On this day in 1712, Thomas Bowrey paid Benjamin Hall £1/8/6 for buttons. The receipt does not say how many buttons but the cost was equivalent of about £195 today. That would buy a lot of buttons.
There are also a number of bills including the price of buttons from William Killingworth, Bowrey’s tailor, in his papers. Killingworth purchased 72 silver top knot buttons for 8 shillings and 72 white buttons for 1/6 in 1691. At the time, buttons were often made from thread woven over metal rings and at least the silver buttons with the top knot were presumably made in this way. The thread used may have included real silver. At other times, Killingworth also included gold buttons which may have included real gold.
But why the need for so many expensive buttons? At the time, fashionable men wore suits of a knee length jacket over a waistcoat almost as long and breeches that came to just below the knee. Both the coat and waistcoat had buttons down the whole length of the front. The cuff and pocket flap of the jacket were also often trimmed with buttons. The jacket alone could easily have required 40 buttons or more and, I guess, the tailor or customer would wish to retain a number of matching buttons as replacements.