Janice Roxberg, president of the Iowa State Button Society, gave a colorful program about buttons as a guest of the Huxley Historical Society last week.
A dozen or more ladies and one gentleman gathered for the program in the basement of Fjeldberg Lutheran Church last Thursday evening, to enjoy hearing stories about and the history of buttons, as told by Roxberg. As she spoke, Roxberg passed around many interesting pieces of her collection, so those in attendance could get an up-close look.
In introducing Roxberg, Historical Society Secretary Janet Stoll said she had no idea there was a button society until she heard about it.
A show of hands, as asked for by Roxberg, indicated that a couple of ladies in the audience have button collections of their own.
Roxberg acknowledged that stamps and coins had always been among the most popular collector items, but buttons, she said, were often third in terms of popularity for collectors.
Iowa’s State Button Society has nearly 100 members, and like other organizations of this kind, the membership has dropped down from where it used to be, she said. “We have about 10 … separate clubs in the state of Iowa … so we’re still pretty strong.”
At the national organization’s conventions, she said there are 15 countries with representation. “We’re glad to still have 15 countries, and dealers from England, France and Italy (who attend),” she said. The Iowa State Button Society recently held a state meeting in Marshalltown.
As she talked, Roxberg took out trays of buttons. The boards that button groupings are displayed on are called “trays,” she explained.
Stoll found that to be of interest. “Instead of being stored in tins or glass jars, they are displayed on boards in an artistic arrangement. The boards I enjoyed the most were the pearl buttons carved in intricate patterns,” Stoll said.
Roxberg shared many types of buttons and button tray groupings, noting that in grouping buttons, one sometimes needs to do careful research.
For example, she found out, by putting together one grouping of buttons, that a Panda bear button would not fit in a grouping of bear buttons. “Panda bear is from the raccoon family … it has to do with its eyes,” she said. “I never dreamed a Panda bear and raccoon would be related.”
Learning while arranging buttons is what makes the hobby so enjoyable for those who do it. “This is what’s so fun about buttons … it makes you think,” she said.
It’s also fun to learn the stories behind many buttons and collections. “I like to say, give me a button and I’ll tell you a story,” Roxberg said.
She showed vintage “hand buttons” on a tray she put together long ago. Certain things about the hand on each button were significant. Like if a finger was pointing up, it was pointing to heaven. If the hand/wrist was cuffed with lace, it represented a woman. If the cuff was tailored, it represented a man.
It was clear from her stories and her displays of buttons that Roxberg loves button collecting and the artistic talents that are employed to put together intriguing trays.
Stoll said it was interesting to learn about buttons and the global interest in collecting them. “It goes way beyond inheriting your mom or grandma’s button collection,” she said.
Roxberg noted that there will be a button auction at the Van Meter Auction Center on June 14 and 15, and that the event is open to the public.
Stoll said the next event of the Huxley Historical Society will be the High Tea in June at the Maland Home. It’s put on by Blumsters On Main, so be sure to make plans now to attend.