If you’ve been collecting buttons for any length of time you’ve certainly noticed by now that buttons are found in more shapes than that ‘round’ button shape. Buttons that have the shape of the object they represent are known as “realistics”. They reproduce in miniature, a person, flower, animal, object or anything else readily recognized. There is no end to the variety of objects copied by buttons.
First made in the mid 1930's, these clever, colorful and amusing buttons were manufactured by every country and produced from a variety of materials. Those of plastic and celluloid are most readily found, but keep looking, you can possibly acquire a collection consisting of an assortment including bakelite, wood, coconut shell, ceramic, plaster of paris, glass, bone, leather, ivory and metal.
Realistic buttons were mostly sold in chain department stores like Woolworth’s. Often sets were offered and could be found on cards of up to eight. For example, a glass set of eight different vegetable shapes are one of my favorites. It consists of carrots, radishes, corn, tomatoes, green pepper, cauliflower, peas and a bundle of asparagus. Another cute set is a plastic one of gardening tools, with a trowel, watering can, wheelbarrow, clippers, mower and a garden hose on a caddie. It isn’t easy to acquire sets if you collect them one by one, but sometimes you get lucky and find a complete set on an original card. If you don’t aspire to finding sets you could concentrate your collecting to a certain theme. For instance, you may wish to find as many different hats as possible. Perhaps of interest would be to find a different realistic for every letter of the alphabet.
Production of realistics continued through the 1940's and although they were made in vast numbers they are becoming hard to find. In 1942 Dorothy Foster Brown, who wrote button articles for Hobbies magazine coined the term “Goofies”. The description is still used today by button collectors and is interchangeable with the term “Realistics.” In fabric stores now, you may still find many nice new realistic buttons to collect. One of the most plentiful types are known among collectors as “snap-togethers.” Imported by wholesalers, most notably, Streamline, these little two-part buttons have been available since around 1995. They always consist of at least two parts which are of different colors. Look at the sides to find the two colors, also check the shank. It will be a different color than the back. The separation of the pieces allows for ease of dying. Snap-togethers are of considerable interest and are recognized by collectors to have a future “collectiblity.”
|Oh Those Goofy Buttons|
I know you've heard the saying
And I'm sure you'll agree it's so,
It takes all kinds of people
to make this old world go.
There is one very special type
You may meet in any sector,
Who've been bitten by the "Button Bug"
And become an avid button collector.
Some have a further reaction,
And their illness really clings
They collect only "Goofy" buttons
How they love those little things.
These little buttons come in sets
Each related to the other
And what a feeling of satisfaction
To complete one set and then another.
There's no know cure for this illness
Who wants to cure it anyway?
It's such a happy, interesting pastime
We'll recommend it any day.
Written by Irma Shoop and published in
The Colorado State Button Society Bulletin.