Are Vintage Buttons Valuable?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

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.

Vintage buttons can be highly collectible.
Vintage buttons can be highly collectible.

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.

A collection of vintage metal buttons.
A collection of vintage metal buttons.

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.

Brass buttons that once adorned military uniforms may be valuable.
Brass buttons that once adorned military uniforms may be valuable.

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.

Double-breasted refers to a jacket or coat with two vertical rows of buttons down its front.
Double-breasted refers to a jacket or coat with two vertical rows of buttons down its front.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I have a set of porcelain from 1904.


I have a button collection I inherited from my Grandmother. How can I tell if any of them are valuable?


I have several button covers that are from the 1800 that say "Brakeman" on them in an arch all the way around and a star in the middle. They appear to be made out of silver and are in excellent condition. Are they worth anything I have three that are 1" and five that are 1/2".


I've got some old buttons that my grandpa passed down to me. Some buttons of interest to me are a few Amtrak Superliner buttons as well as some random political campaign buttons at the state and federal level. Is there a market for political buttons even if some of the people on them seem relatively unknown?


I have this tin can of old buttons and i believe it's from the 1920s. i want to know the values. They look like the civil war buttons. Thank you. --Lalaine


I'm very interested in starting a vintage button collection. There's a few trunks of clothing in our attic that are from quite a long time ago, and have been passed down through the family. I think I'll start my search there, but I don't know if I'll actually find anything of value.

Where do I go to buy vintage buttons? Are there special shops, or will any antique store do?


When I was little, my grandma had a tin full of buttons that I loved to look through. Now my children love looking through their grandma's buttons, and she has even given them quite a few. I don't know what it is about buttons that makes them so appealing, but there is something.

I wonder if the bag of buttons my children have now contains a vintage button or two. I've never considered that some of them could actually be worth something. It's probably worth looking through them to see if there is anything interesting. The only problem is that I don't think I would be able to tell a valuable button from one that is worthless.

I wonder if my grandma still has her tin of buttons. It's been years and years since I've seen it. I bet she'd be interested to know that some of them could be worth some money!


I have two buttons 2.8cm diam which I believe to be old. On the brass front is an embossed picture of three figures (bacchanalians?) and a wine cask. On the black back is a number -- 32755. Any ideas?


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