Plastics - the hardest of all to identify for the new collector. We'll break this down into Celluloid, Bakelite and Lucite
- Celluloid - Early plastic popular until about 1920 or so. It is highly flammable! Place this button under hot tap water (only with a solid button, not one with any type of metal as water can destroy a tight top button) Pull it out and sniff. You should get a menthol smell. Think back to how the Vicks vaporub your mother used to use when you where sick and you'll know what it should smell like. Popular types of buttons are the carved/etched wafers and the tight tops which are celluloid tops stretched over a metal back.
- Lucite/Early Thermoset - doesn't have any smell when tested. Usually lighter than Bakelite but heavier than celluloid.
- Casein - If using a hot needle test (not recommended) this one smells like sour milk (Peee-ewwww!)
Miscellaneous Materials - Buttons have been made out of practically anything you can think of. There are ones made from wood, rubber, bone, antlers, paper mache, horn, and corozo nuts (buttons were carved from the corozo nuts of the tague palm. The material resembled ivory, therefore “vegetable ivory” buttons)
That would be a basic breakdown of button categories. As you can see, there are lots of categories to pick from. Whether you collect a specific type of like a mixture, there's sure to be a button out there to catch your eye. As this blog progresses, we hope to do more of the categories and buttons styles.