Posted by: Fern | August 3, 2008

The Death Of The Button Tin

When I was a little I remember being obsessed with my Nan’s button tin, an old Quality Streets chocolate tin that was full to bursting with buttons, broken bits of jewellery and earrings that had lost their partners. If, heaven forbid, a piece of clothing hit the point of being thrown out there was no way it would leave the house with its buttons still attached, every button that my Nan ever owned ended up in that tin, and looking through it as a little girl it was like looking through a treasure box.

Now as you’re probably aware, I sew a great deal, but as I tend to avoid garment sewing at all costs, and most of what I make has to be child friendly, I just don’t have any buttons to my name, however, recent activities of late has meant that I’ve required buttons at odd times of the night to complete a project and so have been wanting to purchase a button tin… so I did what I would have done in the UK five (or more like ten) years ago and wandered down to the local op shop/charity store. No such luck. That was a few weeks ago and yesterday I went to my fourth charity shop on my tin hunt, by now I would have thought I’d be the owner of a couple of rusty biscuit tins stuffed with buttons with the amount of searching I’d done, all bought for about $3-5, left in a charity store by some little old lady who either can’t see to sew any more or who had kacked it recently and the family clearing up her house just didn’t know what to do with it and so threw it in the box of stuff to donate to St. Vinnies.

Apparently not, button tins are no more! At first I thought it was just the changing generation, the generation that would save EVERY button from EVERY piece of clothing simply because of habits formed by living during war torn times are now all but gone and the following generations just aren’t saving every last bit of string and button that might one day come in handy.

So in a last attempt I went onto eBay, thinking I might find someone clearing out their mother’s or grandmother’s estate who had thrown up basically everything on to the site to make a bit of spare change. Bingo! I found auctions ending every couple of hours for old button tins, stuffed to the brim, no wonder there are none in the charity stores, ALL of them are on eBay, and now it turns out that those old grannies are raking it in. I’ve spent the last couple of days watching auctions for these damned tins, and so far haven’t seen one go for less than $40, last night I watched in amazement as two bidders battled it out for about thirty minutes for a tin of dusty old buttons, I can imagine them staring at their screen and cursing each time they got outbid, that tin went for just over $80, plus postage.

I don’t know who the hell is buying them, maybe it’s people wanting to split it up and sell them up as smaller lots marketed as “vintage buttons” (because we all know that’s the buzz word for making something ridiculously expensive nowadays), but I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t be crafters paying such ridiculous amounts for an old tin of buttons. Maybe I’m just crazy for thinking that I could pick up one for a few bucks, but I am honestly amazed at the insane prices that these things are going for! Looks like there are some grannies out there cashing in on eBay 😉

So, does anyone know any kind old ladies that have never heard of eBay and want to donate their old button tin to me so I’m not stuck having to buy brand new ones every time I randomly need one to finish off a project?



  1. […] Fern has been discussing the Death Of Button Tins, am I really crazy for expecting to walk into an Op Shop and buy an unloved (full) button tin for […]

  2. I feel your pain! I went through this very same experience about a year ago when we decided we needed a button tin (my favorite as a child, too!) for our boys to increase fine motor skills and for just pure enjoyment.

    I wanted to find a button tin with a clasp that shut (kind of like an extra large lunch box) because that is what I had as a child. I was able to find a vintage lunch box, but it’s tiny! My mom has been able to find buttons for us at yard sales, I don’t know if you guys have those in England, but they are on every corner on the weekends here in the States.

    I wish you luck finding your button tin!


  3. Wow, my mum has my gran’s button tin. It has survived through so many years, it’s one of the old OXO tins, small, red and rectangular.

  4. I just wanted to apologize! I thought you were in Australia, but I got thrown off by your “about” blurb and didn’t read all the way down, so I assumed you were in England now.

    I hope I didn’t offend you in any way. I need to be more thorough in my investigating. 🙂 Sorry for the mistake!


  5. This kind old lady has several old biscuit tins!! and Several button JARS!!!!!!!!

    So, you need look no further than family my dear DIL – I will bring down a button tin or two and yes, some old old buttons next week. (We are off for a week’s hols down south).

    As you are the crowned queen craft person in our family, I see no need for me to retain what has become a useless piece or memorabilia in my cupboards.

    See – somtimes MIL’s do come in handy don’t they?


  6. Ahhh, Trudy, I knew I was keeping you around for a good reason!! 😛

  7. More likely it’s opportunists that scour the op shops regularly for gems they can sell on ebay to make a quick dollar. 😦

    Looks like you found your much needed button tin though.

    Mmmm…..I always wanted to get a quality street tin of chocolates.

  8. I have no button tins (but would love one!) – but often finishing a project I have one or two buttons left over. It’s pretty surprising how fast buttons accumulate on their own accord – they seem to multiply automatically.

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