China Buttons are my Thing!

China buttons are a natural jumping off point for a beginning button collector– as the first mass produced porcelain button they can be found in a variety of great colors, patterns and shapes. And, rarities aside, they are usually affordable. Guidelines for Collecting China Buttons, published by the National Button Society in 1970, has been THE reference for china collectors but is regrettably out of print. The text was the work of collectors Ruth Lamm, Beatrice and Lester Lorah, Helen W. Schuler, Lillian Smith Albert and Jane Ford Smith. Currently there are no plans to rewrite this essential book on china buttons–the volume of material to republish, and the additional information that should be included in a new text, seem overwhelming.

In this space I would like to offer excerpts from the original text and attempt to re-create and expand upon its black and white plates of button types, transforming them into bright internet-color. (Note: I am finding as I work through this project that I am: 1- inconsistent; 2-occasionally incorrect; 3- still enthusiastic).

Content of Guidelines for Collecting China Buttons:

Chapter One: Essential Data Concerning China Buttons, by Lillian Smith Albert and Jane Ford Adams


Chapter Two: China Buttons with Complex Construction

  1. Gaiter Buttons
  2. Shoe Buttons, Smock Buttons
  3. China Bird Cages (Inserted Four-Way Self Shanks)
  4. China Buttons with Inserted Two-Way Self Shanks
  5. China Whistle Buttons
  6. The Elusive Igloo Button


Chapter Three: Two-Hole China Buttons

  1. Two-Hole Hollow-Eye China Buttons
  2. Deepwell China Buttons
  3. Two-Hole China Button with Smooth Beveled Rim
  4. Tire Shape
  5. Two-Hole China Buttons with Radiating-Line Rims
  6. China Buttons with Oval Eyes
  7. Fisheye China Buttons
  8. Panty-Waist Chinas
  9. Pattern-Eyes


Chapter Four: Four-Hole China Buttons

  1. Four-Hole China Buttons with Smooth Beveled Rims (Dish Type, Ink Wells)
  2. Saucer-Type
  3. Four-Hole China Buttons with Rolled Rims (Tire Type, Tire Type Variants
  4. Off-Beat Types (Body Style 6, Body Style 7)
  5. Sew-Through China Buttons with Radiating-Line Rims
  6. Four-Hole China Buttons with Hobnail Rims


Chapter Five: Three-Hole China Buttons

  1. Dish Type
  2. Ink-Well Type
  3. Saucer Type
  4. Tire Type
  5. Plate Shape
  6. Scalloped Edge
  7. Back Interest
  8. Radiating-Line Rim Type
  9. Hobnail Type


Chapter Six: Calico and Gingham Buttons


Chapter Seven: Another China Button Sample Case Saved


Chapter Eight: China Stencil Designs