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Large early 18th-century blue foil-backed butterfly button, estimated at $1,200-$2,500 at Lion and Unicorn.

Antique button mania returns to Lion and Unicorn April 10

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Some of the world’s most desirable buttons will be offered at Lion and Unicorn on Wednesday, April 10 as part of its Florida Spring Time Antique Button Auction. Low estimates range from $50 to more than $5,000, with bidding available via LiveAuctioneers.

Helpfully tagged as ‘the rarest button in the auction’ is an 18th-century engraved copper example sporting a profile portrait of William of Orange. Although dated 1688, the year of the so-called Glorious Revolution, the button was likely made a century later to mark the anniversary of the Protestant succession. The legend reads Pro Libertate (For Liberty). One of a number of copper pictorials offered from the collection of Harry Case of Missouri, it comes with a mighty estimate of $5,000-$8,000.

Also from the Case collection is a large circa-1790 two-color copper mourning button set with a watercolor-on-ivory scene of a lady by a funerary urn, and a large early 18th-century brass button with a foil-backed reverse-painted image of a butterfly. Both in good condition, they are estimated at $2,000-$4,000 and $1,200-$2,500, respectively.

The National Button Society formed in 1938 and created a series of guidelines for the classification of antique buttons according to size, date, type, and status. All are laid down in the Official NBS Classification System handbook, fondly known as the Blue Book, which is still provided to each new member.

‘Large’ buttons are classified as those measuring between 1.25-1.75in, while ‘Extra-large’ buttons are those that exceed 1.75in. Another prize in the April 10 sale is an extra-large cut brass and steel picture button meticulously worked with a Commedia dell’arte scene of Punchinello and Harlequin. Estimated at $1,000-$2,000, this is the very button pictured in the Big Book of Buttons by Elizabeth Hughes and Marion Lester – the collecting guide that is itself something of a collector’s item.

When the first button collections were formed in the early 20th century, the focus was very much on these deluxe items dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Today, some of the buttons made during the Art Deco period are equally sought after. Estimated at $2,000-$3,500 is a large silver and sepia tinted glass button by René Lalique. Molded with the image of a nymph picking flowers and dubbed Floret, it is one of six button designs Lalique produced.