Button, Button – Who’s Got the Button?

4 · 06 · 22

Green Valley Auctions, That’s Who!

Kent Botkin, Auction director at Green Valley Auctions

The Mt. Crawford, Virginia based firm recently held an impressive online auction for a superb grouping of 19th & 20th c. buttons. The wide-ranging collection was assembled during the 1920s through the 1950s by Dr. & Mrs. Courtney Edmond of Alleghany County, VA. The 225 lots cataloged by Auction Director Kent Botkin, generated $111,529 (all prices reflect 17% buyer’s premium).  The collection had basically been in storage for the past 70 years, as subsequent inheritors had stowed the items away.

The online auction commenced at 7 p.m. on March 16 with three 1789 George Washington Inaugural buttons kicking off the fierce bidding. The outstanding condition of the Washington items was reflected in the final hammer price averaging $4,999 for each example. The tsunami of strong hammer prices continued throughout the sale with pristine Confederate uniform buttons garnering a wide audience and strong bidding. A single Mississippi cavalry button manufactured by Hyde & Goodrich of New Orleans fetched a staggering price of $2,464. A set of eight English import fancy script ‘I’ infantry coat buttons hit the mark at $1,172. Simplicity did not deter bidders either. A North Carolina soldier’s button simply marked “NC” within an eight-point star, punched through the stratosphere at $702.

“When the collection was consigned, the family was aware of the George Washington Inaugural specimens, otherwise they were just pretty buttons. A family member recalled looking through the buttons every few years and even using a strand of military buttons to decorate a Christmas tree. When Kent started sorting out the thousands of buttons, we were astounded as to how many nice and difficult to find Confederate buttons were there.”

Greg Evans, owner & head auctioneer

Collectors reinforced this point by bidding up a rare Texas Militia coat button manufactured at New Orleans to $2,342. While that seemed like a high price, a Mississippi Militia example on a lined background charged pass that, finishing up at $2,878.

Rarity has a strong influence on what an item will bring, and this was no exception when an Infantry coat button, featuring a Roman ‘I’ and thirteen stars with some dents, fetched an emperor’s ransom of $821. Only one other example had been offered through online auctions over the past two decades. The storied Virginia Military Institute of Lexington, Virginia, has graduated thousands of fine cadet soldiers over the course of its long tenure. The uniform buttons worn by the cadets during the war of northern aggression are the most sought-after examples from the school. A button manufactured by R. & W. Robinson received an A++ after it finished up at $2,314.

The second portion of the online auction featured Confederate covers and stamps. Virginia specimens performed well including a letter and envelope sent to a remote Virginia springs resort hotel turned Confederate hospital at $496.

Greg Evans along with his son Samuel, the third generation to operate the venerable 55-year-old auction firm, noted,

“The last two years have been to say the least, challenging to our business. The pandemic spurred us to move quicker to online only auctions, which the company had been leaning toward before the world changing events occurred. The results have been phenomenal:  higher prices, more bidders, more merchandise processed – plus the ability to give the more obscure and unique items more attention to a broader audience.”

I’m sounding a bit old here, I remember in 2001, when the firm used this newfangled invention called the internet for the first time. The auction house just showed photographs online of the Mary Kite estate of Elkton, VA which featured Confederate and fine Shenandoah Valley antiques. Little did we realize at that time, how this new technology would alter our business.

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