Friday, April 28, 2017

Layered Circus Cake

A lucky button for sure, this animated doozy sports an eyeful of bright plastic pieces topped with a scarlet bead. The bead is not Bakelite. It's probably a type of plastic called casein. The only Bakelite section of this button is the layer below the bead, which is catching gobs of sunlight in this photo. Color-wise, this piece is orange juice Bakelite with plenty of visible swirling. The three lower layers did not test positive for Bakelite and I believe they are also made of casein. There's a circus-like charm about this perky button. It reminds me of a little cake and it works nicely as a cheerer-upper. It's hard to put a date on this one, but it might go back to the early 1940's.

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Fettuccine Wraparound

Wrapped in pasta-like strands, the centerpiece of this vintage button is a green octagon in Bakelite. But it's those twisty rows of celluloid strands that make this bold curiosity such a standout. When I first laid eyes on this button, I thought surely someone had glued the celluloid wreath to the Bakelite as a homespun embellishment. I was wrong. This is not a craft project, but a factory-made button from the early 1940's when Bakelite items were finally dying out as manufacturers began producing cheaper varieties of plastic. On a side note, fettuccine means "little ribbons" in Italian.

-Sherbert McGee  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Maritime Keepsakes

Ahoy there! Carrying on with a week of buttons made of Bakelite combined with other types of plastic, here's a set of three buttons featuring nautical themes. While the black and creamed corn bases of these buttons are Bakelite, the seafaring designs are celluloid pieces. Due to its two-tone composition, I would consider the anchored specimen to be a Bakelite cookie button. These old collector's items are hard to find in decent condition since the celluloid bits tend to be ragged and soiled. Mine are in fair shape, which isn't quite as good as shipshape.

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Telephone Corded Button

Remember those stretchy cords that came out of landline telephones back in the day? This large and bizarre button is bordered in that same plastic cordinga sort of rubberized celluloid if there is such a thing. The main, brown component of this old wonder tested positive for Bakelite. Classified as one of my favorite weirdos, in all my research I've never seen anything like this daffy crank-caller of a button. When you hold it up to your ear, you can actually hear a dial tone.

-Sherbert McGee   

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Basket Case

I said it was coming and here it is: a whole week of buttons that combine elements of Bakelite with other varieties of plastic, namely celluloid or casein. Getting down to business, today's button is one of my best loved combos. When my friend Doreen found this button during one of her hunts for vintage rarities, she described it to me as a red Bakelite ball with a celluloid collar. Now it's in my collection and I'm amazed that this button even exists on account of its large size and questionable functionality. I can't imagine this slipping easily through a button hole, but that's part of the fun of this major oddity. Flower-like and pristine for its age, it has the appearance of a cherry orb in a plastic basket. A downright crazy button from the 1940's.

Visit Doreen's online store 

-Sherbert McGee 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bakelite and Busby Berkeley

Ta-da! Nothing tops this massive and magnificently opulent button in carved apple juice Bakelite with its exploding motif of geometric petals and theatrical facets. Weighty and glass-like, the bottom of the button is carved into a flower design that was painted a dusty mauve. From the top view, this fragile blossom looks like a sunken treasure in liquid gold. Because of its elaborate detail, every time I hold this button I see an old Busby Berkeley movie-musical unfolding in the kaleidoscopic contours of 1920's pageantry and its accompanying art deco mystique. It's almost as if this button wasn't just manufactured; it was choreographed.

Busby Berkeley was famous for creating highly ornate musical numbers that encompassed intricate, geometric patterns out of huge ensembles of showgirls. These on-screen fantasy sequences have been described as the glitziest, greatest and most jaw-dropping production numbers ever assembled for film. Specializing in epic splendors, his entertainment heyday during the Great Depression bedazzled Americans with a uniquely unparalleled cinema. 

Visit Doreen's online store 

-Sherbert McGee      

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Art Deco Toggle

Check out this old toggle button from the 1920's or 30's. An attractive cylinder in cherry red Bakelite, it runs smooth before getting complicated with a fancy bit of meshwork. The crisscross design is an example of the "double cut" method of crafting a button with opposing cuts to the top and bottom layers of the Bakelite, which appear to intersect. What's more, this darn snazzy toggle achieves the token zing! of the Art Deco style.

-Sherbert McGee    

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sinister Minister

Speak of the devil! Like an ominous talisman, this Bakelite button is a wicked sensation in tones of polished black against explosive orange juice. The black topside resembles the letter "H" and that stands for HELLFIRE! The orange juice layer is an evil storm of billowing flamestruly an inferno of satanic elegance. No other button in my collection is quite so formidable and spellbinding. 

-Sherbert McGee   

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hypnotic Butterscotch

Let's get hypnotized! Here's a vintage button with a vortex design carved into a definitive tone of butterscotch Bakelite. I love the dizzying effect of the pinwheel shape and the tunnel-like illusion it creates. This large and dramatic button likely goes back to 1930the same year Zelda Fitzgerald was admitted to a sanatorium and diagnosed as a schizophrenic.

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bakelite Stripes

Several years ago, I saw this button at an antique dealership in New York City on Crosby Street in SoHo. At first glance, I thought this was a wooden button with tortoise stripes. I was wrong. This is a Bakelite button from one side to the other. The clear amber stripes are a tone of Bakelite that bears resemblance to maple syrup. The other stripes are creamed corn Bakelite with darkened swirls that are suggestive of shellacked pine. Pleasantly surprised, this button taught me a lesson in the clever guises of hard-to-identify Bakelite. circa 1928.

-Sherbert McGee

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Stardust and Blue Fog

Sometimes an antique button possesses so many unusual enhancements that it's easy to overlook the fact that the button is Bakelite. Here's an example of just that. The Bakelite is apple juice infused with a generous pinch of stardust. Normally, an apple juice button absorbs light and emits a golden glow. But that's not happening with this button because the apple juice backside has been painted dark grayresulting in a shadowy roundup of underlit glitter. Even stranger, the button is garnished with a foggy blue bead made of vintage glass that mysteriously wavers between deep indigo and a silvery periwinkle. Notwithstanding all of its exotic distractions, this recherché wonder-button is in my collection for one guessable reason. It's Bakelite!

-Sherbert McGee    

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Fudge Pie, 18 Slices

My six-year-old nephew doesn't like the color brown on account of a certain body function. I can appreciate his repulsion, but I just so happen to love the color brown and here's a specific brown thing that I'm quite fond of: this Bakelite button. Etched with lines that resemble 18 slices of a chocolate dessert, notice the dimples or indentations that travel around the rim of this fancy pie. Brown gets a bad rap (for good reason) sometimes, but brown Bakelite seldom disappoints.

Visit Doreen's online store 

-Sherbert McGee     

Friday, April 14, 2017

Pillow Buttons

Known as "pillow buttons" or simply "pillows" among collectors, these Bakelite buttons are pudgy nuggets with no lack of charm. The larger sized one in the middle is my favorite, a radiant vision in the sunny color of a custard square. Pillowy in shape and yet curiously angular, these robust babies roll around in the palm of my hand like an animated set of porky gemstones. And no, you may not fluff my Bakelite pillows.

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Crowned Moss

Here's a moss button boasting a many-petaled crown escutcheon in striking brass detail. A mottled tone of dark green, moss Bakelite is sometimes referred to by collectors as spit pea soup. In this case, the Bakelite has been sculpted into an awkward design that goes from zigzagged to spotted. Oddly asymmetrical, this button flaunts errant grooves. It's a rogue weirdo, this one. Circa 1930.

-Sherbert McGee 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Toggle Tuesday: Smart Cookies

Since they're two-tone buttons in creamed corn and black, I'm going to call these toggles a variety of "cookie buttons" and I think most collectors would agree that these do manifest the cookie look. Striking and angular, buttons like this must've belonged to a real man about town. Indeed, there are some smart vibrations coming off of this Bakelite trio. 

To examine a full range of cookie buttons featuring a wide mixture of shapes, designs and color combinations, be sure to visit my posts last year for all of April 2016. A month of Bakelite buttons like no other, that was the biggest batch of cookies ever!

-Sherbert McGee

Friday, April 7, 2017

Buffooneries of 1919

Five or six years ago I hit upon a jackpot of antique buttons at a ritzy second-hand store in San Francisco, California that had just acquired some old clothing items going back to the pre-1920's. Among the mildewy frocks was a harlequin costume that had to be discarded due to its moth-eaten material. Be that as it may, the Bakelite buttons were salvaged and I just so happened to be at the right place at the right time when these scruffy gems went up for grabs. Purchased without a moment's hesitation, I've been preserving them carefully ever since. Now let me explain a few things: These buttons may appear to have some grungy spots, but that's not grunge you are seeing; that's a glue residue and some tiny abrasions to the Bakelite. I've deep-cleaned these antiques as best I can and while I can't restore them to their glory days, I'm happy with what's left of these fragile clowns. Possibly among my oldest Bakelite, this pair of buttons is estimated to go back to 1919 or 1920. The apple juice Bakelite feels truly aged. The red top layers maintain their merry charisma. Due to their unique seniority, I take special care of these elderly funsters.

-Sherbert McGee       

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Spiraled & Spiked

At some time back in the 1920's, a button factory cranked out a whole batch of these major oddities and I have one of them to prove it. This button is made of creamed corn Bakelite incised with a neat-o spiral design for some killer pizzazz. What's more, it features a large glass-like shard of rare lime juice Bakelitejutting high out of the button in the form of a rather substantial spike. Visible in this photo, you can see the four evenly cut angles of the spike pointing toward the tip. It's an exciting find and a classic example of the sharp imagination that went into the artistry of Jazz-Age buttons.

-Sherbert McGee   

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Aerodynamic Bakelite

Swoosh! Here's an antique button that dreams of becoming a boomerang. A sort of elongated oval in burgundy, the button sports a gloss lamination that still glistens after 8 or 9 decades of existence. Despite the glaze, this old bird did test positive for Bakelite. With its streamlined shape and smooth design, I look at this button and see something born for hard-flung air travel. circa 1930.

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My Orange Fave

True orange buttons in Bakelite don't land in my collection as often as I'd like them to. That being the case, I felt so lucky to find this deeply grooved flower a few years ago during one of my cross-country antiquing pursuits. Where I found this shiny button and how much I spent are lost on me now, but here it is. Having the look of a cactus bred with a tulip, I'm not sure what to make of the design. Even so, this is one of my all-time favorites.

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, April 3, 2017

Upholding a Cookie

Once a year I like to put a button on a tiny wooden easel that was given to me by my friend, Doreen. Here's this year's winner: a classic cookie button with a black border. Exactly one year ago I posted a full month of cookie buttons throughout all of April (2016). Highly collectible and decidedly quaint, I think the phrase "cute as a button" must've started with Bakelite cookies. 

-Sherbert McGee