Photo courtesy Vicky Mayhall

By Sara Edwards

The phrase “button up!” will have a different meaning this weekend in Avondale.

Some people have memories of rummaging through their grandmother’s button tin or sewing box for stray materials. While some people just think it’s an everyday, average button, members of the National Button Society and Arizona State Button Society think otherwise.

The Arizona Button Society and Saguaro Button Club will present an annual button show from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, February 22, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, February 23, in Avondale. Every year, the convention attracts button enthusiasts, lovers and collectors from all over the state to shop and trade buttons and attend educational sessions and workshops.

Each year, button shows and conferences have a theme or topic they follow for the button contests.

The theme for this year’s annual button show is “Fabulous Creatures” buttons featuring beings like dragons, animals or creatures. An entry includes a spread tray with 30 to 40 buttons attached, all with similar characteristics in a collection.

“It’s not just the most elaborate. When button collector’s compete, we’re looking for not just the design on the face of the buttons but the materials used to make the button,” says Vicky Mayhall, president of Saguaro Button Club in the East Valley and a member of the National Button Society and the Arizona State Button Society.

Button collecting became an organized hobby in Chicago in 1938. The first National Button Society show was the following year in Chicago.

Mayhall says button collecting didn’t come to the state of Arizona until the 1970s. It caught on quickly, and the annual show has been going since 1973.

“You have to remember Arizona is a pretty young state compared to the others, so this would explain why button collecting didn’t come here until a later period,” she says.

Before she collected buttons, she collected and sold antique jewelry. She was introduced to button collecting when a friend, who was already collecting buttons, asked Mayhall to look for unique buttons at an antique sale for her.

“I became addicted almost immediately,” she says.

Mayhall has been collecting buttons ever since, for 25 years. When she isn’t collecting buttons and rummaging through antique shops, she runs a blog on Facebook about her latest finds and the history behind the buttons she collects.

Mayhall says her favorite part of the annual show is being able to see her other collector friends and browse the vendors for new buttons for her collection.

“It’s a wonderful little medium,” Mayhall says. “We’d like to encourage people that have an interest to come. It sounds really odd but if you have any interest in history, or fashion or antiques, this is all of those things that you can hold in your hand.”

Mayhall is competing again at the annual button show, something she hasn’t done in 10 years. Throughout the year, she has assembled 13 trays that she will submit for competition.

“People better be afraid because I’m competing hard this year,” she says.

The Arizona State Button Society’s 2020 Annual Button Show, Hilton Garden Inn, 11460 W. Hilton Way, Avondale, facebook.com/arizonastatebuttonsociety, free; suggested donation is $4.