Ian Kelly (Militaria) - Mail Order Insignia Dealers since 1990
Original uniform badges & buttons bought and sold with money-back guarantee of authenticity
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Collecting Uniform Buttons
- an introduction to vintage buttons

Order from a choice of over 3400 different original collectible buttons including army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, police, fire service, ambulance, shipping lines, railway and yacht club.

Queen's Gurkha Engineers Staybrite uniform button Light Infantry Regiments uniform button Police Force uniform button Fire Brigade uniform button State Certified Midwives uniform button

Our Collectable Buttons

Most of our uniform buttons are British or British Commonwealth from 1881 to the present - we have some even older antique buttons, plus a good selection of worldwide buttons, especially overseas police and merchant navy buttons.

We are not tailors or military outfitters. The uniform buttons that we sell are mainly official-issue buttons, rather than the special blazer buttons favoured by some Regiments and Corps. Many people do wear ordinary- issue uniform buttons on blazers, but please be aware that there is sometimes a difference. Where we do stock special non-issue blazer buttons they will be clearly marked as blazer buttons, and are often more expensive than issue-pattern buttons.

Vintage buttons are sold for collectors and whilst we may have some in large quantities, many are held as single items. Even the same size and type of button can vary due to age or manufacturing variations. This could be important if you require matching buttons for a uniform or blazer. If you specifically want matching buttons "all or nothing", please make this clear on your order form.

We are sometimes asked simply for a 'set of buttons', without a clue as to the quantity required.  Please note that the number of buttons in a 'set' will vary between different types of jacket.  For example, a double-breasted blazer (boating jacket) will have more buttons that a single-breasted blazer.  If you are trying to replace buttons on a uniform, please tell us the sizes and how many buttons you need rather than expecting us to know the details of the uniform or blazer that you have in your possession.

Uniform Button Sizes & Types

British Army buttons are as varied as cap badges. Each unit has its own unique regimental button and some have a second design for use on cap buttons.  Most fall into 3 size categories:

Small about 14mm diameter for the cap and mess dress waistcoats (vests)
Medium about 20mm diameter for most parade uniforms
Large about 25mm diameter for the great-coat and the front fastening of Guards' scarlet tunics and Officers' khaki  Service Dress jackets.

Some units have a different range of sizes, such as for for cuffs. We used to annotate these as 'Very-Large', 'Large-Medium' or 'Medium-Small', but for greater accuracy, we now use diameter sizes in millimetres.

Button Ligne - the traditional way of measuring buttons

In British military dress regulations, the diameter of buttons is often measured in 'Lines' or 'Lignes' (abbreviated to 'L').
40L = 1 inch = 25.4 millimetres.  We prefer to use millimetres as few people have the means to measure Lignes.

Ligne 14L 16L 18L 20L 22L 24L 26L 28L 30L 32L 36L 40L 44L 48L
Millimetres 9 10 11.5 13 14 15 16 18 19 20 23 25 28 30

Comparative Rarity of British Military Uniform Buttons

There are fewer Officers than Other Ranks, so Officers' buttons are more scarce.  Some sizes of button are rarer than others.  Medium-sized buttons are the most common, and the following is a guide to the rarity of other sizes of British Army button -

British Army Uniform Button Design & Materials

Sometimes the design and materials used for buttons can give a clue as to their age and identity.

Other manufacturing materials include:

British Army Numbered Regimental Buttons

In 1751, British Regiments of Foot (infantry) were numbered; after 1767 these numbers were shown on buttons.  Some of these may be confused with more modern French or Belgian buttons, so look for the maker's name on the back: if it has a French maker, it is probably a French button.

In 1881, the numbering system for regiments was discontinued. Although regimental pattern buttons continued for Officers, Other Ranks wore 'General Service' buttons from 1871 until after the First World War (the same pattern throughout the whole Army). The British Army is full of exceptions, and some regiments permitted NCOs to wear regimental buttons during this period.


Other Uniform Insignia For Sale - Badges & Patches

Click here for our online militaria shop - about 7500 different items including cap badges, collar badges, shoulder titles and arm-badges.

We have NO WW2 German items, NO medals, NO g uns, NO knives and NO bulky equipment. Whatever we sell must be small enough - and legal enough - to be posted by mail.

Up-dates

This page was updated on Saturday 31 May 2014

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Button Catalogues

We publish button catalogues by post about 10 times per year. These cost £1.50 each and include fresh stock before it appears on this website.  In effect, postal subscribers get first-pick of the rare items.

Identifying Uniform Buttons

The British Button Society has a button identification service.

The British Button Society

British Button Society logo

The British Button Society was founded in 1976 by a group of people interested in collecting buttons and researching their history. The Society has collectors of all types of button and publishes 4 excellent journals per year called 'Button Lines' - click for details

Insignia Images

Pictures of insignia on this website are taken from items owned by Ian G Kelly (Militaria). Images and text are copyright © Ian G Kelly (Militaria)