Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hurricanes on Potato Chips

No other Bakelite buttons in my collection have this level of incredible swirling. Look closely at these wafer-like weirdos and you will see storms a-brewing! I wonder if this is a case of brown Bakelite that was mixed with a lighter shade during the production process. Was a factory worker feeling experimental...or was he reckless? Did machines collide resulting in this amazing blend of vintage plastic? Whatever the case, these are some well-turned-out buttons and I suspect they are quite uncommon. Hooray for serendipity!

-Sherbert McGee 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Art Deco Tangerine

Starkly unadorned and definitive of the 1920's, this Art Deco paragon comes from a forgotten world of bold minimalism. Sometimes the "less is more" concept explodes with style and that's the case with this smart sunbather of a button. The Bakelite is a pastel orange, but verging on a tone of peach that I seldom see in Bakelite world. Maybe it would be accurate to call this a shade of vintage Creamsicle? At any rate, this is a large button with a smooth and witty confidence that hollers 1925. Even after all these years, this old baby is still up to the minute.

-Sherbert McGee  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Chocolate Screwball

Another one of my Bakelite oddities, this button blends an Art Deco pattern with a little bit of outer space. I still can't decide if the upraised sphere in the middle of the button was attached separately in the manufactural process or if it's actually part of the bottom layer of the Bakelite. Either way, this is a heavily carved button with whirls and gashes galore. If I didn't know any better I'd think this was a Cadbury UFO. 

-Sherbert McGee 

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Elephant's Teardrop

My friend, Doreen, wasn't kidding when she told me that she'd found a button with the weirdest shape. Like a geometrically sculpted blob of gum or a dollop of custard, it's one of the oddest formed buttons I've ever seen. Whipped and swirled, this pale globule emits a very soft Art Deco appearance. Photographing it was a frustrating operation. I took twenty or thirty inadequate pictures from every angle until I finally got the button to sit up by stabbing its shank into a piece of Silly Putty. This is creamed corn light-colored that it almost resembles a shard of ivory.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee

Friday, December 25, 2015

Ornamental, 2-Tone

Here's a button that desperately wants to be a Christmas tree ornament. The red Bakelite is unusual in that it's marbled. The bottom layer of the Bakelite is the color known as split pea soup. It's an odd color-combo and I wonder what this button was a part of, costume-wise? At any rate, I'm a fanatic when it comes to 2-tone Bakelite and so starting next month I'm going to post a whole week of dual color fusions. Consider this the forerunner to a ritzy expo of 2-tone buttons, coming soon in January. Also, Merry Christmas!

-Sherbert McGee  

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Abbreviated Nativity Scene

There were buttons more "Christmassy" and festive to choose from, but this one spoke to me this morning. An exemplary model of rootbeer (or tortoise) Bakelite with softly carved edges and topped with a wispy gold leaf escutcheon, this humble button feels like it emulates the TRUE meaning of Christmas, as opposed to the ubiquitous hullabaloo of rubber reindeer and a blowout sale at Macy's. So here it is, a reverent button to commemorate the real essence of the holidays. Peace on Earth.

-Sherbert McGee   

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


It's winter now and I'm in a wintry mood. Rummaging through my collection of buttons, I decided to take a picture of something dark, albeit joyfully dark. A button to honor wintertime. This carved-up spectacle in black strikes me as being owllike with it's massive Bakelite eyes occupying most of the button. It's a charmed nightbird, full of character and silent wishes for a snug winter season.  

-Sherbert McGee     

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Studios Twosome

Whenever I find an apple juice button, if the bottom of the Bakelite is etched or carved, it's always fascinating how the incised detail comes blazoning through to the top. In the case of these two buttons, the etched plaid pattern is almost magnified through the Bakelite so that it translates to the surface with a perfect resplendence. These are astute-looking buttons. I like to think they belong on a tenured, Ivy League faculty member, or as cuff links on the shirtsleeve of Eugene O'Neill. 

Next year, I will be posting images of more apple juice buttons, including a unique variety with painted features on their engravings, a style of button that is hard to find and very sought-after by today's Bakelite collectors. Painted Bakelite: Coming Soon in 2016!

-Sherbert McGee    

Monday, December 21, 2015

Butterscotch Waffle Pie

Anytime I see a Bakelite button with a lot of texture, I usually get pretty excited. Without question, that was the case with this attractive number in extra-bright butterscotch. When I saw that polished network of lines and those bumpy contours on the surface, I knew this was a top-notch button. The perfectly even grid desgin could almost be a street map of Manhattan. As a matter of fact, I think I see Park Avenue. Due to its heavily carved treatment, this lucky button could win a twinkle contest.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee  

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Onyx Eye

Let me just preface this by saying that I don't endorse witchcraft or the occult or any of the seven shadows. That said, this is a mystical button with a heart of pure darkness and vampiric vibrations. The outer layer is a Bakelite temple of apple juice with the edges pinched down to create an angular aberration. The inside of the button is a square, black beast that writhes and transfigures depending on how you tilt the button. Pure evil, obviously. I don't know where this button came from. It just showed up in my collection one day and I haven't taken the time to exorcise its fiendish leanings.

-Sherbert McGee   

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Just Plum Perfect

Sometimes I find Bakelite buttons on their original cards from retailers and supply shops that date back to the 1930's. That's what happened in the case of these deep mulberry visions, hence these buttons were never used and they are in mint condition. Even so, I did end up tearing them off their card since the card's edges were so ripped and stained, you'd think these maroon ladies survived a Saks Fifth Avenue mudslide. It's worth mentioning that these buttons are extremely shiny. In fact, they're so mirror-like that I couldn't photograph them on my balcony without getting a reflection of myself in every shot. Finally, I had to bring them inside for picture-taking in reduced light. These aren't a complicated pair of buttons, but indoors or out, they're awfully hoity-toity.

-Sherbert McGee   

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Positively Bakelite: A Lesson in Simichrome

A few years ago I met a guy in New Jersey who'd just inherited his deceased grandmother's vast accumulation of antiques. When he told me that she'd owned quite a few buttons, I asked if any of them were Bakelite. He said that he didn't know, so I loaned him my tube of Simichrome* polish, which is what I use for testing all of my Bakelite. A few days later I heard back from him. "There's a big green button that tested positive," he said. We settled on a price and that's how I landed this flying saucer.

*Simichrome is a type of metal polish, which also just happens to work as a Bakelite testing agent. It's a cream that looks like pink toothpaste and is available to buy at most hardware stores. After applying Simichrome to a piece of plastic, if the color of the cream turns from pink to yellow, you know you've got some real-life Bakelite. Here's a Youtube clip that shows a lady using Simichrome polish to test a Bakelite bracelet. Click here: TESTING BAKELITE WITH SIMICHROME POLISH

-Sherbert McGee 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Buttery Double-Cut

Like a slab of soft yellow margarine melting in the sun, this button is the double-cut variety. Face-up, the button looks like a pig's nose. Turn it over and it consists of an entirely different design with a row of three plain slats. This cheery example of Bakelite has a cartoonish innocence to it. I imagine that the kid who ran around with this button on his overalls, was also wearing a propeller beanie.

-Sherbert McGee   

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Redder the Better

Like a piece of hard candy under a cellophane wrapper, this is one of those hard-as-stone buttons with the peerless shine of genuine cherry Bakelite. Modern plastics in red just don't come close to this level of saccharine luminosity. When it comes to juicy buttons, you have to hand it to the 1920's. This particular eyeful is a prime example of why red Bakelite is my all-time favorite.

-Sherbert McGee 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Fabergé Rootbeer

What I love about this rootbeer button is the duality of the carved sides. To the right there is a crescent moon bearing eight horizontal slashes. To the left there is a mishmash of crisscross detail and an excess of rigorous whittling in the design. This button almost looks like a Swarovski glass production or something along the lines of a Fabergé invention. I look at this button and I see the garish adornment on a royal czar. Rootbeer Bakelite at its fanciest.

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Eternity Symbol?

When I look at this button I see a ring of worlds going around and around for ever and ever like a token of perpetuity. Or is it a caterpillar that's merged, head-on, into its own caboose? Buttons like this are open to interpretation. Also, I tried to count the circles and got dizzy while having flashbacks of the year I failed geometry in high school. This is a Bakelite button in the color known as creamed corn. That is all for today. 

-Sherbert McGee 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Deep Leaf, I Love You

With the autumn season coming to an end, I was mulling over my brown buttons the other day and decided to take a picture of this leafy champion. Brown Bakelite comes in many tonal variations, my favorite being this class of rich, fluent chocolate. Put a leaf on it and I'm satisfied. I love leaf designs and this one is super grooved in a lustrous eruption of carved detail. No doubt about it, this is one lucky button.

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Toggle Tuesday: Apple Juice Pillars of Light

Last night while I was photographing these apple juice toggles, the sun began to set and for a few otherworldly minutes these buttons filled up with an almost supernatural light and began to glow like surreal party favors. Is it a case of Bakelite gone paranormal? Adding to the hoodoo, they remind me of earthy drums with an African vibe. What's more, even when they aren't gleaming like eerie talismans these primitively carved toggles emit a strange magic. Clink them together and they sound like two insightful shamans.

-Sherbert McGee         

Monday, December 7, 2015

Smart Olives, by Golly!

I tilted these buttons just right in the sunlight so that their modish carvings are front-and-center. Quintessential Art Deco, these Bakelite babies are puttin' on the ritz! For me, they conjure up the debonair style of a snappy dresser on Park Avenue, circa 1929. Dressy and worldly-wise, they look like they think pretty highly of themselves.   

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Batch of Butterscotch Moons

Now and then I find a Bakelite button with the consistency of polished glass. These plump knockouts fit that description and radiate an Art Deco savvy with a marbled complexion and all the allure of honeyed gold. Size-wise, I can deposit my thumb in the carved-out hollows of these buttons and the fit is so uncanny...maybe these really are just glassy thumb rests? On the Bakelite color spectrum, these buttons are definitive butterscotch. Oozing with poise, they are savory to look at and smooth as topaz candy.

-Sherbert McGee     

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Bakelite Masquerade

I don't know what to make of this button. For one thing, it's huge...measuring more than two inches across. And the shape! Is it a fiery bow-tie or a blazing mask or some sort of Iroquois sun symbol? It kind of resembles the face of a handsome bird with tufts of carved feathers poking out of the sides. I wonder if this was part of a 1930's kimono or a novelty costume worn by a scathingly chic socialite who lunched with Peggy Guggenheim? All I can say for sure is that this is a Bakelite button without the faintest scuff mark. Also, it's phenomenally orange.

-Sherbert McGee      

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Kind of Button

This button has it all: a pudgy demeanor in green with healthy curves and a merry shine. It also has a pillow-like shape to it and a real gung-ho energy. I probably sound like a loon, but this button just feels cheerful. I bet it was owned once by someone with a good sense of fun. Check out the deep tunneling effect of the buttonholes and the very thick patina, which I'd sooner cultivate than remove. The four corners of this button appear to have been scratched by a six-fingered cat! This is the kind of button I keep in my pocket when I'm having one of those not-so-great days. Bakelite at its most positive. What else can I say? This button agrees with me.

-Sherbert McGee    

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Jagged Little Frill

This barbed beauty is one of my spikiest buttons. Every angle is a razor-edged enigma and even the color suggests a gory blade or a blood-soaked kidney stone. An irregular specimen in dark maroon, this is Bakelite at its most saw-toothed and sharp-cornered. Give it a squeeze and it'll prick your thumb. I love this twisty rascal, but let's face it; this button probably fell off the Devil's tuxedo.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee