Button Collecting

Button collecting makes some people wonder what’s so special about it. They don’t think about buttons too much —buttons are ordinary everyday things that make your clothes work and that’s about all there is to say.

Or is there more? Every stylish dresser knows that the classiest outfit is nothing without the right buttons. An ordinary piece of clothing can be transformed into a beautiful garment by just changing the buttons. And for some reason, a jar of mixed buttons in an antique shop or packed away with old sewing materials is as irresistible as a treasure chest. What is it about buttons?

When you start a collection of buttons, you soon learn that buttons can take you to far away places and times. They're a history lesson, because people have been making buttons for thousands of years. Early buttons tell us about the art, clothing, culture, and environment of the people who made and wore them: collecting them creates a window on their lives.

Buttons depicting a far away place or an historical event tell us so much about things we’ve never seen. Buttons from different parts of the world are like coins or flags —symbolic of the place and unique souvenirs.

Button collections have been popular for a long time. Perhaps the earliest collectors were simply practical people who, like many people today, thought they should hang on to stray buttons in case they ever needed one. Lots of people have a collection of buttons, even though they don’t think of it that way. Others collect buttons deliberately; many collect according to a specific theme.

There are people who collect glass, brass, military, antique, handmade, paperweight and pearl buttons —the possibilities are endless and endlessly intriguing. If you started a collection of buttons handmade by living artists —only a tiny fraction of all the buttons ever made— your collection would still never be complete.

In the United States, there is a National Button Society for serious button enthusiasts. The society holds an annual convention where members can meet and share their enthusiasm with those of like mind. If you want to know how to clean and restore old buttons, find out what they’re made of, peruse books about buttons and collecting buttons, or locate button artists affiliated with the National Button Society, this group is happy to share. Join for $25 a year or just visit their website to find out what they are all about. There may also be a local group in your area.

While you’re visiting the National Button Society website, you can also browse the internet for other button collecting sites. Some collectors have their own websites where they share their knowledge and experience.

Some web sites offer various types of buttons for sale or list links to other websites where all collectors of buttons will find useful information and products. Whether you are just beginning a collection, building one already in progress, or looking for a gift for a button collecting friend, the internet is sure to be great source of inspiration – like a treasure chest with something new each time you look. 

Read more about buttons on our antique buttons and political campaign buttons page.

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