G. J. Coles/ Embassy brand: 1929-1994

The Firm

George James (G. J.) Coles opened his first variety store in September 1914 in Collingwood, Melbourne.

Labor Call (Melbourne), 19th September 1935 page 9.

The Canberra Times, 5th March 1963 page 13. The first store in Smith Street, Collingwood.

During the 1920’s more stores were opened. They moved into food retailing in the 1950s, opening their first supermarket in 1960.

The Herald (Melbourne), 3rd May 1923.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 9th February 1938 page 25 souvenir section. Coles had been operating for around 19 years.

The Australian Women’s Weekly, 22nd September 1976 page 41. G. J. Coles

Embassy brand

From 1929-1931 the ‘Embassy’ home brand was launched, initially for gramophone records, but over the years extending to hundreds of products.


 This detail is from a gramophone in the Museum Victoria collection.

Coles logo 1920-30s

Undated spool of cotton.

The Bulletin, 1st September 1973, page 65.

The brand was discontinued in 1994.  See  https://www.coles.com.au/about-coles/centenary  . Over the years various logos were used.  You’ll notice the changes in the examples to follow. From  the 1980s until around 1994 Coles sold cards of buttons under the name ‘Haby Habits”. These, like the Embassy buttons, were labelled as being made in Australia. The  Embassy branded buttons were supplied by General Plastics initially, then G.Herring after the takeover.

This re-order card shows that Embassy branded buttons were supplied by General Plastics up until the takeover by  G. Herring.



Note the script.

Note that although this logo for “Embassy” was used from 1947, the cards of buttons date from c. 1950. The cards are blank on the backs.

Plastic imitations of faceted glass buttons.

All these styles are also found on Beauclaire branded cards.

The “Made in Japan” card on the left does not have the brand Embassy printed on it. Coles seems to have done this with some buttons sourced from overseas (although not consistently).

Most of the cards had the brand name printed upon it, but some imported examples  were simply labelled ‘Fashion Buttons’. The examples below were from Czechoslavakia and Western Germany. They have an item number only printed on the back of the card.

Made in Western Germany.










More Buttons on Embassy identical cards, but without “Embassy” label:

The similarity between the font used for printing (see below) makes it likely that American firm B. Swanda Inc. provided these cards of buttons for Coles.





Lozenge shape around “Embassy” c.1952-1958

The lozenge shape around “Embassy” on a flask. Also seen on the cards below



The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 29th April 1938 page 4. Note the Embassy logo. This styling was reused post WW2.

As the buttons were sewn by hand onto the cards, there are occasional variations in how they were set out, as seen above.

Oval shape around “Embassy”

This card type only seen with Japanese made MOP buttons.

This card is larger by a third from the other two MOP cards.


1959 – early 1960s







The first cards featuring the map of Australia had rounded corners with no prices printed upon them, and blank backs. The terms ‘satinsheen’ and ‘boilproof’ were used interchangeably.

2 x cards of faux-horn.

As of 1957-8, polyester buttons were not made in Australia from locally produced raw material, rather they were made from imported button ‘blanks’. Most of the plastic buttons on cards from before that time were made of casein plastic, a milk derived product, and indeed the use of casein continued.  However, due to its lower cost and versatility, polyester gradually dominated. Transparent/semi-transparent buttons, with a glossy/oily finish are likely to be made from polyester.

Late 1950s- mid 1960s

Australian Women’s Weekly, 7th November 1962 page 16.

In 1958 General Plastics Ltd copied G. Herring’s feature of selling cards of buttons with added thread. G. Herring took them, unsuccessfully, to court over the issue. These cards, therefore, date from 1958 or soon after. The prices are now printed on the cards. Earlier cards are printed “Made in Australia’, then later a guarantee and ‘6ft thread’ was added at the bottom of the cards.

This card is a hybrid of the earlier style with rounded corners, and the newer style with added cotton.

The cheapest price was 6 pennies per card.

Some of the styles below also appear on Leda and Kencrest cards, indicating that they too were supplied by G. Herring/Beutron Australia Ltd, who bought out General Plastics (sweet revenge?) in 1963.






Metallised plastic.


14th February 1966 – October 1967

Dual pricing (imperial/decimal) was printed on the cards. Some have the buttons stapled instead of sewn onto the cards. Thankfully, this was a short lived trend as the staples get rusty, and can scratch! The lowest price was 1 shilling/10 cents. “6FT. matching thread” moves from the bottom of the card to the top, and the guarantee for laundering and drycleaning  remain on the bottom.

The button on the right are real leather.


October 1967- June 1970

From October 1967 dual pricing was no longer required. This was sooner than planned, however the change over had gone so smoothly it was no longer deemed necessary.


July 1970-1980s

A new logo was introduced and the company name ‘G. J. Coles  & Coy. Ltd’ was added. Coles stayed with the “added cotton” cards long after rival Woolworths had dropped this feature. Even with what might be considered plain/standard round dress/shirt buttons there are seen subtle differences.

Australian Women’s Weekly, 11th September 1974 page 31.

Two holed Sew-throughs


Although a common name, I think this is a misnomer: they look like cat eyes, not fish eyes! They are made in polyester to look like traditional MOP buttons, and less often in other plastics.


Plain, slightly convex with a narrow recessed circumferential ridge.


Plain, slightly convex with no ridge


Plain, flat with softly raised circumferential ridge.

These came in both a even and a mottled finish. Higher priced cards (ie: later) are slightly smaller.








Plain, flat with more distinctly raised circumferential ridge.


Matt round with high circumferential ridge

Opal-glo/Moonglow/Superglow styles

These are directly copied from 1950-60s Beutron and Beauclaire ranges. Most were probaly still made from casein.

Miscellanous 2-holed


Four holed Sew-throughs

Despite having the same basic design (except for the square shaped example), these actually have varied circumferential border widths, finishes and plastic types.

Shanked buttons





Matt finish

“Wood grain”



Character printed on white plastic

JHB made similar ‘Beatrix Potter’ buttons printed onto urea plastic, so perhaps these are urea. They might otherwise be cellulose actetate.

I’ve mounted some lone buttons onto the card on the right.


Figural buttons

The heart, elephant and duck were recycled from the 1950s.


Metal buttons

Geometric buttons

Faux-leather buttons



Toggles, pin-shanked, real MOP.


Haby Habits: 1980s-1994

Both Embassy and Haby Habit brandings were discontinued in 1994. Many of these styles date back to the 1950s. There is a bar-code and text printed on the back. Note that whilst most are labelled as ‘made in Australia’, some are ‘packaged in Australia’, and some are not specified. Protective trade tariffs were being lifted, and manufacturing of button in Australia was coming to an end.

Most are labelled ‘Haby Habits’ with a illustration of scissors, but some have no brand name, with a sketch of scissors, tape measure and a spool of thread instead.

Most cards have a style number (here 120) on the back.

The selling of household items such as haberdashery continues to this day. They now sell Korbond brand haberdashery. Korbond Industries Pty. Ltd. is an Australian firm, founded in Sydney in 1956, specialising in the manufacture and distribution of haberdashery.