Buttons, Buttons, Who’s Got Our Buttons?

There was a living estate sale nearby; the bidding was online, but you could preview the items in the house.  The house was a fabulous 1930’s Arts and Crafts style house that was practically untouched inside or out.  We were both as interested in the house as the contents.  Here is a picture of the house that was taken by the real estate company:

We just knew that this place had lots of wonderful stuff inside, and we were right!  Before we show you what interested us in the way of collections, take a gander at the fireplaces upstairs and down.  Let’s start upstairs:

That border of purple amethyst crystals is just amazing!  Kathy was pretty interested in the horse andirons until the bidding got too crazy.  And that spinning wheel to the left was the biggest one that either of us had ever seen.

Here is the fireplace in the basement:

These fireplaces give the phrase “stone fireplace” a whole new meaning.  It was so bright that day; I wish I could have closed the curtains, but every window in the house had glass bottles in them, so messing with the drapes would have been foolhardy.

The whole house had wonderful wood trim (unpainted!) and wood floors.  This room really tickled us, and we would have left it just as it was if it were our house:

The picture was again taken by the real estate company; don’t you love the line-up of knobs on the wall?

There was so much to look at.  The auctioneer told me later that there were over 1000 lots auctioned off.  I was taken by this pincushion doll lot:

So was Kathy, who bid against me before we compared notes.  She stopped bidding me up when I promised to sell her a doll.  Unfortunately, these girls went for more than we wanted to pay; especially since only three of them were pincushion dolls.

What really wound us up were the buttons in the basement sewing room.  I have a couple of pictures of all the lots:

and a few more:

OMG what a mother lode of buttons!  And not just buttons that someone might accumulate over a lifetime of crafts and sewing; the owner was a button collector!  Okay, enough exclamation points, but you get the picture of Kathy and me fanning ourselves looking at those buttons.  Even though we wanted them all, we are realists.  So we chose primary and secondary targets, to make sure we got at least one of the best lots.  Now, there were no lot numbers yet, but things were gathered together and in boxes, so we figured they were still listing things on-line.  Sure enough, late Saturday evening, the buttons went up, and I pounced on what we wanted.  We wanted the big jewelry box the most, and the box of coat buttons second.  Well, we got the jewelry box, and I also got a nice box of Victorian steel buttons after refusing to bid $60 for the coat buttons.  We rushed over to pick up our buttons right when they opened the house up for the buyers.  We know how easy it is for buttons and small items to walk off in pockets.  Security at this auction wasn’t spectacular; there were lots of employees walking around, but in this huge house there were opportunities for someone so inclined.

We picked up all our swag, and rushed to my house to look at the buttons.  Right away Kathy noticed that some things were missing; she is ever so much more observant than I am.  But there were so many wonderful buttons, that we were having a whee of a time looking at them.  The next day, I looked at the pictures I took before the auction to compare them to what we brought home.  I was just a little upset by this:

The buttons on the left were the buttons as they sat on the table at the auction; the buttons on the right were what we brought home.  Immediately, I could see that there were some really good things missing out of the box.  I put some red arrows in the left-most picture to make them easier to spot.  I mailed the pictures to Kathy,  just so she could be as upset as I was, and we decided that we needed to contact the auction house to let them know things were missing out of our boxes.  After a couple of emails back and forth, I sent them pictures.  The auctioneers then wrote that they had “told everyone” that the basement lots still needed to be cataloged and inventoried before being listed.  They had removed the missing items because they were too valuable, and would be sold later at a separate auction, but I was free to bid on them–Do I look like I was born yesterday?  Really, why should I buy the same things twice?  I responded that neither I, nor Kathy, had heard that the lots were going to be changed, and that I wasn’t happy that they took things out of our lots.  To be fair, the auction house offered to buy the lots back if that would make us feel better (it wouldn’t!).   At this point, it’s no use worrying about it; we did get some really, really fabulous buttons.  But the whole thing left a bad taste in our mouths, and we won’t be participating in any more of Rocky Mountain Estate Brokers Inc. Whitley Auctions.  If they had been more professional, better organized, and had the lots cataloged before the preview, this whole misunderstanding and hard feelings could have been prevented.

Kathy took a few pictures of the better buttons we got:

Everyone, except our husbands, can see what great buttons we won.  We are going to take the enameled button set in the box, and another button to a jeweler to have them looked at, before we divide the whole shebang.

I bought a few more things that caught my eye and no one was seriously bidding on:

I also bought a box of china butter pats and bone dishes for the ridiculous price of $5.  No one bid on them, and I wanted just a few.  A thrift store can have the rest.

Kathy: the reason I get into trouble at auctions, is finding the orphan lots that come home with me.  Check out one of my purchases:

Are you nuts? I hear being muttered in the background.  Yeah, a little.  I do find nice black forest picture frames missing a leaf, I am now prepared!  The gesso picture decorations in front are actually pretty cool.  Will just decide how I need to use them, and there was a sterling silver lid, in the box of odd lids, whose scrap price will pay for the grand total of $6.00 I shelled out for this.

We love to garage sale and visit our local thrift stores, but estate sales are the best source of the good stuff.

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6 Responses to Buttons, Buttons, Who’s Got Our Buttons?

  1. Connie says:

    What a fabulous house and estate sale! The upstairs fireplace was simply amazing. I hope that whoever bought the house does not decide to tile over it.

    • kathydeb says:

      It was a great house; we’re with you about keeping the house as is. It was in amazing shape given it’s age!

  2. Matty says:

    What fabulous finds! I am sorry the auction house was run soooo poorly. Sigh. I’m thrilled you both got something wonderful though!

    • kathydeb says:

      Matty, you are such a sweetheart! Yep, we want to put our experiences out there as a warning to others, but the buttons we did get were wonderful!

  3. Carol says:

    I don’t know much about buttons but if the lot you bid on wasn’t what you received I would contact the local attorneys general office and file a complaint. Also, if the auctioneers are members of the NAA, I would report them here:



    • kathydeb says:

      Thanks for the info Carol; it’s always nice to know that there are remedies to problems in the auction world. I suspect that if I had looked extremely closely at the tiny photo posted for the auction, I would have noticed the silver box missing at the very least 8- (

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