Button Show Coming March 9

  |  By Susan Maxwell Skinner
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Faye Wolfe (left) and Susan Rhoades display some of thousands of antique and retro buttons that will be exhibited at the California Button Society’s March 9 show. Photo by Susan Skinner

CARMICHAEL, CA  (MPG)  -  Some eye-popping antiques slip easily through a buttonhole. At the California Button Society’s March 9 expo, you might snag a Civil War tunic fastener for $50. If you lust for hand-painted 18th century pieces, be prepared to unbutton your billfold.  

What astonishes at such bazaars is the availability of seriously old stuff. Snipped from long-ago rotted garments, many are thumb-nail masterpieces. “We often look at old buttons and imagine the stories they could tell,” says Button Club treasurer Susan Rhoades. “They were traded, stolen and inherited. Lives were lost in making them; pearl dust and mercury (for gold plating) killed many. “You learn so much about history, art and manufacturing from buttons.”

In the Middle Ages, no material was too grand for the button makers’ art. Georgian aristocrats later bespoke Gainsborough-style portraits – sometimes of their pets – to fasten vests. When Queen Victoria took to wearing jet specimens, society followed. Though zippers have revolutionized modern fastening, nifty little buttons have never been completely undone. “People visit our shows show seeking that one perfect item,” says Sacramento collector Faye Wolfe. “One lady brought a vest she’d sewn; she wanted buttons for it. In the end, she chose four, each different. Who says they have to match? Our button world is full of eccentricity.”

The Button Bazaar runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 9, at the La Sierra Center, 5325 Engle Rd, Carmichael. The show offers a free service for valuing buttons. Admission is by $2 donation. For information, contact fwolfe@surewest.net