Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Preppy Look

It's the last day of August and if the kids aren't already back in school, they will be soon. Here's a scholarly button that I've always held in high regard. A brownish gold cement holds the green and black squares of Bakelite together, giving the button a striped accent. If this button had a name, it'd probably be Wesley or Irwin. I count this button among my most snazzy and studious findscirca the 1920's.

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cherry Buckets with Teeth on the Brims

A small button has to be pretty impressive in order for me to add it to my collection. I like the bigger varieties with an impactful heft. These two buttons only measure slightly over half-an-inch across, but aside from their small dimensions they are quite unusual. I call them cherry buckets, but what's most interesting about these buttons is the gear-like motif on the brims. I flipped one of them over to show how rounded these are. Made in the 1930's, these little buckets have some bite.

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, August 29, 2016

Doubly Dark

Half of the black buttons I own are heavy pieces that came off of fur jackets and men's trench-style coats in the 1920's, 30's and early 40's. This Bakelite twosome was sold to me earlier this summer as a set and probably resided on some very dressy threads once. Relics of high-fashion, they do not make buttons like this anymore. Magnificently carved, each piece is trussed in metal bands for emphasis on the sculpted ovals that lie in the center of these jet-black eyefuls. Possessing an air of real importance, something about these buttons calls for respect.

-Sherbert McGee

Friday, August 26, 2016

Painted Apple Juice

Next month I'm going to post a whole week of something special: Painted Apple Juice Buttons! In the meantime, here's a set of four of them. It looks like these were done in burgundy and white. The paint was applied to carved out dips on the underside of the buttons, creating a distorted "teardrop effect" in the way the design appears from the top. These are a highly prized and unusual spinoff in the world of Bakelite novelty items. More painted AJ buttons coming soon in September. Stay tuned!

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chocolate Seashell

Carved into a robust seashell, this brown button is dotted with lackluster gemstones that might've shined once like eye-catching topazes. Alas, these six little jewels are what they called "paste" in the olden-days. In other words, the gems are just shoddy fakes. What's not fake though is the fact that this article of plastic hails from the Roaring Twenties. Outshining its sad jewels, this chocolate seashell is true and timeless Bakelite.

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Nude Octagons

Of all the colors of Bakelite I've seen, this set of octagon buttons defies categorization. I suppose they are a light tan version of creamed corn, but then again I'd say these buttons are a highly rare flesh tone. Close your eyes, kids! If you melted down a Caucasian Barbie doll and then made a pair of buttons, these might be the scandalous outcome. Big buttons with a sharply outlined target motif, these naked sunbathers tested positive for Bakelite.

-Sherbert McGee 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dandy Four-Hole

Four-holed buttons in Bakelite are fairly hard to find, but this one's an especially rare thing with its quadruple holes finished in brass. The Bakelite is a no-frills gob of dark rootbeer. Definitely not a flimsy button, the thickness of this one is so substantial that the holes look like mile-deep tunnels. Some buttons have more character than others. This one's obviously a snappy galoot. 

-Sherbet McGee

Monday, August 22, 2016

Prystal Leaf

"Prystal Bakelite" was a brand of Bakelite that scooted away from the original formula by being fully translucent. Here's a Prystal button with a generous patina in its leafy furrows. Hold this button up to the light and it's exactly like looking through a shard of green sea glass from a broken wine bottle. I don't own very many Prystal buttons since I'm more keen on the earliest, solid style of Bakelite. It's more beautiful, in my opinion. Even so, this leaf is a bloggable snippet of classic plastic. Made in the 1930's. 

-Sherbert McGee

Friday, August 19, 2016

200 Buttons!

So dramatic and jewel-like, this old button from the 1920's performs all the razzle-dazzle tricks of classic Bakelite. Every sculpted slant and groove is a shiny intrigue to me. It's like looking at some bizarro fish that jumped out of a magic lagoon. Split diagonally between butterscotch and bright cherry red, I've never seen a carved button quite like this one. Truth be told, I'd probably run into a burning building to rescue this two-tone knockout. Commemorating the 200th post on this blog, I've saved this button for a special occasion.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee    

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Golden Tsunami

Earlier this summer, my friend Doreen emailed me the news of finding this button, which she later let me buy. In terms of vintage plastic it's nothing too spectacular with a plain slab of dark brown Bakelite as the base for a most striking escutcheon. Look at that undulating design! I like to think of it as a metallic tidal wave. I don't know what the material is, but it's highly reflective. Me and Doreen agree that the motif is Art Deco.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Yellow Rose of (Not) Texas

For the first time in my life, I finally made it to Texas this summer where I road-tripped all the way down to El Paso. Alas, I didn't find a single Bakelite button on my trip through the Lone Star State. This yellow rose button comes from Santa Fe, New Mexico where the Bakelite isn't quite so hard to find. The central beautification on this old doozy is a glass bead in bright pink. Made in the 1930's

-Sherbert McGee 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Black Dahlia/Black Madonna

Here's one of my shiniest black buttons with an inexplicable carving that looks like a study in experimental Art Deco. I'm calling this button the "Black Dahlia" after the nickname attached to the infamously sliced-in-half actress, Elizabeth Short, whose unsolved murder in the 1940's has always been a macabre point of interest for me. On the other hand, today is Madonna's birthday. Strike a pose! All across Europe, there is a series of medieval paintings and statues in which the Virgin Mary is painted black. These artworks are known as "Black Madonnas" and they are considered holy icons. So I post this button today with a lot on my mind. Don't forget: Black is beautiful.

-Sherbert McGee      

Monday, August 15, 2016

Greta Garbo

What kind of a fool names his vintage buttons after time-honored movie stars? Truth be told, I do. Every now and then I attach the name of a filmor a film starto a button. The Bakelite button I'm posting today, probably made in the early 1920's, is an apple juice extravaganza that seems to be throwing its own internal party. This button, which is technically a large toggle, is flooded with a private gala of cascading glitter. I don't know why, but every time I hold this mega hunk of period plastic I think of Old Hollywood's most evasive film siren: Greta Garbo. Hence, I've named this my Greta Garbo button. The thing's a mammoth pill. And totally ostentatious.

-Sherbert McGee

"Being a movie star, and this applies to all of them,
means being looked at from every possible direction.
You are never left a peace. You are just fair game."
Greta Garbo 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Lustrous Toad

Here's that amazing thing that happens when Bakelite is polished to a glassy shine. At first glance when I saw this button a few years ago at an antique shop in St. Louis, I mistook it for a grooved slab of buffed tile. The lady who sold me this chunky toad puts intense elbow grease into bringing her vintage buttons to the point of gleaming distinction. Cleansed of all patina and the funk & filth of time, this is an example of immaculate Bakelite.

-Sherbert McGee  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Style in a Frame

Couldn't you just see this button coming down 5th Avenue on the coat of some voguish flapper in a swarm of her "swell beaus" circa 1929? That's likely where this button came from since it definitely dates back to the Jazz Age (and was purchased in NYC). A two-tone button, the inner section is orange juice Bakelite set in a black frame, which has also tested positive for Bakelite. This old baby is a foxy piece of retro pizzazz.

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tiered Rootbeer

I bought these tiered rootbeer buttons last year at a flea market in Omaha. The guy selling them didn't even realize they were Bakelite, but he knew they were antiques from the 1930's and for that reason they were not cheap. Something about tiered Bakelite never fails to make me whip out my wallet and extract heaps of cash. These old buttons seduced me on the spot. I think of them as being vaguely Art Deco and they remind me of steps leading up to a fountain or an elevated stage. The button on the right needs a bath.

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Butter Dollop

If you squeezed a tablespoon of margarine through one of those hand-held piping bags with a star-shaped nozzle, this might be the buttery frill you'd plunk onto a cake. I saw a red button just like this a few days ago at an antique shop in Kansas City, but I didn't buy it since I already own this creamy one-in-a-million. Pure vintage Bakelite, this old thing is the duck's quack. Circa 1925.

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Toggle Tuesday: Red & Red

Today's episode of "Toggle Tuesday" spotlights a button in two unmistakable tones of red. The divided, oblong portion of the toggle isn't quite maroon. Referring to the international color index, I'm calling it a shade of carnelian or Venetian red. The other portion of the button is a carved midsection that teeters somewhere between ruby red and dark pink! This button measures about two inches across. In my experience as a collector of Bakelite, I find very less variety in bright red tones, which makes this button especially unique.  

-Sherbert McGee

Friday, August 5, 2016

Another Art Deco Showstopper

Last month I spotlighted a whole week of Art Deco buttons from the 1920'sreal wowzers and masterpieces of Bakelite. Today I'm posting another of those spiffy gems. This one's a shadowy, chocolate zinger with a carving that's right out of La La Land. The design is strictly Art Deco and a quintessential example of how Bakelite provided a surface for so much incredible style. This button single-handedly makes me wish I'd been alive during the années folles, which is a French term for the "crazy years."    

-Sherbert McGee 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Little Green

There's something slightly hypnotic about this Bakelite button. Stare at it for a minute and see if you doze off. The base is apple juice, clear and dreamy, while the central bead also tested positive for Bakelite. As beads go, it's a very pretty one that's the same shade of green I attribute to parakeets. I've had this button for a long time and I don't recall where I picked it up. I'm guessing it was made in the 1930's.

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Behold, the Burgundy Eye

Today's button is a burgundy (or maroon) Bakelite curiosity featuring an almost pagan-like symbol of an eye. Interestingly enough, the upraised design was not carved into the plastic. It was stamped onto it via machinery. As for the eye, to me it evokes the overly-painted eye of Hatshepsut, or some other Egyptian queen. But then, Hatshepsut was technically not a queen; she was a female pharaoh. At any rate, this button comes from the era of the "Egyptian Revival" that took took place in the 1920'sa revival that mainly refers to architecture, but Bakelite was new on the market during this time period and even a button back then might depict a very fashionable hieroglyphic. 

-Sherbert McGee 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Let the Sunshine In!

Going way back, these are some of the first antique buttons that I ever bought. Aside from the fact that they're Bakelite, they have a distinguished charm that points to the Depression era. The color is orange juice, a rich and sunny shade that explodes with inner swirling and a look of molten activity. These are flower buttons, mildly carved to resemble poppies. I think of them as two juicy suns.

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Red Cauldron

You could make beef stew in this bizarre-shaped button. Either that, or maybe you could pot a fern in this oddball. The depth of the button is unusual with two little button holes situated way down at the bottom of the bowl-like structure. I must've taken a hundred photos of this Bakelite humdinger, zooming in from different angles until settling on this shot as the sun came up over my balcony.

-Sherbert McGee