The button-with its self-contained roundness and infinite variability-has a quiet perfection to it. Running a cascade of buttons through your fingers feels satisfyingly heavy, like coins or candy; their clicking whoosh and blur of colors lull you. A button packs an extraordinary amount of information about a given time and place-its provenance-onto a crowded little canvas. The earliest known button, writes Ian McNeil in An Encyclopedia of the History of Technology , "was originally used more as an ornament than as a fastening, the earliest known being found at Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley [now Pakistan]. It is made of a curved shell and about years old.
The property has been vacant since. The area was overgrown and difficult, but I found a cellar hole. I fought some brush to get a few swings to test the dirt, and came up with a spoon and this button in ten minutes and some pieces parts that still need cleaning. This leaves me very optimistic for a fall return. Is this what is called a tombac button? Additionally, would I be accurate to date this from late s to very early s? CSA plate. Timothy's Hall button. Confederate buckle.
Washington Inaugural Button. Colonial Dig. Finders not Keepers - Big honking ring found! Possibly not exactly a tombac, can't tell about the metal, but pretty sure.
ToastedWheatie likes this. The "tombac" name which most diggers use for the latters-to-earlys greyish-silvery metal buttons is actually White Tombac. In addition to the usual copper and zinc alloy of regular tombac, White Tombac contains a bit of the metal Arsenic, which turns the golden-colored regular tombac to silvery-grey which when highly polished can look very close to silver.
The photos below show a Canada 5-cent coin made of regular tombac, and a Romanian commemorative Vlad Tepes coin made of White Tombac in this case, highly polished to resemble silver. Your button has the form of a White Tombac button - but I've never seen a White Tombac corroded like yours is, scaling and flaking and chalky grey.
That kind of corrosion is typical of pewter, so that's what I think you've got. It's still a latters-to-earlys button. ToastedWheatieBigcypresshunter and Spats like this. Most vintage metal buttons were made from brass or copper. Sterling, Gold or Pewter buttons where much less common. Some brass or copper buttons had a painted or enameled finish.
One of the most sought after metal buttons are brass picture buttons from the Victorian era. Some metal buttons were ornamental and some were embossed with patterns or pictures. There are metal buttons from the revolutionary war through the civil war era that were on military uniforms. Many of these have military symbols on them. There are actually many of these metal "picture" type buttons.
Sometimes they will have writing on the back. This will help with identifying them. You may need to clean them off with a polishing cloth to see what metal they are but be gentle on painted metal buttons so you won't rub the paint off.
A button made of pewter will leave a mark on white paper if you scrape it across the paper. There are tons of different pictures on metal buttons. To see which ones are most collectable, look for books or guides on identifying what the pictures represent. Some places said if it is a button made entirely of metal it is okay to wash off with mild detergent but make sure to dry completely as some of these can rust.
Others that are made of multiple materials or have enamel overlay's it is best to use a soft cloth to lightly polish. Many black glass buttons were made during the Victorian era.
These black colored glass buttons were made to imitate the true jet buttons that Queen Victoria wore during her time of mourning her husband, Price Albert's death. The majority of glass buttons made during the 20th century were made in what is now Czechoslovakia, handmade by skilled button makers. In to popular styles of glass buttons include pictorial, cut crystal and realistics which is like pictorials. Art Deco styles started to appear during the Art Deco period.
Through the years the button production slowed and then started again and skilled button makers refined their skills. Some of the most beautiful, colorful glass buttons came from Czechoslovakia. Today many vintage glass buttons are referred to as Czech glass. To identify if a button is made from glass or not is to lightly bump it against your tooth or a glass table.
It will clink if it is real glass. I've seen several different suggestions to clean these. One was if the button is just plain glass that washing in mild soap and water is fine but the ones that have a iridescent finish or may have a coating, just wipe gently with a soft cloth. These buttons were sturdy and made for frequently worn clothing like men's work shirts. These were manufactured in Europe, England and also in the United States from the years of to the s.
They were mainly white with sometimes a calico pattern and some had a what looked like a stenciled pattern on them. Some had beautiful paintings on them. They came in all shapes and sizes and could be quite colorful. The patterned China buttons were made to compliment patterned textiles made during that time. They became popular and were not overly expensive. These are all sew through buttons and many had stencil-like patterns or colored decals on them.
They have that smooth porcelain feel to them. Many of the older ones from the Victorian era were more plain. Clean using a soft bristled toothbrush and then wipe and polish with a soft cloth. These buttons have a pretty translucent sheen on them of a rainbow of colors.
Some were made to be in their natural state and others were mixed with other materials like rhinestones or metals. Some were dyed and some were painted with images. These buttons feel heavier than other buttons yet some of these could be very thin. The MOP buttons that have intricately carved patterns on them tend to be valuable to button collectors.
One way to identify a real MOP button is to put it against your cheek. Real MOP buttons will be very cold against your cheek. Some have noticeable layers of thin ridges or lines on them. On many you can also see brown shell markings on the back.
You can clean these using a soft toothbrush and then polishing with a little bit of mineral oil. They say not to wash these with mild soaps and water because it will cause the colorful layer to come off.
Using mineral oil and wiping them with a soft cloth will help restore their beautiful luster. These were very sturdy carved buttons. Back in the day, there was plenty of bone and it was very easy to carve. They were made from animal bones, mainly cattle.
As time went on imitation bone buttons were massed produced but there are ways to tell if it is a authentic bone button. The true old bone buttons will have yellowish to light brown hue to them. Bone buttons were heavier than plastic buttons. They are comparable to glass buttons as far as weight. They will have uneven holes and inside the holes will be a brownish color. They can have up to three holes but the button holes will not be close together.
Many will have two holes widely spaced apart. Bone buttons also have a very dry feel to them. Although the button will feel very smooth, If you look at it with a magnifying glass it should have very tiny small holes all over it. A set of bone buttons will never be the same size, only approximately. The way to clean these buttons is to wipe off with a soft cloth or you can take a lemon and slice it in half and dip it in salt and then rub it on the buttons, wipe with damp cloth and let dry.
The majority of vintage cloth-covered buttons were round and they came in all sizes from very tiny to super large. They were made in different colors as well as different patterns and types of fabrics. There were also buttons that were made from leather, shank and all.
You can pretty much identify a fabric covered button. The important thing is if you clean it, be very careful not to to scrub on the fibers. Vintages fabrics can disintegrate easily. It is suggested to slosh them around in a container with mild soap and water without any scrubbing, rinse well and pat dry. Then finish drying them completely with a hair dryer on low or no heat or set them outside to air dry. It's best to take the safest route when cleaning vintage buttons.
One of the most common "keepers" metal detectorists dig is buttons. This is especially true at sites which predate the turn of the 20th century. Most of these fall into one of several types: one-piece flat buttons, two-piece buttons, pewter buttons, or tombac buttons. Each of these button types requires a different cleaning and preservation method. May 31, Is this a Tombac button? Hello everyone! Last weekend I found this button. Can anyone tell me if this is a Tombac button? Friend says that it could be from the 's. Here is a link to some pictures of some tombac buttons. Notice how the shank is attached. #4 , PM. Jun 14, The button-with its self-contained roundness and infinite variability-has a quiet perfection to it. Running a cascade of buttons through Author: Jude Stewart.
Just about every source recommended a dry soft cloth for most of the buttons. Some places said NO water at all and others said it was okay to use it on some.
The suggestions I wrote were just a compilation of suggestions from several different sites.
There are other types of vintage buttons but I've covered many of them. I need to add that I am not a button expert- not at all. This is just the information I have found through my own research from what I felt were trusted antique button resources.
The photos are actual photos of the buttons I recently acquired. If anyone reads this that has experience with antique buttons I would love to hear from you and get your input. Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.
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Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites. Buttons are like one of my favorite childhood memories. Wonderful DIY resource. Thanks for your excellent research and footwork.
Thank you so much for the information.
Have had these buttons for several years and now have time to learn about them. House arrest, lol, the coronavirus19 that makes couch potatoes of us all. Enjoyed and was taught a lot. TY for your article it was very helpful I recently inherited my great gmothers button collection which is extensive and need help pricing it.
Do you do that sort of consulting work? The first two pictures, I'm pretty sure show casein and later plastic buttons, some from as late as the 60s and maybe even the 70s. I used to be a fanatical button collector and I have a massive collection that I am just starting to dispose of.
I haven't really thought about buttons for so so long and as I was describing some of mine I couldn't remember whether they were Celluloid Tight Tops or Drums. Is there an easy way to distinguish between the two other than by shape? I'm pretty sure both types have metal backing and the Bubble Glows are easy to distinguish but some if the others are trickier. Anyone out there have any hints or hard and fast rules? Also some of mine are large Stardust Bakelite Circa When the Applejuice glitter piece has a solid block of bakelite inserted, what is that style called?
Please appreciate it is 15 years since I've looked at these buttons and I can't find any comparable pictures on line to help. I have a few.
DAACS CATALOGING MANUAL: BUTTONS Tombac Unidentifiable Wood Button Material, Face "Button Material, Face" is used for two-piece buttons. These buttons often have insets - the main material is that which comprises the back and sides of the button, and the inset material is the "ButtonFile Size: KB. These are one-piece buttons of various ages. Here's a closer view at the tombac (also shown above) back. Notice the back retains the silvery grey color the metal originally had where the front shows brassing. There is material from the shank insertion that sort of squishes out around the thick wire shank, this is typical of tombac shank.
I did the check and they do smell like cod liver oil. Oh my! I need to go back to work lol, I'm nowhere near a button collector pandemic but I found these buttons I have and almost feel like sterling silver metal and I also have a some feel like a pewter. Do any one here want to buy them?
You can pm me at. However the first two pics are not. I am sure the author was well intentioned. However this type of misinformation spreads like a virus. I am a professional archaeologist. I recently conducted a survey of a 19th century Apache encampment located within Guadalupe Mountains, Texas.
One of the recovered artifacts is a brass button with a train steam engine design; the engine appears to be a type used during the Civil War era. The Apache encampment was probably in use up until circathe area then utilized by a rancher up until the early 20th century. Could this button type date to the period when the Apaches occupied this area, or does the button post-date ? Also, please provide a published reference. Second: There is next to no information if you aren't a member.
Norma: You can sell them on Etsy. Don't try. You won't get what they're worth. Etsy buyers appreciate the details of vintage items, not just getting the cheapest price.
dating button shanks
I recently purchased a few lots of NOS new old stock - unused glass buttons. My first foray into vintage buttons.
And a few are definitely Art Deco. Most of the clear are like cut crystal, some with gold highlights like I see in your photo. The seller extremely reputable said 's or older. They like to be on the conservative side. They look older to me. You can find out a lot about buttons at the nationalbuttonsociety. There are meeting in states all across the country and lots of info.
This is a good condensed hand book on Button collecting-is there a printed copy avaivailable? I have what appears to be a button- metallic on one side, with a hole in the middle, with a black and white photo on the other side. It is of a woman with an early twentieth -century hair-do, I believe. Maybe late nineteenth century. Was this sort of thing common? What was its purpose? Is their someone in the world that I can send a photograph of a button to know its vintage and kind.
Hi all! I hope I don't come across wrong by asking this I have a huge collection of buttons that I've purchased over a period of several years and from time to time I sell my duplicates on. I haven't worked in a few years due to my chronic health issues getting worse so it helps supplement my husband's income. Funds get really tight in the winter due to my husband being a commercial fisherman so my goal is to start selling buttons regularly from home while I continue pursuing my career dream, which is to become a silversmith.
I have purchased the tools and other items I need for my studio over the past several years, but due to our financial situation getting alot worse since I stopped working, I haven't had the opportunity to finish setting up shop I still need several tools and silver.
Help with dating my Tombac button please! Post by m00nscanner Sat Feb 16, pm. Thank you for looking! I would appreciate an educated guess as to the age range of my Button. Convexed plain front with sand-cast texture. Slightly concaved with rim. The eyelet is of copper. Jul 06, I've had my eye on a spot that I research a few years ago, and finally got to today. Home was owned by a doctor in , and the home no longer. Jan 20, Jamie loves writing about DIY projects, decorating on a budget, craft ideas, and creative ways to reuse and upcycle products. I recently purchased 10 pounds of vintage buttons. The seller said they were old, but I didn't realize just how old they were. There were many yellow and brown toned buttons that I am pretty sure used to be jankossencontemporary.coms:
If there is anyone looking to donate a button collection, it would mean everything to me if you'd keep me in mind! I don't have much left for duplicates and would really love to start selling buttons full time until I get my studio up and running better yet, until I start selling my jewelry.
I'm sure I can find a way to atleast cover the shipping cost. I'm just shy of 40 years old and desperate to make a better future for myself.
I've been through far more than my fair share of trials and tribulations in life and I'm just so ready to become the person I'm meant to be.
Any button donations would be beyond appreciated! You can reach me at: newdaysaredawning gmail. I went metal detecting and found a button, it says its got kk a cross at the top lot of design. I have identified a few of my buttons as whistle buttons, two holes on the bottom and one whole on the top.
I think buttons are fascinating! Great article I have recently started to use buttons in my jewlwery making Very informative. I recently inherited over 9 lbs. Of buttons.
I have questions regarding some of these and I can't find anything for some the buttons I have. My grandfather who passed away 24 years ago and bought them at an auction in the early 's.
If you could help or answer some questions, I'd greatly appreciate it. I washed one of my buttons and now it smells faintly of old fish, any ideas what it could be made of?
My parents owned a costume buisness when I was little, 40 years ago. This is so helpful, thank you! I have 3 black plastic Girl Scout buttons. I have not been able to find any information about them.
Can you help? I have unearthed a 2 hole lead button near some battlefields in Scotland of Cromwell era.
Each button has a small picture of what looks to be victorian age men and women. Each button has one person and each button has a different person.
They look to be very old. Any thoughts? There is one large and three smaller ones. Can anyone help me? Navy uniform button. A Paris backmark. The shank is an elongated U shape and is quite distinctive. Here's an interesting pressed horn button for the American Red Cross, an early example.
Many are found in vegetable ivory. Notice the tell-tale "pick mark" on the back of this horn button. This is one of the things to look for with horn, also notice the striations of this natural material present with age. These are one-piece buttons of various ages. Here's a closer view at the tombac also shown above back. Notice the back retains the silvery grey color the metal originally had where the front shows brassing.
There is material from the shank insertion that sort of squishes out around the thick wire shank, this is typical of tombac shank construction. Tombacs are widely considered to be 18th century buttons.
Dating tombac buttons
Here are more one-piece buttons, their back construction and back marks. The bright gold colored one is a dress trade issue to commemorate the Moon Landing. One is a Third Reich Nazi issue. Some uniform buttons are found in pressed vegetable ivory.
This is the Great Seal, today's Army button since