What Makes a Button Valuable?
In general, clothing button prices can range from a few cents to a few hundred dollars each. Only rare examples in excellent condition bring high dollar values though. Those top ranking buttons are hard to come by these days.
There is also the competition factor to consider. Buttons from Revolutionary War or Civil War uniforms might interest button collectors, but there are collectors of military memorabilia that will pay several hundred dollars apiece to own certain examples as well. These buttons are usually made of metal and some are located with metal detectors and dug from the dirt in battlefields.
But rare rubber (also known as vulcanite) examples from 1800s uniforms also surface from time to time.
Buttons gleaned from clothing worn by celebrities or sports stars can also be quite valuable if the provenance is verifiable. Buying a piece of clothing in poor condition at auction might not be such a bad proposition if it contains a number of buttons and scraps of fabric that can be salvaged along with them. These can be sold individually to collectors who would relish owning a little piece of pop culture or sports history.
Out of the ordinary examples can also be valuable. Take a brass button depicting Theodore Roosevelt hunting big game from 1904. These can sell in the $75-150 range depending on the scene shown on the button, since there were several different examples made.
Embellishments like hand painting and enameling on antique French or Victorian buttons can lead them to be worth $200 or more. Old pottery buttons crafted and hand painted by American Indians can also sell in that price range. And, unusual motifs like dancing frogs on an old metal button can bring in $150-200 as well.
You won't run across these types of buttons often, but it is worth becoming familiar with the high end examples so you will know what to look for among all those virtually worthless shirt buttons you may have to dig through to find them.
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