A Button Collector's Website

   Buttons In Time


Hobby Groups
Button Links


Up Resources Cleaning Buttons Start a Club Button Dictionery NBS 2014 Convention

Resources for the New Collector!

Tools and tips to get you started.

If you are collecting buttons for your own pleasure, then the sky is the limit when it comes to "how to organize" and "how to mount" and "how to display" your buttons.  But if you follow the path of other collectors, you will want to know the standard methods used.  I can tell you that many beginners collect by color.  That's fine, but after a while "red" may become limiting; and you may want to know more about that especially fabulous red hat button or red jeweled button.  So are some ideas and resources to start you on your way to button fun!  Keep in mind that the National Button Society publishes, annually, its categorization system.  Use this system to separate buttons by material or subject matter.


Every collector has their favorite tools and methods for mounting buttons.  I keep the lid of a cardboard box as my mounting area.  Inside I put a rectangular piece of foam board.  Scraps of this can be found in the trash bins of construction areas, or buy a sheet at a crafts store.  This foam board is about an inch think.  I put my mounting card on top of the foam board so that when I punch holes in the card, the punch has a porous surface to go into (and avoid marring my table).  My "punch" is what some people call an awl.  You can purchase a punch from wood- or leather- working suppliers (art or hobby supply or tool supplies).  The tip needs to be very sharp.  Another tool I like to use is a corn cob holder.  You know -- the plastic or metal tool with two prongs that go into the end of the corn cob?  These work great for punching two small holes into a card instead of one larger hole.  To mount the button onto the card (using the holes you punched), you'll need wires.  Most of us use thin telephone wires that are copper inside with a plastic covering.  Here's a summary of items you will find helpful:

bulletCardboard or harder material to protect your table
bullet1" thick foam board
bulletMounting mat board (9" x 12")
bulletPunch or Awl
bulletMounting wires (cut to 1" or 2" in length).  [Note: There is also a wire configuration called a "spider" where two wires are twisted and welded together to hold a button that does not have a traditional shank.  Pad back buttons are best mounted with a spider.]
bulletCorn cob holder(s) to serve as double hole punch
bulletButton measure (NBS has a standard tool)
bulletMagnet (smaller is better) to help identify metal types.
bulletMagnifying glass (to see the details in a button)
bulletGood light source (again to see details)

To inventory and store buttons, here are a few other ideas and tools:

bulletDrawered box(es) to separate buttons by material or subject.  (This should be a temporary storage in order to avoid damage to buttons of conflicting materials such as plastics and metals.)
bullet"Work cards" to separate buttons by material or subject (until you mount them for display or competition).
bulletComputer, scanner and printer.  Software to record your button purchases.  Software to scan buttons or button cards for purposes of an inventory.  I maintain a purchase record in a spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel.  Independently, I maintain an inventory of the button trays by scanning each tray and printing a copy of that scan.  The printed sheets are kept in a binder, sorted by NBS categories.  Consider numbering each tray that you scan to give it an inventory number, too.  The nice thing about these scans, is that they can be taken with you to button shows.  Avoid buying the same button twice by tracking what you have against what you are looking for.


In accordance with National Button Society (N.B.S.) rules, buttons are to be mounted on 9" x 12" cards.  Typically, collectors will use mat board that is available in art supply stores. 

Buy Pre-cut Cards:  You can buy (from sources within the button world) pre-cut plain, colored cards and cards with patterns for your buttons .  Phil Linley, C.B. Weiser, and Maggie Johnson are three suppliers of cut boards and board patterns.

Make Your Own Cards:  Mat board comes in a variety of sizes; most often it is 32" x 40".  This will cut down to make 9 cards with 4" and 5" scraps.  Online sellers also have 16" x 20" board.  Consider using "acid free" board for less impact on the buttons.  Boards come in various colors and textures.  Traditionally, white was the color of choice among collectors.  Today, the choice is yours.  See your local art or craft supply store.  Or go online.  Here are a couple of online resources for materials to make your own cards:

American Frame - Mt Board Listings Link.  They sell individually cut boards and in board bulk. 

MisterArt - Mat Board Listings Link - 16" x 20" as well as larger.  Toll free ordering, call 800-672-7811.


Traditional button card frames are much like a "window box".  However, the important difference is that the button card will slip into the frame from the back, and have another layer of board closing and protecting it.  Again, N.B.S. rules set the standard for size.  Frames can be purchased from a variety of makers.  Here are some sources for you:

* C.B. Weiser (Connie & Bud) of Ohio.  They offer buttons, mat board, frames, and more.

COMPETITION:  By the Rules

The National Button Society (N.B.S.) publishes annually a list of button categories, a glossary of further explanations about the categories, and general rules for entering competition.  This is referred to as the "Blue Book".  Published every other year, each booklet applies to competition for the next year (NOT the current year).  These same categories, definitions, and rules are used by state and local clubs.  One aspect of the rules is specification of the buttons presentation.  Buttons must be mounted on 9 x 12 cards that are ready for hanging (typically in a wood and glass frame or clear plastic sleeve).  The number of buttons per card is dictated by the sizes of the buttons.  The standard is as follows, but DO read the latest "Blue Book" for details on how many of each size for those cards that include more than one size: 

            Button Size                             Buttons per Card

            Large                                        20

            Large & Medium                   24

            Medium                                  30

            Mixed                                      35

            Small                                       42

            Various                                    25

            Diminutive                             70


Large = 1-1/4" or larger
Medium = 3/4" to 1-1/4"
Small = 3/8" to 3/4"
Diminutive = less than 3/8"

 When mounting buttons intended for competition, it is essential to read the classification and glossary information sometimes repeatedly.  Even the most seasoned of competitors have been caught with basic errors such as the wrong number of buttons on the card; a button of the wrong size, or even, the wrong classification altogether. 

Resources Cleaning Buttons Start a Club Button Dictionery NBS 2014 Convention
Hobby Groups Button Information Button Links Contents

Send mail to Janel@ButtonsInTime.com with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright 2005-2014 Buttons In Time