Today’s Buttons – Tomorrow’s Collectibles (Bead & Button Article)

Collecting New Buttons

My mom, who is also my Button Mentor, always checks out the new buttons in the fabric and craft stores when she’s nearby. In comparison to the beautiful picture buttons she collects, the new buttons seem so insubstantial and dare I say it – cheap! She gently reminds me, however, that we often overlook what we perceive as common today that we will appreciate in years to come.

Shirley Hutson has written about this exact topic in the latest issue of Bead & Button Magazine here, and points out that new buttons are not only affordable, they also are great buttons to entice Junior Button Collectors to jump in.

For National Button Society Members: A New Members-Only Section


A Note From the National Button Society Membership Clerk, Susan Porter:

The “Members Only” section of our NBS website was officially launched at our 75th Anniversary Show in Appleton this last week.  Those attending the launch presentation were enthusiastic.

Please note that a current email address is required before you can log on.  If you have not provided your email address or have not updated it recently please contact the NBS secretary to provide that information.

At the launch instructions were provided for setting up a password which is required for logging (on or in) to the site.  You can find those instructions and information about what is include on the “Members Only” site on our public site page.

Click here to see what the site has to offer.

Click here for your logon instructions.

Please feel free to duplicate and provide this information to your local club members.  All NBS Members should find the site useful!

Editor’s Note: membership in the National Button Society is not a prerequisite for membership in the North Carolina State Button Society.

A Pooh and Piglet Button Courtesy of Button Central

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that they have a small china Button stuck in their ear.”
Pooh — at Hundred Acre Wood

This is a Danforth Pewter Button, check out their website:

 Their buttons are reasonably priced – most $3.95!

"If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient.  It may simply be that they have a small china Button stuck in their ear."-Pooh

What is pewter? (from the Danforth website)Danforth pewter is made of the finest lead-free alloy of tin, copper and antimony. The tin imparts a fine sheen and malleability. Over time and with use, your pewter will develop a wonderful patina. Due to the high quality of pewter alloy we use, Danforth pewter contains no lead and therefore is safe for food and drink, meeting or exceeding FDA food safety standards. Bon Appetit!
  • Pewter will last for generations if cared for properly.
  • Many collectors feel that pewter benefits from handling as it develops a distinctive, warm patina the more it is used.
  • Though certain conditions will cause pewter to oxidize and darken, pewter does not tarnish like silver and copper. Pewter can be cleaned with warm soapy water, rinsed, then towel dried with a soft cloth. Do not wash pewter in an automatic dishwasher as the heat and detergent can be harmful to the piece.
  • There are various pewter cleaners and polishes available to maintain your pewter. Danforth recommends and sells Mish pewter cleaner.
  • Pewter should never be used in an oven, microwave or on the stovetop and should not be exposed to a direct flame.

Sand Dollars and Starfish Buttons – Where Do They Fit in the Button Classification?

Hand Painted Brass Realistic Starfish Button

The National Button Society publishes what is commonly called “The Blue Book”, which organizes buttons into categories based on size, material, construction, pictorials, patterns, usage and surface decoration. Formally called the “NBS Classification & Glossary’, it is mailed to members in hard copy, and is available without charge to download here. The version that is currently in use (yes, it changes all the time) is 2013-2017.

For those button collectors who compete, the Blue Book is the guide to understanding how buttons are classified, and the correct way to utilize them in competition.

Recently on Button Bytes, the online button club, there was a discussion I found fascinating on where starfish and sand dollars fit into the Blus Book classification.

The award that was being discussed was NBS #130 for 2013 and it reads like this:

130. Cl. 17-1 + 17-3 + 17-4.2 + 17-4.4, + 17-6, 25 Any size. Animals that live in the water or use bodies of water as a majority of their living environment. No balance required between classes and subclasses, No limit on realistics. Mitzi Lovell. $5-3-2.

Here are the sections of the Blue Book that relate to this award:
17-1 Amphibians. Tadpoles are acceptable unless excluded by award.
17-3 Fish. Should be recognizable as fish but need not be identifiable unless specified in the award. Includes seahorses but not starfish.
17-4.2 Crustaceans (lobsters, shrimp, crabs, etc.)
17-4.4 Mollusks. Includes shells of mollusks. clams, oysters, snails, other shelled animals, octopuses, squid, etc.) Even if the shell is the only part of the animal visible, it is assumed to be occupied by a living creature. If the shell is obviously empty (half a bivalve), it belongs in Sec. 18.

In trying to find as many possible “animals that live in the water or use bodies of water as a majority of their living environment” that fit into the descriptions above, a discussion arose about starfish and sand dollars.

Hand Painted and Glazed Porcelain Starfish Button

Do starfish fit in any of the above categories?

Starfish are echinoderms and are related to sea cucumbers and sea urchins. It was determined that the star fish would be classified as 17-4 (Invertebrates assorted. Includes all animals without a backbone) but award number 130 does NOT include 17-4.

Sand Dollars (Not Buttons)

What about sand dollars?

Most of us think of sea urchins as those tiny little creatures with the long dark spiny coats we see on the sea floor during a National Geographic special on TV or at the bottom of the tank at our local aquarium.

A Button Bytes member pointed out that there is a very flat sea urchin with tiny ‘velvet-like’ spines on its surface, which is actually called a sand dollar. When it’s alive and doing well the color of the velvety spines is dark green, dark brown, perhaps almost black.  When it dies, all the velvety spines fall off leaving the flat, white sand dollar that we find in seaside gift shops.

So, where do sand dollars belong?

  • Buttons with white sand dollars are showing the skeleton of the animal and that’s an object.
  • Buttons with any other color sand dollar would be assumed to be alive and that goes under general invertebrates, 17-4.  Most would assume if the animal is shown in the base material (not white) such as stamped brass or a Moonglow, without any added coloring, it’s alive, too.

Neither star fish nor sand dollars would buttons that would fit in this award as the category they belong in (17-4) is not included in this award.

Getting More Out of Your Fun Buttons

The folks at Glitter ‘n Glue have a neat little tutorial on making rings out of buttons. Now before you get all uppity and let me know that real collectors don’t harm buttons to make jewelry, let me remind you of all the poor languishing buttons in your collection that:

  • aren’t valuable
  • probably would never be used for a button tray or display
  • you haven’t looked at in years

Why not get those buttons out and wear them! It’s great advertising for our hobby (you know people will ask you about it) and you’ll have a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry.

If you still can’t bear to cut off a shank or glue a button, use a sew-though button and affix it with museum putty, which doesn’t leave any residue on the button.

Here’s the rings-out-of-buttons tutorial.