you have a passion for antiques and collectibles - and writing?
Wayback Times invites you to submit freelance articles for use
in print and on our new web site.
your text submissions
The Wayback Times.
published in The Wayback Times since 1995 have covered a wide
range of interests, from Golliwoggs to toy VW collecting, and
from collecting insulators to hunting old books.
authors of our online selection of articles have included their
e-mail addresses and they are always delighted to hear from other
- Ad Rates / Articles
/ Classified Ads / Editorial
/ Home / Links
- Inside Antiques,
by Robert Reed
- Inside Antiques:
- Christmas collectibles
- By Robert Reed
There is an old cardboard box sitting in my attic that has been
in the family since I was born. In faded blue letters it silently
proclaims the wonders of West's Yum Yum Bread. The thing that
makes it special is that it houses some of my earliest childhood
memories of Christmas.
- The box that once held fresh
baked bread has held Christmas ornaments and decorations for
at least a half century. After all these years the contents of
the box has varied from time to time but the purpose endures.
- The angels, glass balls, snowmen,
Santas, lights and stars have always been family treasures, and
they always will be. But these days they are rapidly becoming
collectible treasures across North America as well.
- One of the quirks of the 1980s
was the exploding zest for saving, finding and displaying the
collectibles of Christmas past. Christmas ornaments and the related
artifacts of the Yuletide season have dramatically emerged in
recent years as sought after in antique shops, flea markets and
- The more anxious Americans are
to recapture these items of Christmas past, the more valuable
they become and the more worthwhile it then becomes to search
the attic and scout local garage sales.
- One true positive point of Christmas
collections is that just about every household in America already
has a starting lot packed away somewhere in the house or apartment.
Traditionally, people have stored away these delightful items
after an annual holiday display of a few weeks. It is unusual,
therefore, for the thoughtful homemaker not to find objects that
are 50, 75 or even 100 years old among their boxes of Christmas
- Oddly enough, some of the oldest
of the Christmas collectibles are the most durable In the 1870s,
Americans began to find their local merchants were offering Christmas
ornaments to supplement those that had been up until then homemade.One
of the most appealing types were the pewter and lead items in
the form of a star or cross that were made in Germany. Many of
these flat, dullmetal shapes can still be found.
the 1880s, Woolworth's and other stores in this country were
regularly stocking a wide assortment of German-made ornaments
including wax angels, cardboard animals and blown-glass balls
for the family tree.
- They changed as interest grew.
The bright and colourful cardboard ornaments steadily evolved
from simple objects to animals, ships, trains and sleds. Blown-glass
ornaments, meanwhile, which had been around for centuries became
universal tree decorations by the early 1890s and what were once
simply balls were now transformed into fruits and vegetables,
fish and animals.
- Knowledgeable collectors point
out that glass balls which included wire tinsel, cotton batting
or silk tassels were likely to have been manufactured between
1890 and 1910. By the 1920s the glass varieties had expanded
to the public's fascination with automobiles and airplanes.
- As North America greeted the
turn of the century, another Christmas delight was ushered into
the holiday mainstream - the postcard. There were Christmas greeting
cards available as early as 1860, but the artful designs actually
peaked many years later.
- The Christmas postcards that
are especially prized today are those sold from 1900 to around
1912. They frequently pictured Santa and through the years a
collector can see him evolve from St. Nicholas in a jewelled
headdress and satin robes to a chubby fellow in a full beard
and red suit.
- Today, many collectors restore
these printed gems in simple black frames for display during
the Yule season. They just replace other framed pictures around
the house and put the existing ones back up after the holidays.
- Other Christmas treasures include
the various light bulbs that adorned the trees of earlier years.
Some of the first Japanese bulbs were clear glass painted over
in attractive colours. By 1920, General Electric was producing
bulbs in North America. Those made in Japan were milk glass,
which showed less flaws than the earlier clear glass. Japanese
bulb production ended in the 1940s and resumed again briefly
in the 1950s. Most of the bulbs of this era are clearly marked,
although not generally dated.
- At one point, the Japanese used
popular cartoon characters like orphan Annie and Andy Gump to
fashion their bulbs for an eager American public. Another appealing
and collectible area of Christmas light bulbs is the Disney family
which was in full-scale production in the 1930s. These bulbs
celebrated Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and even Pinocchio.
- Of course there are the lovely
plates of Christmas. Both Bing and Grondahl and the Royal Copenhagen
factories in Denmark were producing plates of Christmas at the
turn of the century, most of which are dated.
- Over the past 20 years, North
American made Christmas plates have also become popular and comprise
a collecting field unto themselves. They too are usually dated.
Families that traditionally
observe the symbolic trimming of the Christmas tree will eventually
find they have quite an accumulation of Santas, bells, reindeers,
wreaths, tree lights, nativity scenes and a 'museum' of ornaments.
A lot of these things would race: second only to the family silverware
as far as the serious collector is concerned.
- Those celluloid reindeers that
were made for only a short period of time in occupied Japan,
for example, and Santas and nativity scenes in hand-carved wood
and qualifying as genuine European or American folk art, would
head anyone's list today.
- Especially attractive to many
collectors are the clip on metal birds with spun glass tails,
carved wooden flowers, pressed paper that extend themselves eight
to nine inches. Once these treasures were readily available in
stores, now they are holiday works of art that cannot be replaced.
- But the marketplace is certainly
not the only consideration when it comes to collectibles of Christmas.
- In my own family we have seen
two children grow to adulthood with each having a lifetime of
seasonal collectibles. From birth to graduation, family and friends
assembled bells for one child and angels for the other. Each
and every Christmas the children displayed the growing collection
- some were newly purchased and some were antiques.After all
these years, many of the seasonal trinkets are quite valuable,
but they are undoubtedly several generations from ever being
in the open market.
- 1 - Nativity set, 1963, with
16 figures, Hummel (Gene Harris Auction Centre photo)
- 2 - Woolworths Christmas tree
ornaments, American made
- 3 - Strauss toy Santa, tinplate
ca 1920s, key wound (Skinner Auction photo)
- Robert Reed has written on
antiques and collectibles for more than two decades. He has also
authored 15 books, including his recently released Antiques and
Collectible Dictionary, available from www.collectorbooks.com
- Return to
top of page
- This Is Livin' Publishing ©
- 581 8th Line West, RR1 Hastings,
ON, K0L 1Y0
- Phone/Fax: 705-696-1833