9th October 2021

Did ‘Norris and Spiers’ supply Coronet?

I have never been able to find out the full story of the ‘Coronet Button, Buckle and Novelty Co.’ This firm was registered on the 14th June 1939 as ‘selling agents for buttons’. Later (possibly in 1945 ) they were taken over or merged with the distributors Roger Berry. Roger Berry distributed General Plastics Leda Buttons by 1960, if not before. There are clearly Beauclaire designs sold on Roger Berry cards, but when they date from is a mystery. It does at least prove they had a contract for selling GP buttons under their own branding.

Therefore it is possible, but not certain, that Coronet had sold O.C. Rheuben/General Plastics buttons on their own branded cards from 1939. It is also possible that they sourced buttons from Spiers & Norris, who auctioned off their their stock only days before Coronet was registered as a firm.

Spiers and Norris

From 1936 until the business was declared insolvent in 1939, Norris and Spiers operated as manufacturers of casein products, including buttons, from their factory in Surry Hills, Sydney. An auction of plant, tools and products were auctioned at the factory on 8th June 1939. It included lathes, presses, drills, automatic button boring lathes, rumbling units (for polishing items such as buttons), ANIMAL and FIGURE dies, FANCY SHAPE and ROUND cutters, DRESS BUTTONS, WALT DISNEY CHARACTER BUTTONS, IMPORTED ANIMAL, BIRD and CHARACTER buttons, sheets of casein, etc, etc.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 7th June 1939 page 8.

Note they were both importing and making fancy shaped buttons, animal buttons and ‘figure’ buttons. They had 17 gross of Walt Disney Character buttons: it does not say whether they were imported. Were these the buttons advertised in 1938 below? Note that Disney products have always been made under license.

If so, these are some of the earliest figural/realistic/goofy buttons made/sold in Australia. After the business shut, Rex C. Norris continued in the button business, starting Rex Buttons in Armidale, Melbourne, in 1940. Perhaps, with a prior relationship with Disney, he also made the more sophisticated Disney character buttons that were  marketed from 1948-1953. Certainly some of them appear on his ‘Jack and Jill’ brand of carded buttons, and possibly also on Coronet branded cards, so he might have supplied them previously.

Spiers also continued in the button business, as part of Haik & Spiers (later H & S Jewellery) from 1941 to 1961, as “casein and metal workers”,  and later as “button, buckle and fancy goods wholesalers”.

I have just received a Coronet card of fish buttons of the same design as seen on both Rex C. Norris, Beauclaire and later Beutron cards. This may indicate the origin of this Australian design as being either Norris and Spiers, or Rex C. Norris; otherwise Coronet might have bought up stock at the auction? However, it must be remembered that people can bid for their own stock at a bankruptcy auction, so either Norris or Spiers could have bought some of the buttons and/or button dies in 1939 and continued making/selling some of these buttons, including to Coronet. As the buttons are ‘pearlised’ they may date from around 1948. (There were imports of “ground fish scales”, which was used to make pearlised finishes, in that year.)

The Sun (Sydney), 23rd February 1936 page 29. “You can’t help noticing :- Mrs John McNamara’s autumn suit, trimmed with braid and the unusual round oxidised fish button.” Could these have been Norris & Spiers buttons? Did they mean pearlised rather than oxidised??

The pearlised plastic fish button on a partial Coronet card.

A Rex C. Norris card of the same fish.

For any comments or queries, please use the Contact page.