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Planning Retirement Online

Family Treasures - Edition 15
                                     March 2005

Miller's Price Guide 

Purchase Miller's Price Guide 2004/2005

Family Treasures 15

Jill Churchill, who writes on antiques and collectables for YOURS magazine, continues her series .  




Right on the button

Maybe you have an old tin of buttons somewhere in the house. Don’t throw it away in a fit of spring cleaning. You never know what treasures it might contain.

Two English porcelain buttons, each about the size of a 10p piece, were together ?210 at Sotheby’s last year, despite being not that old - about 1900. Had they been earlier, say 1870, and of satsuma (painted Japanese, creamy earthenware crackled with gold) they might have fetched ?200 each.

Fine and dandy

Enamelled portrait buttonRarer still are little metal-rimmed buttons decorated with enamelled flowers or portrait miniatures. They’re often French, and were all the rage on the waistcoats of Regency dandies. Just one little enamelled button in good condition could be ?150, and a set of six upwards of ?1,000.


Buttons were, you’ll gather, mainly a male thing in the 1700s, while we womenfolk wore loose muslin gowns. Georgian fops liked frock coats with inch-wide ‘picture buttons’ in stamped brass. Usually illustrating fables, these are often mistaken for coins if the shank is missing - but are still worth ?20 apiece to collectors.

Tight and tiny

Buttons for women came into their own when Queen Victoria took the throne: tight bodices and sleeves bore rows of ‘Austrian tinies’ - usually metal and flower-painted. Then, after 1861, the gentry joined HM in mourning Prince Albert: ‘French jet’ (misleading name for black glass) was the rule, but most are disappointingly low-value today. The prettier little Victorian buttons have been purloined by makers of clip-on earrings. Any left should be sewn onto cards if you’re selling: a set of six or eight, depending on charm, can fetch ?5-?15 at country markets.

Shabby chic

Sets of leather and horn buttons sell well, too: canny dressers pay ?2 to ?4 per button, using them to replace plastic buttons on high street macs and jackets for ‘shabby chic’ effect.

Collectables - buttonThe Jazz Age brought back a fad for big dressy buttons in the 20s. (Think Duchess of Windsor, and Odeon cinemas.) Especially in red/black/white/silver, many have been converted into brooches. Any that survive are worth preserving: at between ?5 and ?10 each now, they are, like all things Deco, fast rising in value.


Family Treasures - 1

Family Treasures - 2

Family Treasures - 3

Family Treasures - 4

Family Treasures - 5

Family Treasures - 6

Family Treasures - 7

Family Treasures - 8

Family Treasures - 9

Family Treasures - 10

Family Treasures - 11

Family Treasures - 12

Family Treasures - 13

Family Treasures - 14

Family Treasures - 15

For subsequent editions - see the laterlife interest index



laterlife interest

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