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Buttoning Up the Competition

Mar 1, 2012

by Linzee McCray handmade and vintage goods

When you think of competition, what images come to mind? Swimmers slicing through chlorinated water in search of Olympic gold? Miss South Dakota one-upping Miss Florida during the Q&A segment of the Miss America pageant? Harvard vs. Yale in the annual college rankings?

Competitors abound in every arena, but I recently discovered one that took me by surprise: buttons. It turns out that button collectors go head-to-head with regularity, competing in judged events for ribbons and recognition.

Before you conjure visions of button warriors, personal button trainers, and button marathons, take heart. Button competitions tend to be friendly rather than fierce, and button competitors participate as a way to learn more about buttons’ history and provenance and to share their hobby with like-minded individuals, rather than to crush their opponents.

My invitation to learn about button competitions came from Iowa button-collectors Kareen Strumpel and Barb Colvin. When I first met them, they sat across from one another, surrounded by buttons. Muffin tins, bowls, baskets, and boxes filled with buttons covered the table between them. The women were dividing a button collection purchased from the family of a deceased collector.

“When the woman died, she left one son her car and the other her button collection,” says Kareen. “They were of equal value.”

Barb’s initial attraction to buttons started at age five, when her grandmother introduced her to button collecting. “I loved ‘em because she loved ‘em,” says Barb. “My grandmother was widowed at 60 and lived to be almost 100, so she had a lot of years to collect.”


Victorian geisha button.

Kareen’s interest came later, when a “lovely lady” offered her a box of buttons to use with her elementary school students. “She’d been a world traveler, and I looked through the box and thought ‘These are not first-grade buttons,’” she says. Then in 1996, the annual convention of the National Button Society was held in nearby Cedar Rapids and Kareen was hooked.

At that meeting, Kareen was introduced to button competitions, in which buttons are mounted on 9″x 12″ “trays” of card stock. Categories for trays include designations for materials (horn, bone, china, fabric, plastic), the era in which the button was made (“modern” in the button world is defined as anything after 1918, when buttons began to be regularly mass produced — anything earlier is designated “old”), and imagery (flowers, ice cream cones, maple leaves, frogs). There are categories for specialties (buckles, rivets, and buttonhooks), age and experience (junior, first-time exhibitors), and creative mounting (in other categories, simple arrangements and white card stock keep the focus on the buttons).

Linzee McCray

Detail of squirrel and oak tray.

Competition judging is strict. “You have to meet the criteria,” says Barb. “If the category is celluloid and you put on one jasperware button, you’re done.”

Although it sounds harsh, Kareen and Barb agree that they learn more and arrange their buttons more creatively when working within prescribed boundaries. “For example, if the category is ‘horses,’ you might have horse buttons that feature different materials, buttons with horses doing different things like jumping or trotting, and you’d want variety and rarity in your tray,” says Kareen, who along with Barb is a competition judge. “If you have one sulfite paperweight button you’d want to include it because it’s rare, but you don’t win by one button. It’s the combination that matters.”

Framed trays of Kareen’s buttons line her walls, and prize ribbons are taped to the back of many. She’s especially fond of glass, wood, and shell buttons and recently developed an interest in patterns, like snowflakes or concentric circles, while Barb is fond of plastic buttons. Both women are orderly, and their fair and careful division of the estate buttons reflected that. “You have to be a bit anal and enjoy details, otherwise you wouldn’t be into buttons,” says Kareen.

Both women enjoy the artistry of buttons, as well as learning about their composition and the historical aspects of their use. Kareen is working with the local historical society to inventory buttons on their textiles. She recently discovered that buttons thought to be plastic on a dress were actually hand-carved horn. Barb concurred on her analysis and the curator was thrilled. “I like making connections with people who have the same interests,” says Kareen.


Antique zodiac button.

Both women are members of local, state, and national button groups, where they trade notes with other collectors, buy buttons from one another, and of course, compete.

“Don’t ever let someone tell you buttons don’t take up a lot of room, because they do,” says Barb. That would be an understatement, coming from a woman whose basement contains 38 file drawers of mounted buttons. “It’s a fairly addictive hobby.”

The National Button Society is a terrific resource, with information on shows, state and local button groups, and articles written by members. This year’s national convention will be held August 4 to 11 in Portland, Oregon. For a sample of winning button trays from past years, visit I Want Buttons

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3 Featured Comments

  • TheMillineryShop

    Marcia Lacher from TheMillineryShop said 9 years ago Featured

    It's interesting to hear that button collecting has such organized criteria. I think that a poll would probably show that a huge number of people have a button collection of one sort or another and might not even realize they are collectors. It's also probably the first thing many people ever collected. I remember finding and keeping a special button in my pocket as a child until I dropped it into the pile of other interesting buttons in my drawer.

  • siennaorlando

    Sienna Orlando from SiennaOrlando said 9 years ago Featured

    I think it's something everyone can relate to . . . a love for buttons. They are amazing indicators of past fashion and availability of materials, and their natural size and shape lends to longevity. How many times have you found a buttons buried in the dirt? They're practically indestructible!

  • TheBeautyofBoredom

    Gracie from TheBeautyofBoredom said 9 years ago Featured

    Wow, I had no idea there were button competitions. I have a bunch of old buttons my grandparents gave me from their garage. I spent a very long time organizing them all by color and washing them off, they are sitting on my craft desk right now! Although they are not as unique as the ones pictures here, and I do not know much about them, I am still fascinated by them. Buttons today are not nearly as unique. It is also interesting to know that a button collection can be worth as much as a car! There's something for everyone.


  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 9 years ago

    What a good post! I am a button addict! I love my local button and fabric store because they have a huge wall of nothing but vintage buttons! I also love going through antique shops and finding much fun because you never know what you will come across.

  • maggiesraggedyinn

    Mary Robertson from MaggiesInn said 9 years ago

    How funny to read this..... my partner thinks I have a real problem as I have jars and jars of buttons. I remember my mother having a button basket when I was a child and I guess it marked me for life. My shelves contain beautiful old jars with all kinds of buttons. I also have friends who give me buttons and my daughter put a big bag of buttons in my Christmas stocking this year and I had put one in hers as well to both of our delight. Thanks for the great article!

  • lltownleyceramic

    Lisa Townley from LLTownleyCeramic said 9 years ago

    There is something so magical about a bowl full of buttons...

  • thisthatotherthings

    Judy from NimblesNook said 9 years ago

    Button's hold secrets ..... ╔══╗ ╚╗╔╝ ╔╝(¯`v´¯) ╚══`.¸ IT ...

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye from VintageEye said 9 years ago

    I have long been a fan of buttons! Fab post! Hi Judy! :)

  • VintageChinchilla

    Emily Jones from VintageChinchilla said 9 years ago

    I inherited my grandmothers button collection! I used to love to piece through them when I was little, on her coffee table. Sweet memories :)

  • Easy123

    Michele from Easy123 said 9 years ago

    Wonderful article! Love buttons!

  • maclancy

    Marianne Clancy from maclancy said 9 years ago

    I have always had buttons in a can. My grandmother had them and I would set them out and marvel at their diversity and design.. and the wonder was they were beautiful and held a great function, keeping us buttoned up. I lived with the AMish in my younger days and became friends with my neighbor the Yoders and couldn't believe they never used buttons but rather straight pins. I still love hoarding buttons. So nice to see this wonderful article on Etsy! don't forget to "button up!"

  • volkerwandering

    Jess from volkerwandering said 9 years ago

    What neat collections! I never knew how serious the collecting and competing could be. I appreciate this interesting article!

  • AnnaBear200

    Anna Woehling from JewelsByAnna said 9 years ago

    This is pretty cool. I also collect buttons

  • PaperAltar

    PaperAltar from PaperAltar said 9 years ago

    I always loved swimming through them - pausing when I felt the cool touch of a mother of pearl. Great post Linzee !!

  • jenta2b

    Elsa from jenta2b said 9 years ago

    I am starting to collect buttons! I love old and unique buttons.

  • merrirose

    Mary Martens from merrirose said 9 years ago

    Thank you so much. I would love to know the history of the buttons I have but, I had no idea of competitions. I have a handful of the button society bulletins and the pictures are beautiful. The porcelaine ones especially!

  • sermengtk

    STK from hollandvstk said 9 years ago

    What a great topic! Linzee, you always teach me something!!

  • jammerjewelry

    jammerjewelry from jammerjewelry said 9 years ago

    Lovely article, thanks for sharing

  • calloohcallay

    Callooh Callay from CalloohCallay said 9 years ago

    What a great article--buttons are endlessly fascinating. You probably can have too many, but I don't think I've reached that point yet (though my kids would disagree). Thanks for featuring my brooch!

  • KreatedbyKelly

    Kelly from KreatedbyKelly said 9 years ago

    I totally connect with this article *smiles* I love love love buttons too :)

  • VelvetTeacup

    Coralie Milne from VelvetTeacup said 9 years ago

    Well, what a marvellous hobby and how interesting that in that lady's will the buttons were of equal value to her car! Who would have ever imagined that when we were scratching around in button tins that our Grandmothers gave us as playthings.

  • peaseblossomstudio

    Caroline from AnchorRoad said 9 years ago

    I looooooove buttons! I have a huge collection of buttons that were my mother's. I love using vintage buttons in my work.

  • saffronandspice

    Jen Schroll from saffronandspice said 9 years ago

    Buttons. They're a lot like cats and potato chips and everything else you can't just have one of . . . :)

  • BlueSquiggle

    Monique Flannagan from BlueSquiggle said 9 years ago

    I'm a button sorting addict! Just love the way they feel!

  • FancifulRelics

    Michelle and Marguerite from OffbeatAvenue said 9 years ago

    WOW! What an awesome post! I LOVE buttons and have been collecting and selling online for sometime but, I haven't done in awhile and this inspires me. Beautiful and interesting post. Thank you :)

  • buttonsbyrobin

    Robin from buttonsbyrobin said 9 years ago

    Love this - but of course I'm a bit biased :) since I'm a button maker myself! Gotta love those buttons! Robin

  • onedaysgracenz

    Deborah McGregor from onedaysgracenz said 9 years ago

    Great post, very interesting.

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 9 years ago

    I'm constsntly amazed at the lengths colelctors will go to in order to prove to other collectors that their collection is better! :-) It doesn't matter what the items, somewhere there will be a town hall or marquee featuring "Best in Show" to the envy of all the rest. Is it some kind of deep-seated human need? Some kind of degraded survival instinct that pushes people to compete like this? All I know is that for the rest of us it's a fascinating insight into a world we would never have known existed & I absolutely love it! Where would we be without the quirkiness of button competitions...?

  • lizziemoors

    Elizabeth Moors from DitsyButtonLove said 9 years ago

    i love buttons!!

  • misponko

    Liudmila Rosario Ponko from PonkoWorld said 9 years ago

    Interesting post!!

  • TheSugarTrees

    Emily Kramer from TheSugarTrees said 9 years ago

    Just the other day I picked up a unique looking button on the floor at work and put it in my pocket. When I brought it home I tried to think of a craft project to use it in but nothing struck my fancy so it has been sitting on a table. I thought about throwing it away but now I'm glad I didn't because it will be the first in my collection. :)

  • DebbieDolls

    Debbie Campbell from YarnDeBelles said 9 years ago

    Beautiful pictures! I once wrote a research paper on buttons.

  • nickiefrye

    Nickie Noel from SpunkVintage said 9 years ago

    Oh my gosh, I can't even LOOK at vintage buttons anymore. Total addict! I had no idea about the national convention. Oh. My. Gosh. Must concoct some sort of plan to rope my husband into a road trip to Portland this August. ;) haha!

  • birdie1

    Laurie from BirdinHandVTG said 9 years ago

    Thank you for such an interesting article.

  • leslieholz

    Leslie Holz from leslieholz said 9 years ago

    As a fellow Iowan (now living in AZ) I grew up playing with all the beautiful boxes of buttons in the Dry Cleaning establishment my parents owned. I guess as a youngster it kept us busy while Mom and Dad ran the store. I remember thinking of them as a sort of currency and the prettier ones were worth more and my 3 siblings and myself could amuse ourselves for hours. I still love buttons and now I want to go back home and dig around in the basement of our dry cleaners to see what treasures might still be there!!

  • PopLoveCouture

    Shai Wallach from PopLoveCouture said 9 years ago

    Oooh, we ADORE vintage buttons, but I wouldn't go so far as to call us "collectors" - they do look fantastic on our dresses and jackets though :)

  • TheMillineryShop

    Marcia Lacher from TheMillineryShop said 9 years ago Featured

    It's interesting to hear that button collecting has such organized criteria. I think that a poll would probably show that a huge number of people have a button collection of one sort or another and might not even realize they are collectors. It's also probably the first thing many people ever collected. I remember finding and keeping a special button in my pocket as a child until I dropped it into the pile of other interesting buttons in my drawer.

  • FindingBrooke

    Brooke from FindingBrooke said 9 years ago

    Great Post! LOVE OLD BUTTONS!

  • ACupOfSparkle

    ACupOfSparkle from ACupOfSparkle said 9 years ago

    Beautiful bottons. Great collection...

  • HelloShoes

    HelloShoes from HelloShoes said 9 years ago

    Wow, these are some amazing buttons. Great story. I love buttons:)

  • VoleedeMoineaux

    Hillary De Moineaux from VoleedeMoineaux said 9 years ago

    You are my hero!

  • cottonbirddesigns

    Angela Cotton from CottonBirdDesigns said 9 years ago

    Interesting article!

  • expressyourself

    Natalia Snemis from expressyourself said 9 years ago

    Great article!

  • BambuEarth

    Amber from BambuEarth said 9 years ago

    Love the historical content found within a simple button. I'm a sucker for edible vintage buttons.. I'm always buying them and adorning cupcakes with them. ♥♥♥♥

  • PattiTrostle

    Patti Trostle from PattiTrostle said 9 years ago

    Very good article! Thank you!

  • vintagebuttonsplus

    vintagebuttonsplus from vintagebuttonsplus said 9 years ago

    OMG My favorite subject! Author of two button books.

  • murraynag

    Angela from murraynagKnit said 9 years ago

    I've been searching for buttons with a crown on them ( not a coat of arms). Has anyone seen any?

  • ArtyDidact

    Sharon Parker from ArtyDidact said 9 years ago

    Like everyone here, I love old buttons too. I pick them up at estate sales and such, usually a few saved in a box or old cookie tin. I always assumed they were the "collection" of a frugal old lady who couldn't throw anything away. I like to use them as closures on my needle cases, since I only need one for each, so those odd singles work well for that. It would be fun to know something about the history of them, I may have to see if there are button collector events in my town! But I don't want to display them, I like to use them — and handle them!

  • nicolerisinger

    Nicole Risinger from SoSewOrganized said 9 years ago

    Wow, I had no idea button collecting was so huge! I keep a jar of various buttons, but simply because they come in handy as a seamstress. I doubt I have any that are old or rare, but now I want to go look through them again!

  • gilstrapdesigns

    Debra Gilstrap from gilstrapdesigns said 9 years ago

    I've always loved vintage buttons but I didn't know anything about button competitions and groups this is a very interesting article

  • ClaudiaLord

    Claudia Lord from ClaudiaLord said 9 years ago

    Both of my grandmothers had jars and tins of buttons that I used to play with. Wish I had them now! Also - the chocolate buttons look yummy!

  • nomadcraftsetc

    Janelle and Jason Ethridge from NomadCraftsEtc said 9 years ago

    Who DOESN'T love buttons? They are crazy! I love them, collect them and make them! :) I got the best of all worlds! Wonderful post!

  • kathleenmcmahon

    kathleenmcmahon from kathleenmcmahon said 9 years ago

    The variety and diversity of buttons is astounding!

  • knitfitt

    Cate Fitt said 9 years ago

    Oh dear, button collecting can be truly addicting and I had to go cold turkey some years ago. I was partial to the buttons that had images derived from famous paintings.

  • FullCircleRetro

    Piegota from FullCircleRetro said 9 years ago

    I am not a fan of loose buttons...isn't it crazy? I had this "button issue" since I was a kid hehe. Anyway it is a great post...! =)

  • GracefullyGirly

    Kimberlee from GracefullyGirly said 9 years ago

    I have a bit of a button addiction! It started when my mom worked at a button factory and brought home incredible buttons to use on the clothes she sewed for me. I wish I still had those today!!! I remember all sorts of colors and styles with little creatures depicted on them too. Oh, what fun buttons are! I just have a hard time using them because I just want to keep them all buttoned up in a jar. But, I have collected so many (new and old) and use them in my pieces. It gives my customers the chance to have a piece of history too.

  • thevicagirl

    VaLon Frandsen from thevicagirl said 9 years ago

    Interesting, I wonder if any of the funky buttons in my basement from my moms collection would be worth anything. Could be fun to look into.

  • PatsyDesigns

    Patty Riggins from PatsyDesigns said 9 years ago

    Buttons - the love of my life!!

  • CompassRoseDesign

    Creek Van Houten from CompassRoseDesign said 9 years ago

    Great post!!! I turned my collection into jewelry and an independent women-owned livelihood! :) I love that people can wear them again and appreciate and bring history to life again! I do admit I have lots that I cannot part with - I just love being around them! The stories and balls and tea party memories are palpable!! Creek from Compass Rose

  • Grammiesquiltz

    Romy, Tamara, and Ashley Jenkins from GrammiesQuiltz said 9 years ago

    Wow I loved this piece. I always thought I just had a weird attraction to buttons. I didn't realize people actually collected them.

  • amysfunkyfibers

    Amy Gunderson from amysfunkyfibers said 9 years ago

    I just love buttons! Nice feature.

  • Armillatadesigns

    Sarah from Armillatadesigns said 9 years ago

    I remember spending hours playing with my grandmother's buttons, she kept tins of them in her sewing room, and she'd collected them for decades. After she passed away, I took them, but I couldn't find a project special enough to use them on until last fall when I got married. Grandma couldn't be there, but I bezel set some of her beautiful mother-of-pearl buttons in silver and made necklaces for myself, my mom (her daughter), and my bridesmaids, as well as cufflinks for my groom, and that brought her memory extra close for the day.

  • franstradingpost

    Frances Royal from franstradingpost said 9 years ago

    Fascinating! I, too, love to use old buttons in jewelry pieces tha tI create.

  • ShabbyNChic

    ShabbyNChic from ShabbyNChic said 9 years ago

    What a great article. I love buttons! I've been intrigued with buttons since I was a little girl and saw my grandmother's collection. My mother still has them. Now I see that the National Button Society's Convention is coming to Portland - just an hour away from us - and I want to go!

  • jpspringfiel

    Pearl Springfield from ZoeGraceBlooms said 9 years ago

    So fun to read about buttons! Love them for my designs, especially when ther are so many interesting buttons throughout history that can be used. It's amazing that something that is so functional can be so beautiful!

  • jojosvintagecupboard

    jojosvintagecupboard from jojosvintagecupboard said 9 years ago

    Wow! Great article!! A whole area of collecting I never really thought about.

  • vintagecdm

    Cindy McCandlish from VintageCindy said 9 years ago

    Thanks for this wonderful article. Count me in! I love buttons too - as you can see by the jar of them in my profile picture. I love finding tins/jars/bags of them at sales. I can hardly wait to get home to sort through them. In fact, I've been known to play with them in the car all the way home from the flea market. :)

  • donnasutor

    Donna Sutor from veryDonna said 9 years ago

    I have a passion for the button!!!!

  • liddysopretty

    liddy sopretty from liddysopretty said 9 years ago

    buttons rock!!! \m/(>.<)\m/

  • EnterpriseAmericana

    Enterprise Americana from EnterpriseAmericana said 9 years ago

    I'm a restoration guy who dreams of being an archeologist. I've dug up quite a few clam shell buttons. Always a happy find.

  • abandc

    Elvira from abandc said 9 years ago

    LOVE BUTTONS! Great article.

  • AnatomyVintage

    Amber Zaragoza from AnatomyVintage said 9 years ago

    How funny! People are experts at creating superlatives. If your not the best swimmer, then invent something else to be the best at. Button competitions sound like wondrous events!

  • rosyposydesigns

    Kristen from rosyposydesigns said 9 years ago

    My Etsy business began with an old tin of antique buttons! I loved this story. Thanks for sharing!

  • uswatsons

    Sylvie Liv from SylvieLiv said 9 years ago

    Vintage buttons are so fun!

  • treasureagain

    treasureagain from treasureagain said 9 years ago

    Thank you!!!! When I cleaned out my grandmother's home I found buttons in almost every drawer. She never had much so she saved everything. She valued buttons. I now how them in a Mason Jar next to my bed. I admire them every day! Glad to know I'm not the only one who loves buttons.

  • RuralRetreatVintage

    Dena from RuralRetreatVintage said 9 years ago

    I Love, Love, Love antique and vintage buttons. Victorian buttons are my favorites but also love my bakelite buttons and vintage plastic housedress buttons from the 1940's and 50's. Can never have too many buttons!!!

  • mermaidsdowry

    mermaidsdowry from mermaidsdowry said 9 years ago

    A magical journey into the button box was always a fascination for my sister and I when we were children, it could be an entire afternoon of entertainment - dreaming, sorting, swapping, describing the garments they would go on etc... when my mother passed, we both wanted the button box - an ornate red and gold Japanese tea tin - over flowing with buttons - we took turns with it even though we lived 1200 miles apart, until one day while antiquing during a visit, we found an identical duplicate tin in the small town my Mother grew up in - we now each have a tin and half of the buttons - mine sits in a place of honor on my living room coffee table with a handmade story book my Sister wrote about our "button box" - I can still envision my Grandmother in her camel coat with a mink collar when I see the buttons off the coat and every outfit my mother made us as children, if it had buttons, the extras went into the tin, a lifetime of memories..............I adore buttons!

  • stuartroadvintage

    Jeanne from stuartroadvintage said 9 years ago

    Great post-who doesn't love vintage buttons?!

  • MalibuJewel

    Candace from MalibuJewel said 9 years ago

    I have been mesmerized by vintage buttons since I was a small child. Now I buy exquisite old buttons from button dealers to use in my jewelry designs. There is a whole button world out there.

  • salmonbarn

    salmonbarn from salmonbarn said 9 years ago

    I was fascinated at a very young age by my Grandmother's button box, kept me occupied for hours !

  • lisaclark246

    Lisa Clark said 9 years ago

    Beautiful photos and the blog post is great reading. Thanks for helping me see buttons in a new light.

  • misbehaveaccessories

    misbehaveaccessories from MisbehaveAccessories said 9 years ago

    Thank you for the posting! I love buttons and always look for special buttons to use in some of my creations!!

  • nikkipolson

    Nikki from ThisNThatbyNikki said 9 years ago

    I read a book once where all the girls had button strings and there was rivalry over who had the best buttons. Ever since then I have kept a jar of cool buttons around. But I'm no collector, not like these ladies. It's just that buttons are expensive, so I try to reuse them whenever I can.

  • PruAtelier

    Jeanne B from PruAtelier said 9 years ago

    Very interesting, fascinating article! I'm partial to a beautiful antique MOP button with a handpainted rose that I purchased here on Etsy. I also love large old MOPs with designs carved. Many times it is the statement button that makes the garment!

  • ohsusannasjewelry

    Susan Ramos from ohsusannasjewelry said 9 years ago


  • WingedWorld

    Vickie Moore from WingedWorld said 9 years ago

    What a fascinating article on a subculture most people know nothing about! When I was in third grade, my best friend had a mason jar full of buttons and we loved to look through them.

  • KidsHandknits

    Bobbie from KidsHandknits said 9 years ago

    Both my Grandmothers' had a button box and a button tin, and I would spend hours sorting them when I was very little. My Mom kept both of them and even after I got older, I would sort through them if I was bored (rarely) or sick. It made me feel better. I'd like to think the ceramic buttons that I make by hand today in my Etsy shop stem from those buttons that I learned to count and name colours with, and that my Grandmothers' and Mom would consider them worth adding to their collections.

  • elleestpetite

    Donna Thai from PetiteCuisine said 9 years ago

    Wow. I had no idea there were button competitions. Very interesting. Those vintage buttons are amazingly detailed.

  • ginacrg

    ginacrg said 9 years ago

    I enjoyed this article. Loving to sew, of course, I love buttons! Sometimes I have to go shopping to find a new box of buttons to sort. Or, I will re-sort the ones I have. There are so many ways to sort them. Thanks for writing this article.

  • AmberGypsySky

    Amber Archibald from GypsySkyCreations said 9 years ago

    I love my button collection :)

  • MickeyandGrace

    Dana from MickeyandGrace said 9 years ago

    Loved this article...glad to know I am not the only one with a greater-than-usual fascination with buttons!! :)

  • KolibriKado

    Dee from KolibriKado said 9 years ago

    Buttons..we all have our memories, don't we? We all love them, me too!

  • alohabead

    alohabead from alohabead said 9 years ago

    Thank you for such an informative write up on Buttons and The National Button Society!!!! I love Victorian and Antique Buttons and are up on my Etsy site most of the time.

  • Ghibi

    Ghibi Coquet from GhibiCoquet said 9 years ago

    I like buttons...the big and colored ones :). The article is great! Bravo!

  • CoolVintage

    CoolVintage from CoolVintage said 9 years ago

    I enjoy buttons that come from archeological digs... talk about history!!!

  • ButtonBetsyUK

    ButtonBetsyUK from ButtonBetsyUK said 9 years ago

    Ooh Buttons, can there be anything more fabulous, interesting, unusual and fascinating. From the historical perspective - when buttons were first used and their significance and financial value to their sociological significance - you'd be wealthy if you could afford buttons and depending on how fancy they were would depend on how rich you were. Like Barb, I too became fascinated by buttons because of my Nanny, her buttons were amazing and we used them for money in play and as sound makers, but also as collecting items. Great post, thanks for sharing it.

  • funkystarfish85

    Lisa from LighthouseGems said 9 years ago

    I love buttons but never realised that there was such a thing as button competitions! You learn something new every day!

  • wearaddiction

    ana amorim from wearaddiction said 9 years ago

    amazing article

  • WorddrowAndButtons

    Sandy from WorddrowAndButtons said 9 years ago

    So nice to know I am not the only one who loves the feel of running my fingers through a old tin of buttons! wonderful post.

  • bonkersaboutbuttons

    Stephanie Henley from bonkersaboutbuttons said 9 years ago

    Another great article Linzee - I also loved the one you wrote about the MOP buttons from the Missippee. Since childhood, I have always loved anything which was old & used, bashed & bruised. A chance discovery of the most beautiful button I had ever seen, triggered a long-held fascination with buttons. I love their sense of history and there is nothing better than spending a rainy day button sorting in my opinion! I have yet to experience the fun of a Button Club as it's something that has not really caught on in the UK for some reason as far as I am aware - so I go about spreading the love where ever I can!

  • FeltHappiness

    Juliane Gorman from FeltHappiness said 9 years ago

    What a lovely article (and examples too)! A clever mum shared a tip with me which has made visiting the fabric store easier: encourage my children to select 10 buttons each from the discounted button box, where each item costs 10 pence. The boys surprisingly took to it and it made my shopping a bit easier.

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery said 9 years ago

    Wow thats quite a collection of buttons! The range of styles is just mind boggling. I always like wooden and natural style buttons

  • classicretro

    Diane Hodson from ClassicRetro said 9 years ago

    Great Post! I was just handed down a HUGE tin of buttons and am just beginning to dip in. I've always love buttons and this blog confirms what we all know... buttons are a wonderful walk thru time and trend.

  • PalomaAccessories

    Kelly from PalomaAccessories said 9 years ago

    Thank you!

  • DiscordVintage

    Discord Vintage from DiscordVintage said 9 years ago

    What an eye-opening read :)

  • sanibelsands

    Karen from sanibelsands said 9 years ago

    I design brooches I have used old buttons in my designs because thet are beautiful. Keep collecting

  • hundredsofbuttons

    Liz from hundredsofbuttons said 9 years ago

    Thanks so much for this article. Some time ago I decided to actively resist becoming a serious 'buttonologist' and the more I know and learn about them, the stronger I have to be! That doesn't mean I can't keep learning. For the purpose of my handmade button pieces & etsy shop, I'm trying hard to confine myself to reclaimed buttons, not collectibles.. Wish me luck! I have met some true devotees and have admired their collections with awe..

  • QueenofCuffs

    mary from QueenofCuffs said 9 years ago

    Oh Buttons . . how I love thee !!! I find it so hard to resist a beautiful antique button. I love adding them to my work. When people had to dress in Victorian Mourning they gave it a bit of glam with fantastic buttons. Love them . love them !!

  • adrianaallenllc

    Adriana Allen from adrianaallenllc said 9 years ago

    Not a collector of any sort, but I have seen some amazing buttons; they can be miniature artworks so I can appreciate the fact that people collect them. And I do hope that it is a friendly inclination, as the author says, because being aggresive about button collecting would make no sense.

  • MarthyMay

    Kris from MarthyMay said 9 years ago

    Love those buttons! Only problem is deciding whether to use them or admire in a jar! (Also so easy to collect-don't take up much room!)

  • rivahside

    rivahside said 9 years ago

    Barb is right: buttons do take up space-and I've got jars of 'em to prove it!

  • buttonaddict

    Lisa Sittniewski from ButtonsAddict said 9 years ago

    Love buttons! Call me helpless....I just can't get my fill of them :)

  • andreanne12

    Andree Anne M from rosemauve said 9 years ago

    I love buttons also. I remember browsing into my grandma's collection a sewing my favorites on a piece of fabric, that how I learn handsewing.

  • Alterity

    Lisa Sittniewski from AntiqueButtonJewelry said 9 years ago

    One side note.... I would love to mention as a button jewelry designer: Shanks are important to the value of a button!. A button is worthless to a button collector if the shank has been removed and a button collector will likely be unwilling to purchase a piece (jewelry) if the shank has been cut off. They certainly would not be willing to wear it in front of their button friends. It's like anything else: break the collectible, the collectible is worthless. Many antique button collectors lament the buttons that were sacrificed and drilled/deshanked/glued for the sake of a piece of jewelry. I speak from experience as both a collector and a designer. Antique buttons with their shanks cut off are worth nothing more than the brass they are made from. I think I speak for many and offer this for consideration :)

  • 1895ah

    Amy from StoneBoneAndButton said 9 years ago

    I LOVE my buttons, and I always think long and hard about using them in my jewelry. Nice to know so many others appreciate them.

  • montanagirl

    Carmen from MontanaGirl said 9 years ago

    My grandmother "Muzzie" had a button tin. Going through it was a favorite rainy-day activity.

  • goodbeads

    goodbeads from goodbeads said 9 years ago

    So beautiful,love them very much!

  • giftworldz

    Beth Robinson from giftworldz said 9 years ago

    Great article. I as well inherited a large button collection from a dear friend who collected for years. I'm able to make so many beautiful things with the collection. Love buttons - little works of art!

  • lmouer

    Lynsey from lmouer said 9 years ago

    What a great story! Buttons are definitely for more then just your shirt! :)

  • pouch

    pouch from pouch said 9 years ago

    you can never have too many buttons in your life and I have a weakness for vintage buttons...I have jars and jars of them. Some of my earliest memories are of my Mum letting me tip out her jars of buttons and now my two year old daughter is doing the same with my collection!

  • honorthepromise

    honorthepromise from honorthepromise said 9 years ago

    Little windows into different eras

  • Parachute425

    Terry from Parachute425 said 9 years ago

    Oh my - I had no idea! Fascinating.

  • lillysshoppe

    WestU from lillysshoppe said 9 years ago

    Great article, love buttons!!

  • megk8199

    Megan Morris from MadebyMegShop said 9 years ago

    Wow, I know I love buttons, and I love collecting them, but I never knew you could enter them into competitions. This post may have inspired me to start a new hobby!

  • siennaorlando

    Sienna Orlando from SiennaOrlando said 9 years ago Featured

    I think it's something everyone can relate to . . . a love for buttons. They are amazing indicators of past fashion and availability of materials, and their natural size and shape lends to longevity. How many times have you found a buttons buried in the dirt? They're practically indestructible!

  • RemnantLiving

    RemnantLiving from RemnantLiving said 9 years ago

    I grew up with a mom & Nonny with button boxes. I loved it when I was asked to go through the boxes to pick out buttons for a special outfit being made. Loved sifting them through my hands & looking at all of them. I am always on the outlook for buttons. A few years ago, I got on a green kick, & sorted out all the green buttons. I mounted them all in neat rows in a shadow frame box. I was amazed at so many of them. Great topic to talk about! Thanks!

  • nicolepaglianite

    Nicole Marie from eYarnmoni said 9 years ago

    I really LOVE those black horse buttons!

  • jdfootloose

    Jessica from jdfootloose said 9 years ago

    Great article. I remember seeing glass jars filled with buttons at my grandmothers house! <3

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie said 9 years ago

    Love this articles!

  • HelloooHome

    Ada and Evelisa from HelloooHome said 9 years ago

    What a fascinating post! While I cannot say I'm a button connoisseur, some of them are so intricate and beautiful!

  • NYArtist79

    Kimberly Griffiths from NYArtist79 said 9 years ago

    Thanks for sharing! I too have a love for vintage buttons. There is just something about them that is so enticing. I love to make jewelry out of buttons particularly vintage cut glass and celluloid buttons. It's so much fun and there are so many gorgeous designs out there. It's fun to search to find unique ones.

  • RetroRevivalBoutique

    RetroRevivalBoutique from RetroRevivalBoutique said 9 years ago

    I ♥ this article! I had never heard of button competitions before today, but I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only button fanatic out there! (^__^)

  • studiomosaics

    Amy from TheRedPoppyShop said 9 years ago

    Even though I am an Etsy seller who makes jewelry and mosaics from vintage buttons, I am relatively new to vintage button mania. This article opened my eyes and as one of the featured stores in "Related Items," this article has opened everyone else's eyes about my shop! Thank you so much for this fantastic feature.

  • lkmccray

    Linzee from lkmccray said 9 years ago

    I love hearing how many of you button fanatics got your start with your mother's or grandmother's button boxes and tins. In the past, when clothes were beyond repair, people cut the buttons off for re-use and I imagine that's how many of those button boxes got their start. I wrote one of my all-time favorite button stories years ago about "The Button Lady" of Mechanicsville, Iowa. She started collecting buttons in 1908 and sewed them onto a wide-wale corduroy shift. I've got a photo of her on my blog, if you're interested: It turns out that Kareen and Barb knew about her collection and said that part of it might still be in the Mechanicsville library, but that most of it was sold at auction. Thanks for all your comments!

  • dandbdesigns

    Heidi-Ann Hofer from dandbdesigns said 9 years ago

    I have 3 generations of button collectors on my mother's side. Therefore, our house over runeth with buttons! I have just started making button bobby pins with some of our vintage buttons! I figured that I would rather have someone wear them and enjoy them then having them sit in metal containers all over our house! Check out or store for some cool vintage button bobby pins if you are a button lover! I am listing more right now! Use coupon code "FREESHIP" if you find a pair you would like to wear!

  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    AJ Marsden from OnlyOriginalsByAJ said 9 years ago

    I love buttons! But I didn't know that there was a competition involving button collections! That's so neat! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Birdnestsandpaper

    Birdnestsandpaper from Birdnestsandpaper said 9 years ago

    This is awesome!!! I love buttons ;) Great article!!

  • myvintagecrush

    Kathleen from myvintagecrush said 9 years ago

    Buttons have quite the history!

  • Voicilesviolettes

    Voicilesviolettes from Voicilesviolettes said 9 years ago

    I'm also one of those button addicts! Nice to know I'm not alone! I think I inherited this love from my grandmother and mother, and two aunts, and ... one of the great pleasures in life!

  • jennyreb26thnc

    Jennifer R. Rasavage from jennyreb26thnc said 9 years ago

    I'm a Civil War (American) button collector - I have a collection of unique buttons worth over $1000. All my buttons have one common factor, though I have both North and South: all of them have come from excavated sites (battlfileds, encampments), which makes it that more special to me.

  • KKSimpleRegalJewelry

    Krista from TheBeadtriss said 9 years ago

    Very interesting! ~KK~

  • HighPointFarm2010

    HighPointFarm2010 from HighPointFarm2010 said 9 years ago

    Awesome info.. Can't wait to check out the suggested in the article Cheers

  • OldeTymeNotions

    Allie from OldeTymeNotions said 9 years ago

    My name is Allie & I'm addicted to button collecting. So good to know I'm not alone. Thank you for using my button photo in the article!

  • PyxusPassionProject

    Michelle Maynard from SimonesRoseBoutique said 9 years ago

    Yay buttons! They are such a special thing - I often hesitate to put the 'special ones' on garments (especially if they're vintage!).. its a selfish thing but I love to just look at them and wonder where they came from.

  • AlliesAdornments

    Allie C. from AlliesAdornments said 9 years ago

    The amazing detail on antique buttons is what sparked my interest in making jewelry with them. They really are like miniature pieces of art.

  • BurkeHareCo

    Erica from BurkeHareCo said 9 years ago

    How Darling!

  • PomegranateSeed

    bahar from PomegranateVintage said 9 years ago

    My grandmother in Turkey was a seamstress who had an amazing button collection. I used to sort thru them as a child. Unfortunately a robber broke in and stole the bag full of AMAZING buttons along with other modest family treasures.

  • Kaleidoscape

    PierLuigi Franchi from Kaleidoscape said 9 years ago

    I will post the buttons I just have found tomorrow morning. Just the time needed to shoot the pics and prepare the sets

  • KJoger

    KJoger said 9 years ago

    Fascinating! I love the different display settings. Thanks for posting this!

  • AvasYellowRainBoots

    April Foss from AvasYellowRainBoots said 9 years ago

    Buttons are such precious objects, once you collect one, you can't stop! heehee

  • ezliving

    ezliving from ezliving said 9 years ago

    Interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  • DaisybugLane

    PJ Burns from DaisybugLane said 9 years ago

    How interesting. I love buttons and have some that were cut from mussell shells in the Ohio River. There was once a button factory in our town in the early 1900's.

  • SweetMeas

    Sarah Meas from SweetMeas said 9 years ago

    The graceful beauty of a button ahhhhhh.........My own collection is HUGE!! loved reading this.

  • metroretrovintage

    metroretrovintage from MetroRetroVintage said 9 years ago

    I love this article! I collect buttons casually, and had no idea that there were competitions! Thank you for the fabulous read.

  • metroretrovintage

    metroretrovintage from MetroRetroVintage said 9 years ago

    Also, for some reason I've come across buttons and chatelaines/brooches with a Little Red Riding Hood theme over the years -- Initially to sell, although I've never been able to part with with any of it, and so I'm always hunting to add to it.

  • bedouin

    Nicole from KarmaCodeOne said 9 years ago

    viva gli amanti pulsante del mondo ~ long live the button lovers of the world

  • MapleAndOakDesigns

    MapleAndOakDesigns from MapleAndOakDesigns said 9 years ago

    This is so awesome! I didn't know any of that!!! While working with buttons more and more often, I'm starting to become a button addict myself...

  • oldish

    oldish from oldish said 9 years ago

    This button story received a great response, so many of us share this interest and addiction. Thanks for displaying our horse buttons here.

  • sandstormcreations

    sandstormcreations from sandstormcreations said 9 years ago

    Nice post. Love the buttons !

  • TheBeautyofBoredom

    Gracie from TheBeautyofBoredom said 9 years ago Featured

    Wow, I had no idea there were button competitions. I have a bunch of old buttons my grandparents gave me from their garage. I spent a very long time organizing them all by color and washing them off, they are sitting on my craft desk right now! Although they are not as unique as the ones pictures here, and I do not know much about them, I am still fascinated by them. Buttons today are not nearly as unique. It is also interesting to know that a button collection can be worth as much as a car! There's something for everyone.

  • perebags

    Sarah from perebags said 9 years ago

    Great post! I love buttons!

  • yqsl66

    Ada Ada from idajewelry66 said 9 years ago

    I looooooove Interesting post!!

  • EmSewCrazy

    Emily from EmSewCrazy said 9 years ago

    LOVE BUTTONS!! Love this post! Glad for the resource so I can learn more about their history!

  • redhardwick

    Jen Hardwick from redhardwick said 9 years ago

    Love me some buttons! Great article!

  • rosesbuttons

    Rose Wallace from rosesbuttons said 9 years ago

    It has always interested me that button collectors value individual buttons that fit into categories. Collectors of other vintage items usually value the item in the original packaging. But button collectors do not seem to value buttons on original cards at all. Some of those cards are works of art in their own right, in my opinion. I've never heard button collectors discussing collecting buttons on their original cards. I wonder why that is.

  • BlueBrocade

    BlueBrocade from BlueBrocade said 9 years ago

    Such a fun post! My etsy shop in fact began in part due to my love for old, antique and vintage metal and glass buttons. I love them because they bring to mind the fashion of another time, when details like buttons really were important and completely changed a garment's look. The generic plastic buttons on most clothing today are not nearly as interesting I find, and are no longer an important deign detail of the garment. And so, I love funding antique and vintage buttons and giving them new life as accessories on my etsy! A bit of the past, for our everyday.

  • buzzybea

    buzzybea from buzzybea said 9 years ago

    Thanks for a great post. I love buttons.

  • akinto

    cindy santos from akinto said 9 years ago

    I so love buttons! its a pleasant surprise to see an orphan button, i keep then in ajar and go through them, just looking at the intricate design, even the rust adds some charm to an old button.

  • ruchla

    racheli varulker from purplefeatherdesign said 9 years ago

    thanks!! for the post

  • Zalavintage

    Zane Saracene from Zalavintage said 9 years ago

    My daughter and I have always enjoyed going through the old tins and boxes we've found among family trunks and boxes, filled with exquisite colors and shapes of the buttons, wondering who used the needles, buttons and beads and where they wore the finished products. Interesting article, thank you

  • ballandchain

    Katrina Balling from ballandchain said 9 years ago

    I love buttons too- especially black glass vintage. I always loved looking through my moms huge jar of random buttons, looking for the perfect accent to a newly made piece of clothing.

  • muddyum

    muddyum from muddyum said 9 years ago

    I love collecting buttons too! Amazing how her buttons equaled the value of her car in her will!

  • CherryBlossomCandles

    CherryBlossomCandles from CherryBlossomCandles said 9 years ago

    I LOVE vintage buttons, but had no idea collectors got so competitive! What is it about buttons that is so.....more-ish?! You can't just keep one or two, it has to be jars worth! Great post.

  • treasurebooth

    Kelly from treasurebooth said 9 years ago

    Buttons are the reason I started my shop :)

  • BlueMoonLights

    Alexandra Simons from BlueMoonLights said 9 years ago

    I love buttons! Great post! Thank you!

  • bhangtiez

    Jana from bhangtiez said 9 years ago

    Wow, so interesting! Really fun history!

  • oritdotan

    Orit Dotan from oritdotan said 9 years ago

    Thanks lots for featuring my antique buttons

  • susanmartin44

    Susan Martin said 9 years ago

    If you love buttons, don't miss the California State Button Show in San Mateo, May 17-20, 2012. Here's the link:

  • snoozin8

    Susan Porter said 9 years ago

    Hi - Wow - I'm so glad to see all the wonderful and positive comments about buttons. I wonder if any of you have thought about joining a button club? How about the National Button Society? If you're interested go to the NBS web site: and click on the membership link. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email. My name is Susan Porter and my email is: snoozin8(at)cox(dot)net Susan Porter ;-) NBS Secretary

  • sparrowdesigngroup

    Barbara Murphy from sparrowdesigngroup said 9 years ago

    I love using Vintage buttons in ALL of my creations! The Bakelite ones are my favorites! Thank you for your wonderful article!

  • Zeldasbuttons

    Zelda Sunderman from Zeldasbuttons said 9 years ago

    I totally agree that buttons are addictive! I can never pass up the opportunity to buy some that I can share with others. There are NO bad buttons. :) Thanks for the great article.

  • ToriAnnaDesigns

    Tori Nadeau from ToriAnnaDesigns said 9 years ago

    Fantastic article. I have my grandmother's collection from the 20's and 30's. Some days I just sit and run my fingers through the tin and try to imagine what their life was like - whether held together a sweater, shirt or just a beautiful embellishment. So many possibilities to give them their second life.

  • amytee252

    Amy Tee from prettylittletitch said 9 years ago

    I too have many buttons in my house (my mother has jars of them.. I don't know why...)...but I've never been into them until now! Great pictures too!

  • grandmae1

    Ellen said 9 years ago

    Three years ago We had a large collection of buttons donated to our church thrift shop. Most of the women working in the shop were in their 60's and 70's and thought it was a waste of time to deal with them.(we all have our own button boxes) I put all of the buttons in a clean goldfish bowl, placed it by the cash register, and added a sign saying "10 cents each or 12 for one dollar". The button were gone in three weeks! (~.~) Ellen

  • michellemach

    Michelle Mach from michellemach said 9 years ago

    Fun! About a year ago I held a button swap with some of my blog readers. I paired people up, they exchanged buttons, and then everyone showed photos on their blogs of what they created with the buttons.

  • vintagebuttonemporiu

    Sarah from vintagebuttonemporiu said 9 years ago

    There seem to be as many reasons to collect buttons as there are button collectors. Competitions are a good way to focus the mind and force you to really identify the material, period, style etc. They used to be saved and recycled into the next garment by thrifty ancestors so old buttons all have a story to tell, even if we will know the whole story. But just imagine! And old buttons often have such rich detail so, even if a bit worn and shabby, they retain their charm and can transform your current project. Buttons can be a bit addictive, but the joy of finding just the right one makes it all worthwhile. So, ... keep collecting! And thank you for the blog.

  • hyipask

    hyipask ask said 9 years ago

    so Very cute buttons,My grandma has a lot of buttons, I used to play them.

  • MalloryFurnishing

    Sharon Jones from MalloryFurnishing said 9 years ago

    I adore I buttons! I had my own growing collection and then last year was give a large box by an Aunt which inspired me to create some of the items listed in my shop. Then on visiting our local charity shop I spotted a tin in the counter with thousands in. I was so happy to see them and the shop assistant was very pleased to part with the entire tin saying that nobody wanted buttons. She was happy to be rid of them and I was very happy I to pay for them. Needless to say my button collection is very large! Happy collecting xx

  • lifeaccessories

    Kim Baldwin from lifeaccessories said 9 years ago

    I love buttons and creating with them. They have such a simple beauty!

  • serenawunderlich

    Serena Wunderlich from TheFarmHome said 9 years ago

    I miss my button collection. I once had 12 apple boxes full, these boxes are the ones you see at the grocery stores. I had strings, dolls, cards big and small and yes, literally hundreds of thousands. I knew nothing. I remember in 1990 I wrote to a woman in the monthly button club book and no one would tell me the values, it appeared to be a secret elite society. Finally one day I took a trip across state lines to get to a show. I was amazed but excited, no one there had anything on my collection that was greater or more beautiful. When I got home I gently removed my 18th century mother of pearl collection and picked all the "REBUS" buttons off the card, determined to find the meaning of the French writings on them. I was more than hooked, I was in heaven. There wasn't a jar from Washington state to Missouri that I didn't buy. I ended up with about 4 more boxes in a year and finally began to cool down. Long story the lady in California who bought them from me, I wish I had them back, now I only have a few that linger and lay in my boxes and tins, the stories they told are now being told to someone else. I did vow to help anyone who asked about their buttons, I was surprised at how cunning and sadly how greedy some button collectors could be to get their hands on one more button. Sad but true. Things have changed in the last 20 years and I barely remember the names of most of the buttons. I'm grateful for the Big Button Book which was the bible on buttons then, I imagine it still is. Good luck all you collectors and don't sell your buttons until you know what you have. It's nice to share of course. It isn't nice to cheat naive collectors who only want to take part in the hunt! As I always said, it's all in the hunt, never the dollar.

  • bluehousebuttons

    bluehousebuttons from bluehousebuttons said 9 years ago

    A most wonderful subject!!! Yay for buttons and thanks for writing this.

  • SusanKJewelry

    Susan Kleinstub from SusanKJewelry said 9 years ago

    I have some vintage button boards if anyone is interested.

  • CatFabricsandButtons

    CatFabricsandButtons from CatFabricsandButtons said 9 years ago

    How Fantastic! Thanks for sharing your story its so informative and inspiring! Love love love buttons, especially bakealite and the pierced buttons like the kitty lizard on the wall etc. I wish I knew things by heart like you do in indentifying and dating etc. its so fasinating. I started collected a little stash and keep finding more and more treasures, I call them my NEW favorites. Thanks for sharing it makes ones heart sing!

  • Motleycouture

    Motleycouture from Motleycouture said 8 years ago

    Love the article and love, love buttons. Can't get enough of them and I am always amazed at what works of art they are. I never get tired of treasure hunting for buttons. motleycouture

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