Carded Vintage Buttons

by Katherine

in Notions

Surely I’m not the only person here who cannot resist a ‘mystery shoe box of sewing bits’ at the flea market. You’re buying the experience of digging through it more than buying what’s in it, but the one I picked up yesterday had 20 sets of carded buttons at the bottom. Here’s a few:

Carded vintage buttons

Carded vintage buttons

One of them is marked ‘Made in Occupied Japan’, so we can pin that card down to sometime between 1945 and 1952 (thank you, history class) but I haven’t been able to find verifiable dates on the others.

I tried to sip from the wisdom well that is the online vintage button community, but ‘love of old buttons’ and ‘easily navigable website’ appear to be mutally exlusive. From my cursory googling, it seems like a button reference book is what’s needed but the standard (delightfully named “The Big Book of Buttons”) is out of print, with existing copies running around $400.

Four hundred dollars. These button people are serious.

Anyone want to take a stab at dating these? Do you have insider info on an awesome vintage button resource?

This post was written by...

– who has written 94 posts on WeSewRetro.com.

I'm the editor at WeSewRetro so don't hesitate to get in touch with any problems or questions. In addition to keeping the good ship WeSewRetro afloat, I do an amateurish but enthusiastic job of raising a toddler, teach university professors how to dominate a computer by day and study for a masters in literature at night. My daily coffee consumption would kill a small horse. I'm having a clandestine relationship with bias binding and my idea of hell is turning a spaghetti strap right side out.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna October 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Did you try seeing if your library has it? They’re good for rare sewing books. Try worldcat.org to see which surrounding libraries have a copy. There’s also The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Buttons by Sally Luscomb, which looks more widely available.

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Katherine October 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Ooohhh, great suggestion! WorldCat just blew my mind a little. The closest ‘Big Book of Buttons’ is at IU in Bloomington (2.5hr drive) but they have a Collector’s Encyclopedia at my local library. I’ll be trotting down there as soon as the baby gets up.

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Caroline October 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm

And Anna entirely beat me to my comment! :D But you might also be able to request the book from IU through your local library using an InterLibrary Loan. The fee (if there is one) is usually minimal, though naturally I can’t guarantee that. Good luck!

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Megan October 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm

i happen to have several of your cards! mine are not in as good condition (the cards anyway). My gramma gave my a flour tin (think gigantic coffee can double high) full of my great gramma’s buttons. I have gone through them many times and my Little Lady loves them too. Based on what I know about my great gramma marguerite the buttons most likely date from the 30′s and 40s when she would have been making clothes for her kids. I have some from the 50′s (think bake-lite) and a handful from the 20′s (think glass and small metal painted ones). once the 50s hit she bought most of her clothing and wouldn’t need a full set of buttons on a card, she would have dug through the enormous can of buttons for a spare. I can take some pics if you want to compare. :) I looooove buttons!

On a side note, the ivory ones would be easy to date too since ivory became illegal to import, use, etc.

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Joni October 29, 2011 at 10:47 pm

No information, but I want to say I share your love of carded buttons. I do try to use them on (vintage) sewing projects rather than just hoarding them! But I always save the card to use as a bookmark.

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NewVintageLady October 30, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Nice collection! Some very amazing graphics.
I too have a rather unhealthy collection of carded buttons. Those are the only ones I’ll collect. My button box has gotten quite large, but I still look everywhere I can :)

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mrsbeevintage December 15, 2011 at 3:57 am

ohh they look fab…i also cannot resist a big box of ‘tat’ as my hubbie calls it :) and recently bought a large rusty biscuit tin of ebay, got into abit of a bidding war , but the thought of a rummage kept me going…not have no money left for christmas pressies :0 but hey the buttons!! there was all sorts dating back to victorian times and many little sets although not carded a good haul which i still havent finished sorting , saving that for a long wet winters night when its too dark to sew. I have also been trying to date things and it’s not easy, i found some information on the web, but the book your looking for was on amazon recently and for a lot less than 400dollars have a look and see if it’s still there. jaxb

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Marin December 20, 2011 at 1:17 am

Hi Katherine, Most of these buttons are from the 1940s except the wood toggle buttons which are more likely from the 60′s or 70′s. The Sitka Ivory card was used with some frequently, and I don’t think the buttons were EVER actually ivory, although usually white or ivory in color. The buttons on your card appear to be plastic. I own Sally’s book as well as the Big Book of Buttons. These buttons won’t be in there, so don’t worry about not owning it! I love the two cards with the people on them. I too have a collection of buttons on cards. They are fun to collect and someone has even written a book about them. The brown buttons seem to be the type commonly referred to as Dress Buttons. Made in the 1940′s, these are often used with feed sack type prints and came in many bright colors. One more way to fend off the ravages of war, I suppose.

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