Alex Winter is a life-long collector of “cultural artifacts,” and he works at the right place to acquire the most interesting and rare buttons— Hake’s Americana and Collectibles.
Alex shared hi-res photos of the most choice buttons, and answered these four questions about how he started collecting the pin-nable pop-culture relics.
Busy Beaver: Why did you start collecting buttons?
Alex Winter: I have been a collector of pop culture artifacts as long as I can remember. Even as a young child, I made sure I kept the boxes to my toys and never got rid of anything, no matter what. A pre-teen pack rat was not the norm among my peers, but was standard protocol among the elders I found myself in constant contact with.
I grew up around very serious collectors of all types of items, so rooms full of display cases showing off their treasures was what I exposed to from a very early age.
I found this extremely fascinating and soon became a rabid collector myself. This started with comic books in the late 1970s. Around the same time I really got into music, with Kiss becoming the first band I followed, and actually tying in with my love of comics as Marvel printed the first Kiss comic book in 1977.
By the early 80’s I was a hard rock/heavy metal junkie and that is where buttons came into my life. My jean jacket became covered with buttons for AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and countless others. It was at this time that I got involved with collectibles as a business, going to and working at flea markets and toy shows. This greatly expanded the types of items I collected with new interests popping up all the time.
I started collections of vintage material relating to superheroes, Halloween/skeletons, dice, eightballs, smiley faces and more. With each collection came pin-back buttons among many other types of objects. Then, in 1985, I got a part-time job at Hake’s Americana & Collectibles. That opened my eyes to the collecting world in a life changing way and became my career (with 2010 marking my 25th anniversary with Hake’s).
Over the years I have had direct contact with tens of thousands of buttons and have seen some truly incredible pin-backs, along with so many others pop culture artifacts. Because of this, I collect buttons that appeal to me regardless of theme or genre. If it catches my eye it has a chance to make my collection.
My expanded list of collections now includes buttons featuring cats of all types, devils, civil rights/black panther party, St. Paul Winter Carnival, 1939 New York World’s Fair and unique buttons with attachments.
Busy Beaver: How many buttons are in your collection?
Alex Winter: I’ve never really counted but it is probably in the neighborhood of 500 or so. If I did not collect so many different types of things, this number would be higher, but I love paper, figural pieces and more, so I try to diversify my various collections.
Busy Beaver: How do you store and display your buttons?
Alex Winter: Many are in riker mounts, others are in display cases mixed in with other types of items and then there are those that I wear, or remain pinned to the jean jacket I wore as a teenager (the Metal Gods won’t let me part with it).
Busy Beaver: What is your favorite button?
Alex Winter: Because of the diversity of my collection picking just one if very difficult so here are some of my favorites covering different themes-
It’s a pleasure to see so many rare buttons from a spectrum of eras and topics, all in one collection. You can learn more about what Alex Winter does for a living on Hake’s Americana and Collectibles.