I was talking with my friend Mike Bockman, a militaria dealer and owner of BBmilitaria, when we got on the subject of the Niobrara River that runs across the Northern part of Nebraska. I had canoed this river several times in Boy Scouts and Mike had canoed it with his family when he was young.
I was fascinated to hear that Mike obtained his first military collectible while canoeing the Niobrara when he was around seven years old. His family had stopped to picnic on the grounds of Fort Niobrara, an Army outpost established in 1879 to monitor the Sioux Indians. The fort was eventually abandoned in 1906 and little of it remains today.
While Mike was sitting at a picnic table on the fort grounds, he noticed a metal object in the dirt. It was an 1880-90’s Army Enlisted uniform button. Indian war era uniform buttons are not valuable. In fact, you can find them with little difficulty on the web for about $5.00, but what is significant about Mike’s button is that it is an artifact directly attributed to a time and a place. The button is a reminder that Nebraska and its people have changed since the time that button was worn on a uniform.
There is no doubt Mike held that button in his hand and thought about the soldier who wore it. Did this soldier have to skirmish with the Sioux that strayed off the reservation to harm settlers and steal horses and cattle? Did this soldier struggle to stay warm within the adobe walls of the fort during the deadly winters?
A discarded uniform button opened Mike’s mind to history and collecting. Many of Mike’s friendships and his livelihood as a militaria dealer are the result of him finding this now priceless button on the ground.
Chris Hughes is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in 20th century militaria and the owner of Rally Point Militaria and Vietnam Uniform – Military Collectibles sites.