Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Revolutionary Rootbeer

Look what I found a few years ago at a garage sale in Arizona. Rarely do Bakelite buttons turn up in the tasteless bargain zones of searing driveways out in the desert, but that's where I chanced on this rootbeer keeper in a shoebox full of mangy buttons. The lady in charge of the sale knew this was Bakelite, but she sold it to me for far fewer dollars that she should have and said she was glad to see it go to a good home. Since then, I've studied this button many times and enjoy looking at the triadic framework surrounding the brass shield. It's an American button, probably made in the mid 1920's, but there's something decidedly French about the design. Bearing semblance to a princely fandangle, it reminds me of a battle-weary brooch from 18th Century Paris at the time of the assault on the Tuileries.

-Sherbert McGee    

Monday, February 27, 2017

La La Bakelite!

La La Land won six Academy Awards last night and I'm heading back to the movies today to watch this epically spirited Hollywood musical all over again. In celebration of the film, here's a vivacious Bakelite button at rest on a piece of sheet music. The song here is "Stormy Weather" from the year 1933 and the button is likely from about that time as well. A four-piece zinger, the checkered design of the button sports licorice Bakelite against apple juice Bakelite with the carved underside of the AJ adorned in dots for a look that's hip 'n jazzy.

-Sherbert McGee

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cherry Shakers

So would you say these old buttons are shaped like milk bottles or salt/pepper shakers? I think the latter, but what do I know? All that's certain is that these eight beauties tested positive for Bakelite and they are bright cherry red. This ends my week of shaped novelty buttons, but stay tuned for lots more Bakelite in all kinds of interesting forms. Things are gonna get real quirky around here.

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Butterscotch Clothespin

Wooden clothespins were barely around when I was a kid. I must have been around four years old when I saw my grandma using them to clip wet laundry on a clothesline in her backyard. Anyway, here's a Bakelite button in the shape of a clothespin. The color is butterscotch. I've seen a variety of Bakelite clothespin buttons. This one is medium sized and has a metal shank. From the 1920's.

-Sherbert McGee 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Bow, circa 1929

It's Day Three of a whole week in which I'm posting vintage buttons shaped like things outside of the accustomed formations we usually associate with buttons. So here's a bow button in a bright shade of maroon. The make of these can be tricky. I've seen all kinds of bow-shaped buttons and nine out of ten times they're made of ghastly celluloid from the 1960's. This one tested positive for Bakelite.

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bakelite Unlocked

One of my pet peeves is having a pocketful of keys, which is why I only carry two of them: one for my car and one for my home's front door. Technically though, I guess I own three keys if you count this antique button in dark green Bakelite (from the 1930's). Interestingly enough, when people talk about the "key to success," this is the actual key that they're talking about. Who knew?  

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Screwy 7

All this week I'm going to be posting Bakelite buttons that are especially sought-after by collectors since they are shaped novelties. Today's photo depicts 7 screw-shaped buttons in a burnt orange color that leans toward a befitting rust tone. I have no clue what variety of outfit these decorated once, but I imagine the wearer of these carroty screws was nothing short of a zany individualist. 

Visit Doreen's online store  

-Sherbert McGee

Friday, February 17, 2017

Singer & Kantor: A Tagged Button

One of my best-loved rarities, here's a two-tone button that boasts a top section made of cherry red Bakelite featuring nine carved rings. A little scuffed here and there, this old baby has seen better daysmost likely going back to the 1930's. Though off-center, the red top piece is attached to a larger black section, which has also tested positive for Bakelite. When my friend Doreen found this button a few years ago on one of her quests for exotic buttons, she was kind enough to let me purchase this very special discovery for my own collection.

What's really exciting about this button is the small (now rusted) plaque located above the shank on the back. The metal plaque reads: "SINGER&KANTOR 498-7th AVE. NY." and is firmly attached to the black Bakelite, though no screws are visible. Since adding this unusual button to my collection, I've been able to do some research over the years and here's what I know about Singer & Kantor: The company first opened in 1900 as "Isser Singer and Son" with their principal retail chain located at the above-mentioned address in New York City. Store merchandise at that time primarily focused on jewelry (i.e. ornate pins and signature brooches). Most of the shop's jewelry was imported from Czechoslovakia. In 1930 the company changed its name to "Singer & Kantor" and expanded their product line to company-designed buttons, which were mainly manufactured in the United States. The Great Depression set the company back financially, though it stayed afloat through the 1930's until finally going bankrupt in 1941. Today, Singer and Kantor brooches and buttons are considered collectible mementos of a bygone franchise that decorated the elitist scene of NYC for over forty years. And so this button carries a bit of its own history on a rusty badge.

Visit Doreen's online store  

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Rootbeer Architecture

What I love about Art Deco buttons is the heavily stylized angularities that often crop up in the geometric contours of 1920's craftsmanship. This mondo knockout in chocolate Bakelite has a rootbeer banister winding up its middle like a zigzag serpent. Terribly luxurious and layered with metropolitan flair, it's less a button than a strangely bewitching edifice.

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Buttery Sqaure Button

It's an extra bright day outside and here's an example of sunshine meets Bakelite in the form of this square-cut button with carved slats. This is that soft shade of creamed corn Bakelite that I always compare to butter. Wouldn't this button look right at home on a piece of toast? It looks like someone literally took a stick of margarine, shaved the end off and sculpted this fetching rarity. circa 1930.  

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Royal Suit

Old buttons from the 1920's and 1930's are hard to find on their original cards, but here we go: spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds. The paper's frayed, stained and wrinkled, but these eight buttons tested positive for Bakelite and have never been used. I'm no gambler and I know zilch about playing cards, but someone dealt me a good hand when I bought these last year from an antique shop in Wisconsin.

Happy Valentine's Day!
-Sherbert McGee

Monday, February 13, 2017

Herculean Chocolate

Last year my friend Doreen sold me this Herculean button in chocolate Bakelite with brass bands and epic eye-appeal. The side sections of this old baddie sport a craggy texture that's carved like rough-hewn stone. Considering its heft and feel, this could be the rock that David used to take down Goliath. On the top of the button (inside the laced brass) the Bakelite sections run smooth. Dramatic and lionhearted, this brawny treasure must've belonged to one helluva a dashing gladiator.

Visit Doreen's online store  

-Sherbert McGee   

Friday, February 10, 2017

Green Ribbons/Mental Health Awareness Buttons

It's awards season and celebrities are wearing all kinds of ribbons on their designer lapels to bring awareness to AIDS, breast cancer, Hodgkin's disease and countless other rampant maladies of the 21st Century. On that note, today I'm posting a set of bright green ribbon-shaped buttons from the early 1930's and boy are they spiffy! (SIDE NOTE: Later this month I'll be spotlighting an entire week's worth of Bakelite buttons that take on specific shapes, i.e. screw-shaped buttons and buttons shaped like salt shakers and so on). I should point out that these antiquated greenies were not made to tout awareness for any specific cause, but having done a little research on the subject, I've learned that nowadays green ribbons are the symbol for mental health awareness. So if you're a sane person, here's an idea: be grateful for your sanity. Try not to throw the word "crazy" around too mindlessly out of respect for people who struggle with certifiable mental instability. To wrap things up, I'll end today's post with a poem, which touches on the topic of dementia and grand hysteria. Titled, Lost Myself Again, I wrote this poem when I was in high school after reading the book "Sybil" by Flora Rheta Schreiber.

I think I've lost myself again.
My train is off its track.
I've scooted off to who-knows-where?
I hope that I'll be back.

I must have slipped away from me
While gazing at the moon
And now I don't know where I've gone.
Perhaps I'll find me soon?

For all I know, I'm on a bus
Or maybe I'm at sea?
I'm not sure where I put myself
Or what's become of me.

Here's hoping if I close my eyes
And slowly count to ten, 
I'll turn the key that opens me
And find myself again.  

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Israelite

Thou Shalt Polish Thy Buttons! So complex and biblical, I've named this button "The Israelite" since it looks like a holy relic from the ancient Hebrew nation as described in the Old Testament. Forming the base of this button is a slab of tortoise Bakelite (aka rootbeer). The middle piece that resembles an ice cube is made of Lucite, which is the same plastic as Plexiglas. Finally, this anomalous button is decorated in three strands of brassverily bestowing this oddity with a Babylonian frill.

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bulletproof Jellyfish

This isn't the first time I've compared a button to a jellyfish, but this is the first time I've compared a button to a jellyfish that's sporting a metal breastplate. Apple juice Bakelite forms the body of this vintage curiosity, but what really sets this button apart is the swirled dome of armor that's secured to the Bakelite like a bulletproof parasol. Made in the 1930's, this ironclad delicacy is something else.

Visit Doreen's online store  

-Sherbert McGee  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Toggle Tuesday: Red Ridges

Some buttons invite themselves to be photographed quite easily and then there are buttons like this. In today's episode of "Toggle Tuesday" here's a toggle that refused to cooperate in the way of picture-taking until I finally settled on this tolerable image with the button tilted upwards. A cherry red toggle in tested and confirmed Bakelite, this ridged rascal is vaguely shaped like a hotdog bun.

-Sherbert McGee   

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Panther Paw

Last year I purchased this button from my friend Doreen, who never runs out of luck when it comes to finding the best of the best (vintage) black buttons out there. In our correspondence, she named this one "the panther paw" and that's definitely a fitting description of this primitive beauty in licorice Bakelite. An art deco button without doubt, the four lobes alternate between smooth and chiseled. It's a wild zinger from the Roaring Twenties and by "roaring" I'm talking about a panther's holler.

Visit Doreen's online store  

-Sherbert McGee 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Windowed Button, Starring a Horse!

Hold your horses, Bakelite enthusiasts! Here's what I call a "windowed button" owing to the bubble-shaped glass centered on top of the butterscotch Bakelite. Framed beneath the glass is an image of a bay steed in a bright yellow harness. This equestrian gem is a product of the 1920's. I own several windowed buttons and will be showing the others sporadically over the course of this blog. 

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Bakelite Connection

Some savvy innovation went into this "hook and catch" set that totally rethinks the button concept. These are Bakelite button components in olive green and bright maroon. Both pieces have regular looking buttonholes, but neither piece does its job without the other. Beware of antique dealers who try to sell the fly-shaped hook piece all by itself and call it a bug button. Nope! These little smarties work together or they're just nice-looking scraps

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Snaggy Yams

"Orange juice" in the world of Bakelite is a type of brightly swirled color that typically gives off scads of light. A strange exception would be this pair of Bakelite buttons in a very dark shade of OJ that's uncharacteristically dingy. Or maybe I've got it all wrong and these are actually yam juice buttons? Notwithstanding their lack of refulgence, these are exquisite buttons in the "double cut" variety with eight sharp folds on top that give the impression of inward-pointed spikes. I flipped the other button over to show how dissimilar the sides are. Circa 1930. 

-Sherbert McGee