About the Collectors

Judye Stewart
I first attended a button presentation in the spring of 1998 and I knew that I was hooked when the presenter mentioned and described china calico buttons. She didn't have any to show so I used my new computer to find Jody Behrbaum's China Calico website. I now collect all types of china buttons but whistles are my current favorites. I live on a small ranch in the Texas Hill Country and I am a member of a button club in a neighboring town. My current favorite china buttons are a brown and black Greek key whistle and an igloo with a blue mottled disk and a white dome.

BJ Smyers

I am from Fort Worth, TX. I started collecting buttons in 1993 when my Treasure Hunter husband (Jess) brought me a bag of Pearl buttons from one of his digs. He found the buttons in a rats nest while hunting inside the foundation of a Victorian home that had been torn down in Cleburne, TX. We had a great time speculating about how generations of these Pack Rats had been stealing buttons to pad their nest from the occupants of this home. I bought the book "Button Button" and was intrigued by the history of buttons. I soon learned that there was such a thing as a button club and I have been hooked ever since. I belong to the Fort Worth Button Club and NBS. I collect all buttons but a dear friend (Bobby McBay) introduced me to Chinas and they became my quest. I enjoy collecting all of the China catagories but especially enjoy locating a hard to find or unlisted species. I have even taught my husband to spot them. When he finds a China while hunting it is still in great shape unlike other buttons that have deteriorated from being exposed to the elements. My favorite Chinas that I own are a card of mediums that I won a Merit at a Texas State Show. I am always trying to upgrade it with an unexpected find. The best thing I have found about collecting Chinas is the good friends that I have made.

George Gauthier

I started collecting buttons after attending many button shows (no good deed ever goes unpunished) with my late wife, Joy, and suddenly realized that it was as much fun as stamp and coin collecting with probably more chance for creativity than the latter. Stamp collectors often strive for completeness in a collection since every variety of stamp is listed in standard catalogs. The chinas and calicos/stencils in particular had such descriptions of each known variety and I was drawn to them and spend many hours searching for the hard to find ones. We have a nice overall china collection and my calicos consist of ~287 of the 327 known varieties accumulated in 10 years. The remaining ones are getting tougher to find. My nicest is a 15/16th inch #251 which is far more beautiful than the fragment picture shown in the standard picture. I work very hard at being able to distinguish between the often very similar varieties. I have offered to start accumulating examples of pictures of "beyond 327" calicos for possible future publication and have several examples from members of our china group. We are members of the Nutmeg and Owaneco Clubs in Connecticut and the Connecticut State Button Society and Massachusetts Button Society as well as National Button Society. We are strictly collectors. (Updated January 26, 2014)

Jody Behrbaum

I got started in collecting buttons in 1997 when I was looking for an antique to collect that a) would not take up much space, and b) was not too expensive (if you're a button collector, you can laugh at that requirement!). While browsing at a local antiques shop, I saw a dish of matching glass buttons and thought they would be a good candidate. I didn't buy those buttons, but I did go to the bookstore and found Peggy Osbourne's "Button Button" book. I brought that home and in looking through it, was intrigued by the calicoes (they were described as having been used on pioneers' clothing and I have always enjoyed the overland trail diaries), and a couple of other types of buttons that I don't really remember now. While I was debating starting a collection, a visit to another antiques shop forced my decision - there was a single calico button for 25 cents. After that, I started collecting calicoes in earnest. I joined the National Button Society, bought the china book, and soon after created the China Calico Buttons web site. Through the web site, and the hobby itself, I've met some wonderful people who have become very good friends. My main focus is still on calicoes, but along the way I've been accumulating other types of china buttons. In addition to the National Button Society, I am a member of the California State Button Society (my home state), and the China Exchange. I love collecting china buttons, but I have also found great fun in researching the history behind them.

Karen Kline

I inherited my Grandmothers buttons about 1970. I had been exposed to buttons my whole life, but never really looked at them. After I got them, I started identifying the picture buttons etc. with the help of her notes and the many books she had. Grandmother had them pretty much sorted. I did not care much for the metal buttons; glass was so-so; uniform buttons too complicated; gay 90's neat; pearls - oh so many; black glass - again so many; realistics - now those I liked especially the animals. Then I got to the chinas,in boxes, on cards, on paper plates, etc. These were neat buttons that could be washed and identified. Right from the start, they were my favorite. I have digressed from the chinas at times to hunt for bakelite, celluloid wafers (esp. celluloid 30's), more realistics (all materials) and even some glass. Since developing some VERY NEAT china collector friends, I have come back to the chinas. I enjoy the competition we have in Texas. I am in awe at the willingness of all china collectors to share. I have one major personality fault and that is "I WANT THEM ALL".

Lindy Miller

I became interested in china buttons in 1995. I was studying clothing worn during the 1850’s for everyday working folks, and I wanted to know what kind of buttons they used. A friend thought they used calico buttons and showed me some that he had collected. I was charmed! He went to a big antique show that November and bought me my first 5 calicoes. I joined the NBS, got “The China Book” and have been researching and collecting ever since. I learned to make reproductions of the buttons to use on period costumes and offer them to the Civil War Re-enactor community. I have learned a lot about calicoes and the china button family, met wonderful people in button collecting and found some great friends. While calico buttons are my favorites, I am also drawn to the intriguing ‘birdcage’. My collecting includes finding antique clothes that still have their calico buttons sewn on them, which is a real challenge. I can’t imagine ever selling my buttons, but I do like to share and trade. I live in the Gold Rush country in Northern California. I wear 1850’s style dresses to work everyday, and I love to talk about china buttons every chance I get.

Janet White

I am a farmer's daughter, raised in the Salinas Valley, Salad Bowl of the Nation. I have lived in Oregon and Missouri. I live with my husband and an aging dog fifteen miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. I discovered buttons almost 10 years ago, cutting black glass buttons off a vintage rayon blouse in the process of transforming it into a witch's robe. I found the Santa Clara Valley Button Club, joined it and the California State Button Society and NBS in 1993, and saw my first china buttons. Their simplicity, range of colors, and the fact that someone had "organized" them appealed to me. I am more an addict than a student, and love finding each new example. Besides chinas, I collect and play with happy juvenile buttons, paper goods and fabrics, all evidence of my refusal to grow up.

Erma Juergensen

I am so pleased to have a group for us china button collectors. I have collected buttons since the early 1960s and have always had a great love for the chinas. I had a favorite story in a grade school reader about a family buying some "Turkey red calico" fabric. Perhaps that was the beginning of my interest in calico's! I have entered in the Iowa competition but once I get a tray put together I find it hard to remove buttons for a different entry. Please keep sharing and caring!

Diane M. Whisnant

I first became interested in button collecting after hearing Ann Olson give a talk one year ago, in March of 2001, and have been hooked ever since. I live in Iowa and am a member of the Cyclone Country Button Collectors, the Iowa State Button Society, and NBS. My first convention was Denver in 2001--wow--and I also attended the china gathering there--what fun to meet you other china collectors! When I'm not playing with buttons, I enjoy tatting, collecting tatting shuttles, and beading.

Julia Coons

I have collected buttons for probably close to 40 years now, but for at least 15 of those years, I ONLY collected china calicoes. I knew nothing about them aside from that I liked them. Whenever I encountered buttons, I bought only the calicoes or if I found myself having to buy more, I got rid of the others- hmmm- wonder what I got rid of now? Back then it was easy to find buttons too-calicoes might cost only 5˘ each. One day in the early '80s, a lady sold me a Whitman's Candy box full of black glass which I bought to sell in my store. Another lady came in and wanted to buy them for less than I had paid for them and that was the day I decided to collect all types of buttons starting with black glass. The next day I bought a champlevé enamel and here I am today. Up to the black glass day, my calicoes only filled one little box- the kind checks are in when mailed to you, nothing terribly unusual other than some dark bodied ones, but they remain my favorite type of buttons still and I have been fortunate to add to that first accumulation.

I was born and and raised in Iowa , living there until the mid-'70s when I moved to Utah where I am now. I am married, have 3 grown children, 3 grandchildren and a beautiful cat Mabel and her good dog Mildred. I am a Life Member of the NBS for several years now and a charter/founding member and current VP of the Wasatch Button Club here in Salt Lake City, Utah.

An interesting story: my ex-mother-in-law also decided to start collecting buttons in the '80s and had managed to get ahold of a back issue of the NBS Bulletin. She wrote to several dealers asking if they would please send her a list of the buttons they were willing to sell. (QUIT LAUGHING!) Well, she received a letter from Louie & Johnny and said they were, at that time, unable to get a list together but as they would be travelling to the East Coast and in studying the road maps, it appeared that they would be passing through Utah on a certain day and they would be happy to stop for a few hours and let us look at the buttons they had for sale and we could make our own list. That event was the first meeting of the Wasatch Button Club and I want to tell you everyone wishes we'd had the foresight to at least audio-tape it. It went from about 6 pm until at least midnight with many many screams and shreiks. It was something I will never forget. I spent $30 on buttons-thought I had bankrupted the family. I even took the buttons to work with me the next day and looked at them several times each hour and made everyone there look at them.

Audrey Paulson

I have collected buttons since I was a little girl. Both of my grandmothers were seamstresses. My maternal grandmother took in sewing for others and my paternal grandmother and father owned several dry cleaning businesses in Southern WI. When we, as children, were left in the care of these grandmothers, we "played" buttons. We invented all sorts of games to play, even making up our own board game-green against red, etc. My grandmother from the cleaners had a HAT box full of buttons. If a button was missing on an article of clothing, she would replace all the buttons and the old buttons would go into the hat box. You can imagine how they accumulated. She also "collected" hankies the same way! I have those too!

I had about 4 fruit cake cans full of buttons when I became a grandmother to one of the loveliest little girls in the world, of course! We played buttons together too! I worked for 35 years and did my own sewing. Upon retirement, I was helping out at my daughter's flea market one summer when I met Mary Ann Torkelson , who was the President of the Indianhead Button Club. She was planning to attend the NBS convention which was being held in Dallas. She was working on competition for the convention., so I told her I had alot of buttons!!! And, would she like to see them. Of course, being a button collector and addicted to buttons. . . .she said yes! So, I brought the 4 cans of buttons for her to look through. She ran her fingers through the buttons and said "you should join the button club, because you have beautiful and valuable buttons here". I attended the very next meeting. Needless to say . . .I was hooked!

I have been a member of the Indianhead Button Club in Eau Claire, WI for 10 years. I belong to the NBS and the WBS, Minnesota Button Club and the Red Cedar Button Club in Menomonie, WI.

Inga Ladd

Like so many others, one of my first memories was playing in my grandmother's button box. Several years ago, I rediscovered her buttons. Maybe this fascination started there. Before I knew it, my children and I were haunting antique stores and yard sales looking for buttons. One day, I saw a tray of calicoes. Nothing has been the same since. I actively search for the calico patterns. So far, I've collected about 225 out of 327 listed patterns. Because I am a geek, I've built a database to track the rarity of calicoes by color, pattern, size and shape. With the help of Thomas Skovronsky, I am working on a calico book. I also love all the other chinas. I am a member of the Gateway Button Club in St. Louis, the Missouri State Button Society and the National Button Society. (Updated January 26, 2014)

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