Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mandatory Lipstick

Some buttons are essential. Here's one of them. Commonly mistaken for a bullet, this is a lipstick toggle in cherry-red Bakelite (positioned next to a photo of Coco Chanel). I say this about very few buttons, but this is one of the sought-after necessities to get if you collect Bakelite. A must-have for enthusiasts of vintage plastic, this art deco cylinder is a crucial smooch from the Roaring Twenties.

"Oh, innocent victims of Cupid,
Remember this terse little verse;
To let a fool kiss you is stupid,
To let a kiss fool you is worse."
Yip Harburg
Love always,
Sherbert McGee 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Split Pea Soup Explosion!

Get a load of this mighty and magnificent button in two tones of rock-solid Bakelite. Look closely and you can see the transparent base of this bad boy in apple juice Bakelite (just peeking out from the bottom edges) with slightly visible carvings. Most prominently is the top layer made of moss Bakeliteexploding with deeply sculpted canyons for a vogue effect that smacks of a primitive art deco vibe. While most Bakelite collectors refer to this color as moss, I've also heard it called split pea soup. And in this case, the soup is absolutely overflowing.

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, July 24, 2017

Faceted Rootbeer

Glassy and jewel-like, this thickset button in faux tortoise is a lovely chunk of pure Bakelite that's unanimously referred to by collectors as "rootbeer Bakelite." Angled just so in the sun, you can see the various facets carved around this shiny token of vintage plastic, as well as the swirled shades of brownish amber that lie in its peculiar depths. A chic button to be sure.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bakelite Bits: Yellow

Today's post ends my week-long series of "Bakelite Bits" or mini-buttons, many of which measure less than half-an-inch across. In tones of yellow (mostly creamed corn), the buttons above convey a sunny hodgepodge of Bakelite designs. Honorable mentions go to the art deco "bomb button" with tiered ends in the lower right-hand corner and the centralized "eyeball button" with an outer layer that is celluloid covering a Bakelite orb in butterscotch. And that's it for this week of Bakelite bits!

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bakelite Bits: Maroon

As a Scorpio, I read once that maroon is my astrological sign's "signature color." Admittedly, I do fancy these deep, blood-red buttons. Today's Bakelite bits have a range of shapes with honorable mentions going to the little gear button, at far left, with its cogs dabbed in white paint. Next to it, a flower button exhibits pressed details. These buttons were likely made in the 1920's or early 30's.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Bakelite Bits: Apple Juice

Highlighting a bright variety of Bakelite bits, here we have five smaller sized buttons in various golden-transparent tones of apple juice. Honorable mentions go to the ball-shaped button in the middle with a carved star or flower design and the slanty little cylinder at lower right, with its flurry of enclosed glitter. Smallest of all is the trefoil button, which is a darker tone of honey-hued Bakelite.

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bakelite Bits: Licorice

It's Day 2 of my "Bakelite Bits" Week and here's a smattering of five little buttons in black, otherwise known as licorice Bakelite. Aside from the obviously noteworthy duck, honorable mentions go to the jellybean-shaped toggle with carved details and also the art deco, jewel-cut button featuring a tiered design and bottom layer made of apple juice Bakelite. I have a taste for black licorice and could just about eat these buttony antiques. From the 1920's.

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, July 17, 2017

Bakelite Bits: Green

All this week I'll be posting Bakelite "bits" or smaller sized buttons that've slipped down to the bottom of my collectioneasy to forget about, but fun to dredge up and examine. Surprisingly, some of the tiniest buttons have enormous charisma. Today's medley in green is curious indeed with honorable mentions going to the cube-shaped button in the lower left corner (a two-tone button with a quarter of the cube being a lighter shade of green) and also the mossy-hued monster in the center, which is 14-sided (maybe the most angular button I own). Stay tuned for more bits tomorrow... 

-Sherbert McGee 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Oddities in Orange

Upon the discovery of these oddball buttons, I jumped nine feet backwards and yelled, "Gadzooks!" at the top of my lungs. Unlike anything I've ever seen, each button's saucer-like base is made of (tested) orange juice Bakelite. The top portions, however, have not been tested because each orb-shaped centerpiece is painted bright orange and I don't want to disturb the paint job, which is already rubbing off in places. With that said, I'm guessing that the top sections are also Bakeliteappearing to be a shade of custard where the paint has receded. Adding to their strange charm, the tops are freckled with small holes. Que your imagination to run wild, but I see cratered little planets or a rare brand of exotic cheese. In a set of three, each button's size is different, furthering the uniqueness of this bizarre batch of Bakelite. circa 1932.

-Sherbert McGee    

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sparkly Lovely

"Pizzazz" is not a word I throw around lightly, but this button has definitely got it. Made of Bakelite and tinged with patina, the carved licorice design resembles an open flower with a band of apple juice Bakelite cutting straight through the whole shebang. What's more, the AJ stripe is loaded with a rowdy carnival's worth of cascading glitter. I love these sparkly buttons so much that I've decided that next month I'm going to post a whole week of them. Wait and see!

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Visionary Rootbeer

Sometimes when I study a Bakelite button I like to imagine that I'm channeling psychic impressions that trace back to the original owners of these dandy relics. Case in point: this checkered button in rootbeer and butterscotch possesses an air of collegiate life during the Jazz Age. Moreover, I attach this button to an Ivy League winter coat on a bookish and somewhat rakish sophomore at Harvard in the 1920's. A frequenter of louche cafes and Bohemian hookah lounges, he read all the works of Franz Kafka and nurtured a strange infatuation with a mousy librarian with a speech impediment. 

And that's my attempt at clairvoyance through Bakelite. 

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Toggle Tuesday: Christmas in July

Season's Greetings! Long-time curiosities in my collection of Bakelite buttons, this pair of merry toggles in cherry red and forest green have always looked to me like Xmas ornaments. Decorative carvings around their midriffs give them an air of Yuletide shapeliness and wouldn't these look cool on a snowman's vest? If I were to name these festive buttons I reckon they'd be Holly and Blitzen, but in spite of their jolly appeal I'm a bit early with these holiday toggles...

Christmas isn't for another 167 days. 

-Sherbert McGee    

Monday, July 10, 2017

Butterscotch Classics

Here's an especially old pair of buttons made out of butterscotch Bakelite. I'm guessing that these buttons go back to the early 1920's on account of their extra fragile dispositions. Large, rounded and rectangular, my favorite feature on these antiques is the mass of carvings off to the side of their smooth midsections. Named butterscotch for a reason, these golden oldies look like senile sweets.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Cider Nuggets

Laced in golden girdles, these apple juice buttons glisten like angular stones with their pale amber coloring and chunky leanings. Small in size, if it weren't for their metallic trappings they'd resemble half-melted ice cubes unless you looked at them closely and noticed the carved details at each end. Purchased recently from an antique dealer in Vermont, I'm lucky to have found these Bakelite gems in a set of four.

-Sherbert McGee 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Purple Alligator

Okay...I know that "purple" is a bit of a stretch, but this button is bright maroon and I put that in the purple bracket. Carved unevenly, the design on this Bakelite beast reminds me of the scaly flesh on an alligator. There's definitely a reptilian thing happening here. A fairly large button, I imagine this curious closure might've looked devilishly exotic once upon a time on a snazzy jacket in the 1920's.

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Emerald Relic

Drenched in sunshine, this pretty button takes on the color of a deeply glowing emerald. The cuts and carvings are reminiscent of the art deco style with two elongated slits forming a chic design. Like so many of the buttons I post on this blog, this Bakelite specimen comes from my good friend Doreen (aka the Button Queen), who finds, buys and sells every kind of antique button known to man. She's my go-to specialist when it comes to unusual period pieces such as this one. circa 1930.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee    

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Starred Bakelite

Sweet land of liberty! Due to some unsightly shadow effects in the midday sunlight, I couldn't get a satisfactory picture of this three-colored star button. So I brought it inside and snapped this shot of it in a Teflon frying pan. How's that for celebrating America? These triple-toned buttons are a famously hard-to-find treasure for Bakelite collectors. So when this galactic baby landed in my wishful hands, I was more than just psyched. I was star-smacked!

Happy 4th of July!
-Sherbert McGee

Monday, July 3, 2017

Clunky Brown

It's a shame what happens to a button after it's been hammered by tornadoes. This pretty victim has been massacred by what I'm guessing was one too many cycles in a washing machine and dryer. What started out as a spiffy coat button in chocolate brown is now an example of heavily scuffed Bakelite. Sadly, the dents and dings on this poor thing are in direct competition with its attractive triad of carvings. I implore Bakelite button owners: don't toss your vintage valuables into the wash! 

-Sherbert McGee 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Sensationally Fishy

Fishing for old buttons can result in a lot of interesting discoveries, but not much tops this Bakelite tour de force, which appears to be leaping out of the sea. Splashy and dramatic, I classify this as a flamboyant koi carp with its scaly flourishes and writhing details. Talk about fancy craftsmanship! The color of the Bakelite is creamed corn and the bulging eye is made of glass. Truly a showstopper of style, what we have here is less a button than a work of art. Owing to its rareness, value and fragility, I keep this button in its own silk-lined box. Call me a weirdo, but I am smitten with this fish!

And this ends my week of oceanic-themed buttons.

-Sherbert McGee    

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Multicolored Love Boats

Not your everyday buttons, I feel lucky to have this particular set as I believe they are quite hard to come by. Made of apple juice Bakelite, this breezy trio of seafaring vessels each encases a colored square for an art deco effect that's quite stately. Accentuated with carved details, the shapely sails on these boats make for a windswept fleet. Grouped together, these buttons have the scenic look of a yachting tournament viewed through an olden-day spyglass. circa 1930.

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Anchor & Shell

Spotlighting emblems of the sea this week, here's a pair of bright cherry-red buttons in the shape of an anchor and a seashell. The anchor has the animated curves of a model sailor's tattoo while the shell possesses a realistic, ridged texture. Both tested positive for Bakelite. Now while we're on the subject of nautical-themed buttons, here's a line from one of my favorite poems by e.e. cummings:   

for whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

Until the seas run dry,
-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Windowed Button with Sailboat

Back in February of this year I posted a "windowed button" (featuring a horse) with the promise of more buttons like this to come. Here's another variety with a smooth-sailing sailboatsighted on a shiny blue tide. The image of the serenely passing boat is nestled under a domed piece of glass and all is mounted on a cream tone of Bakelite. I call these windowed buttons because of the way the image is framed picturesquely as if looking out of a window. In this case, the sailboat comes into view like a dreamy vision on a summery seascape. It's a postcard from the past and a button in one.

-Sherbert McGee    

Monday, June 26, 2017

Beached Bakelite

Greetings, beachcombers! I said it was coming and here it is: Starting today, I'm posting a full week of Bakelite buttons that pertain to the ocean as a theme. Washed ashore for your inspection, here are two scallops made of creamed corn and dark chocolate Bakelite with a bright green flounder between them. The fish retains its painted-on stripes that may or may not go back to its origins in the 1920's. Stay poised for more oceanic Bakelite in the days ahead...

-Sherbert McGee

Friday, June 23, 2017

Dick Tracy!

Watch out, "Big Boy" Caprice! Here's what I've nicknamed my "Dick Tracy" button. A creamed corn square on a cherry red square, this art deco upholder-of-the-law is cleaning the streets (and wooing Tess Truehart) in all-out style. Named after one of my favorite movies of all time, the straightforward design on this button smacks of the film's visual palette, striking graphics and gorgeously vivid, comic strip flare. Directed by Warren Beatty (and starring Beatty as well), Dick Tracy was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1990. Adding a top-notch musical element to the picture, Stephen Sondheim wrote five songs for the filmeach of them as grandly ambitious and clever as his Broadway knockouts. As a fanatical teenager, I watched the movie five times in theaters and still swoon at this candy-coated gem of big and boldly distinctive cinematography. One final note: Chester Gould created the Dick Tracy comic strip in 1931 and this Bakelite button might go back that far as well.

-Sherbert McGee     

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Little Rootbeer Toe

For ages now I've had this stubby button in my collection and I can't remember where I picked it up. A molasses-hued chunk of sweet Bakelite capped at both ends with brass pins, if this button were a Native American Indian, he would be named Little Rootbeer Toe. For a long time I've hoped to find a matching companion for this lonely guy, but I'm starting to think he's the only one of his kind in the world.

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Peanut Butter Mudslide

Back during its manufacture in the 1930's or early 40's, there must've been a strident buzz in the factory when industrial tools came down on this button made of brownish-moss Bakelite. The button appears to be in the midst of a mudslide! My friend Doreen compares the central ooze to a dramatic swipe across peanut butter as if someone literally slicked their finger through this messy marvel. To me, this button is an aerial view of a rapid flood wending its way through a jinxed canyon. However you look at it, there's a smeary brilliance depicted in this button's super-carved extravagance.  

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee    

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summertime Swirl

Expressing a wavy hydraulic effect, here's a free-flowing button made of apple juice Bakelite that's got a swirled design stemming out from under a metal cap. I love the way carved lines on clear Bakelite can give the impression of a moving rippleor in this case, a hypnotic whirlpool. Today's the first day of summer and if I could swim in a button I'd dive head-first into this one for sure. 

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee