Monday, March 6, 2017

Bakelite vs. Fakelite

Listen up, vintage button fans! Things are about to get very intense. Today I'm addressing the need for greater discernment when it comes to identifying true Bakelite buttons in contrast to the endless varieties of "fakelite" that are floating around out there in the material world. The photo above shows a small handful of six plastic buttons from the 1920's-1960's. Three of these buttons were made during the earlier, interwar years and have tested positive for Bakelite. The other three buttons were made after the mid 1940's and are NOT Bakelite, but forms of deceptively comparable celluloid. By looking at this photo, can you weed out the fakelite and identify the real deals? Honestly, I had to test each of these buttons with Simichrome polish in order to make the distinction.

Buyers Beware: There's nothing wrong with a non-Bakelite button, but I get annoyed when I see buttons being sold deceptively as "French Bakelite" or "British Bakelite" as if a European pet name authenticates the substance of anything. These deceptive terms are fancy synonyms for genuine fakelite and nothing more. Bakelite is Bakelite if it tests positive for Bakeliteeven if it comes from London or Paris. Always test a button before trusting that its make is true Bakelite. The sea of old buttons is flooded with fakelite, many of which are quite unique and worth collecting. I'm a Bakelite snob, but whose to say celluloid buttons have no value? My advice is this: Develop an eye for real Bakelite and a nose for it too. Enjoy vintage buttons of all varieties and don't be duped. That is all.

-Sherbert McGee 

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