A friend recently asked that I write an article on buttons. Well, there are certainly a lot of buttons out there that could be used for collections. Just like any other area of collecting, the reasons for collecting are many and varied.

One individual might be motivated to start a button collection while another person might think that is the craziest idea any person could have. Actually, it is a pretty good thing that all collectors don't want to collect the same thing. Imagine how insane the world could quickly become if everyone wanted to collect the same thing.

One good thing about collecting buttons is the tremendous number and variety that are out there. Also, one doesn't need to have a lot of money to collect a great variety of buttons. You might not find a bunch of buttons at every auction or antique shop but when you do, you can often pick up a significant variety and number of buttons at a very reasonable price.

Historically, most of the buttons made before the 1800s came from Europe, and there really were not that many made. After the early 1800s, buttons were increasingly made in many countries like France, England, Germany and the United States.

Buttons were made from a wide variety of materials. Some common sources included stone, pottery, glass, metal, bone and a variety of other materials.

Sometimes precious stones, ivory and precious metals were used on shoes, shirts and trousers, as well as for other purposes. Purses, necklaces and other wearing apparel sometimes featured attractive and unusual decorations in the shape of buttons.

Some significant button collections were assembled during the 1930s when many people had more buttons and leisure time than they had pennies.

It is interesting to notice how sometimes the shifting sands on the political scene and having the economy crater can greatly impact collecting habits. Who knows, maybe the current economy and political turmoil will cause an increase in such hobbies as button collecting.

The value of a collectible button varies with the eye of the beholder just as in any other area of collecting. The type of material can also impact the monetary value of uncommon buttons. Specific types include porcelain and pottery, china, glass, historical, buttons made of horn, enameled buttons, and even vegetable ivory buttons.

The vegetable ivory buttons are made from nuts of the tagua or corozo palm tree. Very attractive designs can be added to slices of the nuts from the tagua and corozo palm. (This paragraph will arm you with some trivia that probably none of your friends have.)

Some significant value making qualities of buttons include rarity, beauty of design, quality of material and construction, and early 18th-century metal buttons such as the Washington Inaugural Buttons.

One must realize that few delegates attended the inaugurations in 1789 and 1793. However, they do show up occasionally in some collections that include really old buttons.

If you are already a button collector, you probably already know the value of joining a collector's club. The National Button Society has more than 4,000 members. Other collecting groups include the Colorado State Button Society, the California State Button Society and the Michigan Button Society.

You can contact me if you are interested in becoming aware of the mailing address or Web site for these organizations.

Marvin Mann, Plainville, is an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers. Send questions to him in care of The Hays Daily News, P.O. Box 857, Hays KS 67601.