The Hippo


Jul 23, 2019








Favor buttons from a previous button convention. Courtesy photo.

National Button Society’s National Convention and Show

Where: Radisson Hotel, 700 Elm St., Manchester 
When: Monday, July 27, through Saturday, Aug. 1. Showroom is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. See website for full schedule of presentations and workshops. 
Cost: $5 admission fee per day 

Buttoning up
Button collectors convention comes to Manchester

By Angie Sykeny

 The buttons on display at the annual National Convention and Show in Manchester aren’t your everyday buttons. 

Collectors seek out buttons based on their era, historical significance, culture, material, artistic beauty or even a certain theme, such as cat or dog buttons. In terms of value, buttons can range from 50 cents to several thousand dollars. Most are between $10 and $40.
“If you get into some of the older buttons, ones from the 18th century, you could easily spend a thousand dollars,” show Chair Joan MacFarlane said. “Some of them, particularly ones that were worn by the wealthy men in those days, were gorgeously handmade and very showy. Some of the military buttons are worth a lot of money too, especially if they are in good condition.”
The National Button Society will hold its annual show at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester from Monday, June 27, through Saturday, Aug. 1. Throughout the week, there will be educational presentations and workshops as well as a showroom with buttons on exhibit and for sale.
“There are … over 50 dealers from the U.S. plus several foreign countries,” said Jerry DeHay, assistant publicity chair. “Well over 500,000 buttons to see that most people have never seen before and did not even suspect existed.”
Some collectors will enter their button “trays” in the show competition. A tray in the button world is a cohesive display of carefully selected buttons; MacFarlane said part of the fun of button collecting is “playing around with the buttons,” organizing and classifying them to create a nice-looking exhibit. The competition trays are where you will find some of the rarest, most unique buttons in the showroom.
There will be several special programs throughout the week on a variety of topics. Because the convention is in New Hampshire this year, some programs will focus on historic New England as the birthplace of our nation. “State Militia Buttons of New England” will highlight some of the show’s New England-made military buttons and offer a history of the time periods in which they were used.
“It’s a very multi-faceted hobby,” MacFarlane said. “Collectors love to own the buttons, but they also want to learn about the culture and history behind them. You can learn so much about life [at that time] from a button.”  
The convention attracts not only button collectors, but also craftsmen and artists. In one of the workshops, participants will learn how to make a bracelet out of buttons in under an hour, using a simple, interwoven string design. In another, a local craftsman will explain his process for making his own pewter buttons, from the designs and molds to the casting.
Button collecting can be an addicting hobby, MacFarlane said, and even though the buttons are small in size, many serious collectors have a whole room dedicated to their buttons.
“There will be a lot of people crowding around the tables trying to find that one special button that will make the show for them,” she said. “It’s like a hunt to find whatever button you’re picturing in your head that you want, because there’s so much variety with buttons that you know it’s out there somewhere.”
While much of the convention consists of member business, MacFarlane and DeHay encourage the public to check out the showroom and the educational programs, even if they are new to the button scene.
“We welcome visitors, and our dealers and collectors are extremely friendly and enjoy visiting with folks who are discovering buttons for the first time,” DeHay said.
As seen in the July 23, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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