Your antique button collection

Antique button collecting can span generations and eras of history. Deciding on the topic of your collection will reveal your tastes and passions.

Anyone whose mother sewed probably recalls the mayonnaise jar full of loose buttons that was stored with fabric remnants and patterns. I can recall my own mother culling through the button bins at the fabric store in search of odd colors and shapes. This does not really qualify as button collecting, in fact there is probably not a thing in that jar that would get an antique collector excited, but it is usually the first experience some of us have with the concept.

Buttons are an interesting choice for a collector. They reveal information about historical eras, information that extends past fashion and enters into the interests of the population and the economic status of the world and community not to mention the collector's personal history.

The button can transform the simplest of items into something coveted and sophisticated or make it ordinary and plain. Gathering a collection of antique buttons can afford you the opportunity to ponder history from a new angle. What exactly were those buttons sewn to originally? Why were they made and who made them? What sector of society had access to the buttons and who would have worn a garment that used those buttons?


It is one thing to search for and then horde a button collection, it's quite another to take the time to assemble the collection for display. Assembling the collection directs the viewer toward the tastes of the collector and reveals what the collector is looking for when they search for antique buttons.

Collections can start in any area. Some collections may reveal childhood memories. Buttons from uniforms or organizational associations, like scout uniforms or volunteer uniforms, are often popular collections. Others may regress back a little further to buttons used on children's clothing - like bunnies, clowns, fruit, or other objects. Displaying these in appropriate groupings may bring back memories for others as well.

Other collections may reveal a love of uniform and the history of the defenders of our country or countries. Police uniforms, military uniforms, and civil servant uniforms are popular button collections that reflect duty and commitment.

Still others may extend their search further back and collect from bygone eras that may reveal the place of women in society, as industrial workers, homemakers, or social activists. Others can be assembled around a manufacturer and the styles and categories they created in.

Collections can revolve around the actual manufacturing process of the buttons. Some button collections are all glass buttons, others may be plastic, and still others may be clay, porcelain, or stone.

Even the pattern on the button can move a collector to search for more of the same genre. For instance, geometric patterned buttons can span several eras, or buttons with words or messages on them, or portrait buttons can create a lifetime of searching.


Simply collecting the buttons and displaying them may be enough for most people but there are others that might take the collecting a step further. How would you go about accomplishing this?

­- Locate an actual garment or picture of a garment that used the buttons you have collected.

­- Gather a verbal or written history about the manufacturer.

­- Gather a verbal or written history from the person that remembers the button or the garment you have located.

­- Gather a verbal or written history about the particular use of the button, i.e. a person that sewed with the button, a soldier that wore the button, or the reason the button was used in the first place.

­- Create a scenario or setting in which the button "lived". What was the history of the era it was used in?

­- Use the buttons creatively by designing their layout to resemble a particular topic appropriate object or color scheme.

Collecting antique buttons can lead you into places you might never have headed into before collecting. They offer a peek inside everyday life and an opportunity to learn about our history.

© High Speed Ventures 2011