Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vintage and Collectible Buttons

Today's post is by Shannon Paasch of The Recyleista is whose niche is everything vintage. Shannon is a great help on the eBay Facebook Group and often helps other sellers identify and price their items.

Before I stumbled across vintage buttons as an online selling niche, I had no idea of how involved this subject was. I took buttons for granted, as items that hold your clothes together. But buttons have been around a long time and there are many different kinds, made out of so many different materials and a collector for all of them! I first purchased a button tin at an estate sale several years ago and thought, “Sewing supplies. I bet I could sell this on Etsy to crafters”. A few months later, I started going through it and I was hooked.

There is such a variety in the colors, materials, sizes and subject matter of buttons.


Bakelite: an early plastic used widely in the 1920s-1940s for a lot of things, not just buttons. Test for Bakelite using either Formula 409 or Simichrome polish. Click here to learn more.

Early plastics: Besides Bakelite, there are also casein, lucite and celluloid buttons

Mother of Pearl: Not really pearl, obviously, but made from the iridescent inner shell layer of certain mollusks. Look for large, carved buttons.

Other materials include: glass, wood, leather, metal, vegetable ivory, rubber and china.


Figurals or realistics. Buttons made in the shape of real items such as flowers, animals, faces, you name it. They can be made from a variety of materials. There are many collectors for these types of buttons.

Uniform buttons. History buffs are interested in metal uniform buttons from military, police, fire department and other uniforms.

Carved. Look for large (1 ½-2 inches) examples in a variety of materials.

Sparkly, rhinestone. Can be set in plastic or glass or metal. People love their bling and buttons are no exception!

There really is no end to the variety and mix of materials of vintage buttons.

You can buy vintage buttons at estate sales, yard sales, antique stores, flea markets, even on Ebay itself. Purchase large lots and then break them down into singles or smaller lots either by material or color. Often the sale of just a few buttons will recover the cost of the entire lot.

Vintage buttons appeal to collectors, crafters and artists. I sell most of my buttons on Etsy where I can reach all of those audiences. There are many successful button sellers on Ebay as well.

Thanks, Shannon! If you would like to contribute a guest post about your eBay or Etsy niche, send me an email at eBaycoach @
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