While not everyone is aware, collecting vintage buttons is a hobby that many people enjoy. In some cases, the collections are strictly for fun, but there are serious collectors who actively look for rare, unusual, or antique buttons. Some of these collectibles are actually worth a great deal of money.
In times past, buttons were often created from a wide range of materials, some of them highly prized. In some cases, these unique sewing buttons were fashioned from pearls, opals, and even black sapphires. Often used as much for ornamentation as function, buttons of this type dating back to the 19th century are highly prized and often will sought after by serious collectors.
Along with vintage buttons created from gems, there are also examples cast with metals that are highly desirable. In some cases, it is more the original purpose of the buttons that give them their air of importance. For example, ornate brass buttons that once adorned military uniforms can sell for a substantial amount, especially if the design of the button is unique to a particular branch of military service or a time period of particular importance.
Even Depression-era buttons can be a lot of fun to collect for fun and for profit. While not usually as valuable as buttons made from stones or jewels, these trendy but practical buttons from the 1930s have a lot of nostalgia connected with them. This alone is often enough for the more unique shapes, colors, and sizes to carry an impressive price tag at collector’s shows and conventions.
There are several factors that will drive up the value of any of these buttons. One has to do with the current condition of the object. As is true with many collectibles, it is the items that are well-preserved that command a higher price. In the case of buttons, a set of four that have never been removed from their original packaging are likely to sell for a nice price. Even those that were used at one time but maintained with care will sell very well, however.
The pedigree of the vintage buttons will also impact the current market value. The ability to verify that the buttons come from a gown worn by a major motion picture actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood add to their mystique and their allure for collectors. In a similar manner, brass buttons from the pea coat of a renowned naval officer are also likely to be very attractive and sell for a higher price. Because it can be so hard to establish this level of history for buttons, collectors tend to require a great deal of documentation before agreeing to the asking price.
In some cases, old buttons are sought by fashion designers who want to incorporate something different into their overall designs for the new season. The designers may secure authentic buttons from decades past and use them as models for similar designs constructed with modern materials.
Whatever the case, there is money to be made with vintage buttons. Valuable artifacts may be found in old sewing baskets or stored away in the attic. As with all collectibles, it is a good idea to have the buttons appraised before attempting to sell them on the open market.