The China Whistle Gallery

China whistles are easily recognized because of the one hole on the top of the button and the two or more holes on the bottom of the button. The Guidelines for Collecting China Buttons outlines twenty different body shapes for these whistles and ten different patterns. The variety of shapes and patterns makes collecting whistles very rewarding. Several china collectors have allowed us to show whistle buttons from their collections to make this China Whistle Gallery.

China Whistle Shapes

Shape 1
Low, convex, smooth
Shape 2
Low, convex, smooth, raised rim
Shape 3
Low, convex, sunken center, raised rim
Shape 4
Medium height convex, smooth and rimless
Shape 5
Low, convex, fluted
Shape 6
Low convex, fluted, raised rim
Shape 7
Hobnail
Shape 8
Conical
Shape 9
Medium-height conical, raised rim
Shape 10
Dome

Shape 11
Six triangles
Shape 12
High dome, ridge around joint
Shape 13
Cogwheel
Shape 14
Smooth, convex center; flat border with cogwheel pattern
Shape 15
Dished, but center rises flush with edge
Shape 16
Convex, sunken center inside depressed ring
Shape 17
Sloping border rising to convex center with break between
Shape 18
3 raised bands
Shape 19
Low convex, plain raised rim, fluted top with plain concave center
Shape 20
High fluted dome, ridge at outer edge in saucer-shaped base
No image available

China Whistle Patterns

Pattern 1
White with colored rim, shape2
Pattern 2
Center and rim same color, shape 15
Pattern 3*
Colored body with center, band and rim of contrasting color, shape 3
Pattern 4**
White body with band and rim of contrasting color, shape 3
Pattern 5
Six triangles in alternating colors


Pattern 6
Medallion with petals
Pattern 7
Medallion with lacy center
Pattern 8
White with colored center, border and Greek key fret of another color; also plain center
Pattern 9
Colored body with center border and pattern of another color
Pattern 10
White with colored rim, six pointed stars, six dots

No image available

Notes about Patterns

*Pattern 3 above is causing some questions for collectors. The description of the pattern says that the button should be a colored body with the center, band and rims of a contrasting color on a shape 3 body (like the first example shown). Several collectors have samples like the second one shown (a white button with a pattern that looks very much like the drawing on page 42 in the Guidelines for Collecting China Buttons). We've shown it both on a colored body and on the white body.

**Pattern 4 is only mentioned in the Guidelines as being found on a white body, but several collectors have the pattern on a brown bodied button with black band and rim (as shown above as the second example for pattern 4).

Pattern 8 is known as the Greek key whistle. It is shown in the drawing with four frets and pictured in the book with five frets. Examples of both are shown above. One of the examples shows both black and brown on a white button.

Other Shapes or Patterns

Other china whistles appear occasionally that don't seem to fit the shapes and patterns listed in the Guidelines for Collecting China Buttons. Some of these may be china whistles that weren't reported at the time that the book was written. Others may be buttons that were plain when they were manufactured and individually decorated at a later date. Some collectors call this latter group "kitchen chinas" meaning that the old china buttons were painted with a new design by painters sitting around the kitchen table. The "kitchen chinas" are still very collectible, but their use in competition is open for discussion.

Shown here are china whistles that may be "beyond the book" or may be "kitchen chinas" or they may be glass. Do you have similar examples that you would like to share?

Shape 2 with unlisted pattern?
Shape 1 with unlisted pattern?
Another shape 2 with hand-painted design
Also shape 2
Shape 1 with hand-painted design?
Unlisted shape? China or glass?
"D" shaped holes in back. Most likely black glass
"Pudding Mold" shape
Similar to shape 12 but with concave center
Example 10
No image available

The Whistle buttons shown on this page are from the collection of Joni Goldbarg, Karen Kline, BJ Smyers, Janet White, Erma Juergensen, Denver Elliott and Judye Stewart.


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For more information, please email chinabuttonexchange@gmail.com.