preservation, unusual and exquisite buttons still exist today. Identifying one requires knowledge of its distinctive traits. The majority of uncommon buttons will possess a couple of these characteristics.
Technically, it is doubtful that an ancient button is composed of plastic. There are a few outliers, most notably celluloid, an early form of plastic. However, the rarest buttons were not manufactured from celluloid or Bakelite (another early plastic that is popular in vintage jewelry). Instead of plastic or Bakelite, these materials are frequently used to make rare antique buttons:
This porcelain or ceramic object clinks when tapped and is cool and lightweight.
Mother-of-pearl and shell – These materials are typically iridescent and exhibit diversity inside the button.
Wood – This material will have a wood grain and feel light.
This material may be imprinted and wrapped around a base.
Glass – Glass will produce a clinking sound when tapped on a hard surface.
Jet – This black, naturally occurring substance is lightweight and frequently cut.
Bone – Buttons made of antler, ivory, and bone exhibit grain and minor variety.
This lightweight textile has natural color variations in tones of brown and gray.
Stone and jewels – The majority of stone is cold and dense to the touch.
Buttons made of metal can range from steel or brass to silver and gold. However, precious metals will be the rarest and most valuable substances.
You can determine the button’s metal content by turning it over and searching for hallmarks and maker’s markings. For example, sterling silver buttons typically feature the phrase “Sterling” or the number “925.”
Hand Painted Details
Hand-painting can elevate the value of an antique button. In actuality, a hand-painted button is unique, even if the design itself is not. Hand painting indicates that the embellishment was made by a human, hence no two buttons are identical. Look for florals, rural sceneries, small portraits, and animal images, among others.
A figural design depicts a human, animal, fantastical creature, or other prominent theme. These buttons have a unique appearance. There are Art Nouveau patterns of women with flowing hair, buttons designed to resemble fruit or flowers, and even small versions of full pastoral sceneries. Figurative buttons are highly collectable.
Many antique buttons are carved by hand, as opposed to being machine-made. Even the most precisely carved bone or shell button will bear tiny evidence of being carved by hand. There are minor differences in the texture and depth of the carving, as well as a lack of regularity. These hand-carved buttons are expensive if the carving is well-executed.
Micro Mosaic Art, Enamel, and Other Special Touches
Some unique buttons are adorned with small mosaics of stone or shell. Others are decorated with colorful glass fused to the enameled surface. Some collectors specialize on buttons with these particular styles because they are rare and distinctive.
Whether you’re rummaging through your grandmother’s button collection or scouring a flea market, the ability to recognize unusual buttons is an important talent.
However, even though buttons are not uncommon, they may be a fun and inexpensive antique to collect. Begin by selecting buttons you like, then work your way up. You will soon have stunning samples to display in your house, attach to clothing, or wear as jewelry charms.
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