Button Collector Alex Winter

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.

Alice Cooper Flasher By Vari-Vue From 1977 Featuring His Trademark Face Make-up and Tipping His Top Hat

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.

Figural Celluloid Eight Ball Pin Relating To War Time Production Of Aircraft “A Plane Every 8 Minutes”

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.

Mephisto Tools Showing Satan Using A Hand Brace Bit Drill circa 1920s

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.

Vintage 1970s  Advertising Button For Caravelle Candy Bars Featuring A Smiley Face

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-

Bostock Circus Early 1900s Famous Animal Trainer Real Photo Button

Dustbane Cleanser Advertising Button Featuring Black Cat circa 1910s

Los Angeles County “Crystoglas” Technique Button circa 1915 (one of only a few buttons to utilize the high cost process of colored foil papers beneath the celluloid covering and over the design embossed backing metal)

WW2 Era Uncle Sam “Let’s Pull Together” Hitler Hanging Mechanical Button On Original Card

Historic 1963 March On Washington Button From Day Of MLK Jr.’s I Have A Dream Speech

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.

<<Go to www.BusyBeaver.net