Maybe it’s the special feelings associated with Christmas. Maybe, it’s the nostalgia of all things past. Maybe it is appreciation of the artistry. Whatever the reason is, collecting antique, vintage and even new Christmas ornaments is becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
Stores began selling Christmas tree ornaments in 1870 to replace usually edible ornaments. The earliest were Dresden ornaments from Germany.
Early ornaments were made to look like stars, crosses and toy soldiers. Later wax ornaments were made with cardboard accessories to them.
Dresden began making embossed cardboard boxes around 1900. Some ornaments were houses, animals, locomotives and musical instruments. Early Dresden ornaments are very scarce and finding one is extremely rare.
The hand blown ornaments from Germany arrived in the United States in the 1870s. Woolworth’s Stores sold the first few and they sold-out quickly. Soon, hand-blown ornaments were huge across the country.
In the 1820s artisans from Bavaria began making decorations with lead or zinc. Soon, they used them for Christmas tree balls. The system became known as silvering. Soon after using the technique, a molded type of hand blown glass created such ornaments as pine cones.
It is often hard to tell the age of many of these ornaments. Many broke easily. Some were made for many years. Others were only sold one season.
The most common way to tell an age is if it has wire tinsel, cotton batting or silk tassels. Most glass ornaments, with those were made between 1890-1910. Ornaments with a round metal cap pierced by a hole usually is pre World War I. Some older ornaments have glass hooks or metal spring clasps.
If an ornament has patina (a greenish mold looking color) on it, it is usually very old. Some may also have cracking on it, known as crazing.
Many of the glass ornaments have been for sale as collectors are seeking them all year long.
Also very collectible are light bulb ornaments that were hand painted from Vienna in the 1920-30s. They had a light bulb metal figure at the tops and shapes like people, houses, Santa Claus heads and more. The Japanese also made these ornaments but often they were of characters such as Little Orphan Annie.
Although historians consider those ornaments to be the most popular, there are new ones being made every year they collectors covet. Many are made by Hallmark.
Hallmark started making ornaments in 1973. The first year 18 ornaments were released. They consisted of glass balls, and yarn ornaments. The yarn ornaments sold for about $1. The glass balls sold for about $2.
Because of the initial success, Hallmark started making figures such as cartoon characters.
Today the variety of Hallmark Keepsake ornaments is huge. Anything from houses to Star Wars to Star Trek to baseball to Harley Davidson Motorcycles to Barbie Princesses and more are made each year.
Some ornaments are introduced each year as early as July. Quantities are often limited and prices can range from $8.99 to around $100 per ornament. All ornaments are marked, dated and retired each year.
The early ornaments such as an elf ball sells for around $25 each. As ornaments began to feature characters prices increased. Depending on the rarity and desire some sell for up to $500. Lots of series from various years can also cost close to $500. The hunt for Hallmark ornaments is very popular.
Some other new collectible ornaments include those made by the Coca Cola Company featuring such things as Polar Bears, Penguins and Santa Claus. Other companies make a variety of ornaments and no one knows which ones will be the new big collector item.
If you collect ornaments, the search is never over as the quality which advances each year and includes movement and sound is extraordinary. July will be here soon and so will December. Which ornaments do you have?
Source: Encyclopedia of Collectibles