Guide to Vintage Buttons


Transforming your outfit does not have to be a major project. It’s the little details that can dramatically change a vintage look and the simplest way to do that is with buttons. Buttons are little pieces of art that carry huge historical value. Whether you’re a button collector or just need help altering a garment, you’ll find thousands of buttons of every type of material and size to suit your needs at Isa’s. We even carry vintage designer buttons from Saint Laurent, Chanel and Valentino that can help bring new life to your favorite piece of clothing. It’s important to understand why these tiny pieces can be so valuable.

Why collect buttons?

Button collectors take simple, utilitarian objects taken for granted by millions of people each day and group them into delightful displays that make you stop and think.

What makes a button valuable?

In general, clothing button prices can range from a few cents to a few hundred dollars each. Only rare examples in stellar condition bring high dollar values though. Embellishments like hand painting and enameling on antique French or Victorian buttons can lead them to be worth $200 or more. Old pottery buttons crafted and hand painted by American Indians can also sell in that price range. And, unusual motifs like dancing frogs on an old metal button can bring in $150 to $200 as well.

Types of Buttons

Celluloid:

This rare material is the very first man made plastic. They can be opaque, transparent or both and come in all shapes and sizes. Theses buttons were popular in the early 1900s. The downfall to celluloid is that it is highly flammable.

Bakelite:

Bakelite buttons are highly sought after. It was the first completely synthetic plastic. They are heavier than Celluloid buttons and tend to be more opaque than clear. Today any pieces that were clear and have turned very yellow, they refer to as apple juice Bakelite and opaque buttons which have turned very yellow, are referred to as cream corn Bakelite.

Glass:

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’s death. The majority of glass buttons were made in the Czechoslovakia in the 20th century.

Metal:

Most vintage metal buttons were made from brass or copper. Sterling, Gold or Pewter buttons were much less common. Some metal buttons were ornamental and some were embossed with patterns or pictures.

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