Collecting belt buckles is a popular pastime because the objects themselves are so plentiful. Belt buckles have been around for hundreds of years, though they became especially fashionable in the 20th century. Some collectors focus on buckles that have the greatest monetary value, while others collect buckles with historical significance. Whatever route you decide to take, it is important to be able to recognise the finest antique and collectable belt buckles. Doing your research is the key to building the best collection.
Decide what types of buckles to pursue. You will not be able to learn about and identify all of many types of belt buckles. Focus your search. Some examples of types of buckles include military, fashion, Western, biker and advertising. You may also choose to focus on a particular era, such as collecting belt buckles from the Civil War.
Consult collectors' guides. Take a trip to your local library or bookstore and look for guidebooks that focus on collecting belt buckles. Studying these books will help you learn to identify which buckles are old and which are the most collectable. If your local resources don't stock these books, look at an online bookstore such as Amazon.com. Look for books closest to your specific collecting interest. Some books on belt buckles include "Collecting Men's Belt Buckles," by Joseph V. Saitta; "German Belt Buckles 1845-1945: Buckles of the Enlisted Soldiers," by Peter Nash; "American Military Belt Plates," by Michael J. O'Donnell and J. Duncan Campbell; and "Fashion Buckles: Common to Classic," by Gerald H. McGrath and Janet Meana.
Visit antiques and collectibles stores. Go to stores in your area that carry antiques and collectibles and look at their inventories of belt buckles. Pick up the pieces and notice the weight, designs, and finishes on these antiques. The more you see and handle collectable buckles, the easier they will be for you to identify. Also, you can look on the Internet at cyber antiques malls and auction sites, such as eBay, in order to see a large selection of buckles. Many of the buckles for sale will have helpful and detailed descriptions, as well as pictures.
Consult an expert. If you have acquired a belt buckle and want to verify that it is an antique, one option is to ask an expert. Local antiques store owners are one source of information. If the buckle may be quite valuable, such as one made of precious metal or decorated with gemstones, or if you have a large collection you want identified and valued, it may be worthwhile to hire the services of a professional appraiser. Consult The American Society of Appraisers to find an expert in your area.