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An Aussie Flanged Button Too Good to be True!

About 10 years ago I was approached by a guy that had just inherited a tektite collection that he wanted to liquidate. Included were about 20 Australite flanged buttons. Working from a photo, I selected about half of them and we made a deal. When they arrived I was astounded. They were better than any I had ever seen before. I realized that I had not paid anywhere near enough for them, and I immediately began to compose an email to the seller offering to double what I had paid. I found myself writing that they were just too good to be true—

As those loaded words scrolled across my cerebral cortex, alarms started sounding. After a career of evaluating mining properties, I had encountered “too good to be true” enough times to know to pay attention. I picked up a knife to test the hardness of one of the buttons. It was plastic!

This led directly to some radical changes in my email wording! As it turned out, this was not a case of fraudulent misrepresentation. The seller, who was not at all knowledgeable about tektites, was mortified and wanted to make things right. Going back to the photos that he had originally supplied, I could see that most of those that I had not selected had obvious imperfections—chips, sand and dirt in the recesses, and less than perfect form. We adjusted the deal to obtain those, and they all proved to be real, and well worth the money.

On further investigation, we learned that the deceased party had been a curator at the Smithsonian. Apparently they had obtained quality casts of some of the finest flanged buttons ever found. I returned all but one to the seller. The pictures accompanying this article are of that superb piece. Somewhere, probably in a major museum collection, the original specimen is out there. (Let me know if you recognize it.)

This quality cast has proven to be a useful part of our collection. It illustrates all of the best features of a world-class flanged button and I can pass it around a room full of kids without fear— Whenever I show it, I tell this story and use it to reinforce that immensely great life lesson, that applies to tektites, emeralds, human beings and most everything else on earth: “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!”

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