LEVIN COLLECTION PROVENANCE 

    

Marshall Levin spent forty years, c. 1960 to 2000, amassing the world's largest button collection. When he died, his Greenwich Village apartment was filled with precisely organized and categorized filing cabinets and hundreds of cigar boxes filled with thousands upon thousands of buttons issued between 1896 and 2000. Marshall never met a button he didn't like. If the opportunity came, he'd collect a single example or baker's dozen. Marshall was the first and most successful collector to gain entry to the then numerous NYC button makers. He established close relationships with most. This brought him insider access to whatever buttons were being made for whatever product, purpose or political cause. He was able very often, knowing the manufacturer, to notate buttons produced after 1960 as to their date of issue, sometimes including quantity ordered, and if the front message was unclear, an explanatory note on the reverse. Typically, only the "master" button that Marshall was adding to his collection received this documentary treatment. Any duplicates went into boxes by category. With rare exceptions, Levin Collection buttons post 1960 are Mint.

Marshall was a free- lance writer/researcher, night owl and button documenter extraordinary. He was able to attend, over forty years, vast numbers of NYC trade shows, rallies, protests and button collector meetings, all in the name of collecting any button he did not have and could afford. He was a long time member of the American Political Items Collectors and he and I co-authored our book Buttons In Sets in 1984. After 2000, Hake's Americana & Collectibles sold from his collection on behalf of his estate and then in 2009 I purchased the balance. In addition to being a treasured friend, I think of Marshall and the post 1960 portion of his collection as a giant box holding four decades of American life. This box is filled with smaller boxes organized by subject all containing artifacts mirroring every facet of the American, and even world, experience. Most buttons in the collection from 1960 on are mint as they went into the collection very soon after production. Taken with the portion of the collection devoted to buttons dating from their 1896 introductory year up to 1960, the collection's complete coverage of an American century is fascinating in its scope and precise in its detail. Buttons from this amazing assemblage are designed "From the Marshall Levin Collection."


Ted Hake

January 2013