What Is a Button Club Anyway?

People may wonder what a button club is all about. I can’t speak for other button clubs, but here’s the way our button club works.

What is a Button Club?


We meet in our members homes, usually once a month, but we often end up skipping a month or two during the course of the year when several of our members can’t attend due to other commitments. We have a schedule and each member hosts the meeting in their home once or twice a year. The host is responsible for providing drinks and light snacks for the meeting.

Every meeting has a co-host who is responsible for bringing a dessert for the group and the members each bring their own lunch entree. We hold our meetings on Saturday and start about 10:00 with people arriving throughout the hour. Members put out buttons for sale or trade and the first hour is time for shopping and chatting.

Next we have a business meeting and share updates about upcoming events, news in the button world and any plans our club has for the upcoming state show. During the business meeting we have a door prize. Every member can draw a number to win the door prize by paying a quarter. The more quarters a member gives, the more chances they get to win the door prize. Whoever wins the door prize donates the door prize button for the next meeting. It’s a fun and easy way to build up our club treasury a little each meeting.

After business comes lunch and during lunch we have a “Ten-Minute Tidbit.” Everyone in the club takes one or two turns a year providing a tidbit, which may be showing a recent purchase and identifying something interesting about it or sharing something brief about a button topic. It can be almost anything.

After lunch we have a program, which we also take turns giving. Our club is fortunate to have a large box of prepared programs that any of us can choose from, or we can research a topic ourselves. Everyone knows about the program in advance so they can bring buttons to share on the topic. One of our favorite programs is “Show and Tell” where we each bring buttons or button-related items to share with the group. After the program we shop and visit some more!

You can tell that our club puts a lot of emphasis about learning about buttons. What we all find so much fun is learning about a new type of button at a meeting, then getting interested in collecting that type of button. A new door is opened at every meeting!


New Online Resource for China Buttons

China Buttons Galore

Many years ago, a group of dedicated china button collectors created the China Exchange, an online resource to share information about china buttons from the ordinary to the extraordinary. The site now has a new home located at http://www.chinabuttonexchange.com/  

Visit the site for news in the china button collecting world, to read about a new calico book in the works, to tour the Bapterosses Factory Museum in Briare, France, to view simply stunning china buttons, to discover a list of reading materials, and to uncover places to shop for china buttons.

Inga Ladd and Thomas Skovronsky have a goal of publishing a new calico book and need high resolution scans of about seventy-two rare calico patterns to make this calico book a reality.   Read about The Calico Project for more information and to help.

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: http://www.danforthpewter.com/category/pewter-buttons/a

 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.

You Might Be a Button Collector If…

My mother tells a wonderful story recounting how, more than 30 years ago, when someone asked “What’s new?” she dazedly answered “I think I might be a button collector.”

I, of course, came to button collecting through her, but many collectors are introduced through friends, neighbors, complementary hobbies and very often, happenstance.

In case you are wondering if you might be a heretofore unidentified button collector, here are a few clues.

You might be a button collector if:

  • Your mother, grandmother or other relative had a button box you played with as a child and you have kept her button box.
  • You keep buttons in a jar and you regularly turn the jar to view the buttons or dip your fingers in the buttons because it feels so nice.
  • You haven’t sewn for a long time, but you still buy buttons because you are sure you’ll return to sewing, someday.
  • Someone in your family was a button collector and you’ve inherited their collection but you don’t know what to do with it. You can’t bear to part with it, but you don’t know what to do with it.
  • You’ve bought a piece of clothing you didn’t like all that much, but it had the most amazing buttons!
  • You love button covers, cufflinks, shoe clips, buckles, dress clips, clothing trims and other oddities you can’t quite identify.
  • You think buttons are wonderful, but you are pretty sure that people who actually collect them might be crazy.

Feel free to complete this sentence in the comments: “You Might Be a Button Collector If…”