The month of March means a few different things to various people. If you’re a fan of college basketball, it’s likely you are well acquainted with “March Madness.” If you are Irish (or really wish you were), you may be partial to March 17. In the United States, March is also Women’s History Month. In addition to these exciting celebrations, the month of March also hosts National Button Week.
This special week, slated for March 15 through March 21, was organized in 1989 by the
National Button Society. The goal is to bring greater awareness about button collecting and to recognize the historical study and display of antique and collectible buttons. During the month of March, there are five regional button society shows in the U.S. In all, there are nearly 40 U.S. button society shows/conventions slated for 2015.
One of the most important things to know about button collecting is that starting a collection does not require a lot of money, said Jerry DeHay, assistant director of publicity for the National Button Society.
“At shows there will be ‘poke boxes’ with a wide variety of buttons in them from as little as 25 cents to $5,” said DeHay.
Not unlike stamp and coin collectors, button collectors often collect by subject matter (animals, flowers, characters) or material (brass, silver, silk, porcelain, glass), according to the book, “Buttons: Art in Miniature” by Stefan O. Schiff.
“The magnitude of the variety available in buttons when you combine materials, design/subject matter and workmanship goes way beyond anything available in coins and stamps,” DeHay said. “That is why we have many ‘general button collectors’ who strive to build a collection with good examples of as many variants as possible, but also many who specialize in specific types of buttons as determined by material, subject matter or any combination thereof.”
One of the best ways to understand the diversity of buttons is to attend a show. Accompanying this article are three winning trays from the 2014 National Button Show, hosted by the National Button Society, which was founded in 1938. The values of the buttons pictured range from $10 to $500, depending on a combination of factors including material age/history, subject matter, condition and rarity and desirability, according to DeHay.
As with many collectibles, the value of buttons is cyclical. However, in general, buttons have steadily increased in value over the long haul and have held their value during economic downturns better than a lot of other antiques and collectibles, DeHay reports.
The next time you come across an antique or vintage button, take a few minutes and take a closer look at these miniature marvels. You may discover a new collecting interest there.
For more information about National Button Week (March 15-21, 2015), the 2015 National Button Society Show (July 27-Aug. 1, 2015 in Manchester, N.H.) and regional Society shows in your area, visit www.nationalbuttonsociety.org.