Preparing A Tray of China Buttons for Competition

When I began collecting china buttons 15 or more years ago, I received a handout prepared by Denver Elliott, an avid china collector and a successful competitor in china button awards.  The sheets listed Mr. Elliott’s suggestions for preparing a successful entry for a china button award.  I am certain that he would be pleased to share this information with newer china collectors. You may download the article here.

In the intervening years we have of course made new discoveries, but this valuable article requires only slight updating. What has changed since these guidelines were prepared?  As china and china appearing buttons began to be imported from Europe in greater numbers, particularly from France and the region surrounding the Bapterosses factory in Briare, new types have become commonly accepted and perhaps even expected on china tray entries.  There are now in circulation among collectors many additional body shapes featuring the two-way inserted self shank, enough perhaps that a tray of 42 inserted self shanks might be an interesting possibility.  Self shank buttons have also been documented, in several different configurations.

Mr. Elliott’s comment regarding the use of the suspect scallop edge gaiter button is now inappropriate.  Since we have learned that the Bapterosses factory did indeed use glass type ingredients in the manufacture of china button shapes, the question of glass vs. china is no longer an issue in competition.  Tests have also found that stencil buttons, long accepted as chinas, may never have had a porcelain-appropriate formula in their manufacturing process.

Mr. Elliott has not included the truly rare china buttons that every china button collector dreams of possessing, but few actually do.  Omitted from his list of calico shapes are the pin shank and drum examples which we see infrequently on award winning trays.  Under gaiters shapes he does not include the molded imitation sew-thru body type found in both calico patterns and solid body colors.

For additional examples to make your entry even more interesting, you may also refer to several articles in the National Button Bulletin that supplement the Guidelines for Collecting China Buttons.  One article preceded the publication of our text and includes images of a calico jewel, and three other examples of china jewels with other than a calico pattern, none of which are pictured or described in Guidelines.  You may see them in the May 1952 issue in an article on the proposed china classification. Later additions of accepted china styles may be found in issues dated March-April 1971 (Off-beat type body style 9), November-December 1971 (new stencil designs), May-June 1972 (stencil #17 with gold and multicolored saucerlike hollow eye buttons), and July 1985 (transfer patterns).

Our updated classification also suggests a new way to describe and organize your china buttons, and to submit them for an award.  Consideration should be given to body base color, surface decoration color and decorative finishes.  Refer to the National Button Society Classification booklet Section 3.

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