Collectible Christmas items range from antique hand-crafted pieces like blown-glass tree ornaments to vintage Christmas decorations and manufactured items like aluminum trees and limited-edition plates, nutcrackers, and cardboard Putz village houses. All are rooted in longstanding traditions: bells and tree ornaments, for example, have been associated with Christmas for hundreds of years.

Until the Victorian era, most Christmas trees were decorated with candles, cookies, and fruit, but in the mid-1800's German craftsmen began producing blown-glass tree ornaments in shapes like stars, fruit, and angels. Thus, the ornament tradition was born. Lauscha was the first company to make molded-glass ornaments, some of which were shaped like pickles (the first child to find the pickle ornament amid the cookie shapes and saints got a year of good luck). Bohemia glassblowers made Gablonz ornaments out of silver-lined glass beads, strung on wire into everything from spiders to zeppelins. Dresden artisans made names for themselves in the 1880s producing embossed cardboard ornaments, which included one-sided "flats" as well as molded and glued three-dimensional pieces.

In the days before electricity, glass ornaments had a practical value as counterweights and shades for candles. Counterweight ornaments looked like their less functional cousins in terms of their designs, but they came equipped with clips so they could be hung from branches. Shade ornaments had the obvious additional value of containing a candle's flame. Around the same time, companies such as Waterford, Swarovski, Baccarat, and Orrefors produced purely decorative crystal ornaments shaped like Santas, bells, and other traditional symbols of the holiday season.

Christmas was also influenced by the development of novelty papier mâché candy containers, which were used as ornaments, even after their contents were consumed. Some families made their own hand-crafted ornaments to hold the goodies hanging from the trees, which made these containers some of the earliest Christmas presents. The simplest design was the candy cornucopia, which was made from a piece of paper rolled into the shape of a cone.

In the 20th century, major retailers like Sears and Montgomery Ward began issuing Christmas catalogs, which themselves are now collectible. Department stores also featured model train sets at Christmas, helping to establish that tradition. Coca-Cola featured Santa Claus heavily in its early advertising, and Coca Cola Christmas items are now highly collectible, as are items as diverse as one of a kind sterling silver tree ornaments, Santa-shaped chocolate molds, and vintage Christmas records.

In a class by itself, though, is Christmas jewelry, as seen in the widespread popularity of costume jewelry Christmas pins and brooches in the shapes of trees, candy canes, and reindeer. Stanley Hagler, Miriam Haskell, and Trifari are just a few of the costume-jewelers known for their Christmas collections.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Papa Teds Place

Papa Teds Place

The late Theodore H. Althof, Jr's beautiful collection of vintage dimestore cardboard Christmas 'putz' village hous… [read review or visit site]

Antique Christmas Lights Museum

Antique Christmas Lights Museum

George Nelson's incredibly detailed chronicle of vintage Christmas tree lighting. Browsable by decade and special t… [read review or visit site]

Bohemian Christmas Decorations

Bohemian Christmas Decorations

This simple site showcases over 500 artistic Gablonz glass bead antique and vintage Christmas tree ornaments, made … [read review or visit site]

Old Soviet Christmas Cards

Old Soviet Christmas Cards

This site showcases over 1000 old Soviet Christmas and New Years cards from 1950 to 1990. Browse through page after… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Propp Glo-lite Half Circle Christmas Light With 8 Bulbs - WorksAntique Goose Feather Christmas Tree, Berries On Branches, 16"Vintage 6 1/2 Ft Aluminum Christmas Tree. W/orig. Box, With Rotating Color WheelRare Antique German Putti Angel Hand Blown Mercury GlassAntique Christmas, Goose Feather Tree, 40" H, Candle Holders On BranchesVintage Cardboard Light Up Christmas Santa Fireplace-japan-kneehugger PhotoRare Antique German Mercury Hand Blown Glass Man In The Moon Face OrnamentVintage Matchless Star C6 Christmas Light Amber Early Version WorkingRare Antique German Count Ferdinand Von Zepplin Hand Blown Mercury Glass Antique-indian Chief Hand-blown-mercury Glass German Christmas OrnamentVintage Christmas Noma Bubble LightsGold Colored German Dresden Flat Feather Tree Christmas Ornament Riding HorseVintage Matchless Star C6 Christmas Light Two Tone Blue Early Version WorkingVtg Rare Poloron Blowmold African American Black Boy Caroler Replacement Head1930's Matchless Wonder Star Christmas Light Bulb Red & Green Frosted Works Nr1800s Lion Coffee*christmas Die Cut Embossed Santa Claus*big Dealer Display CardVintage Glass Christmas Ornaments Lot 2 Antique German China SantaAntique Dresden Pressed Cardboard Fish Christmas OrnamentVintage Angel Pine Silver 6 1/2 Foot Tall Aluminum Christmas Tree + Original BoxAntique Gorham #698 Santa Claus Night Before Christmas Sterling Silver SpoonParamount Bubbling Lights, #320, 10 Flying Saucer, Original Box, Tested, No Cord45" Full Size Leg Lamp From A Christmas StoryAntique Christmas Goose Feather Tree, 8"Vintage Christmas Santa Sailboat Miniature Porcelain Or Bisque Figure ~ JapanVintage Bradford Celestial Light Christmas Tree Topper/stand Up W/box Motion Vintage Double Indent Mercury Glass Beaded Garland Christmas Red Pink 83"Very Rare Antique German Jesus Bust Hand Blown Mercury Glass OrnamentAntique Large German Putz Woolly Wood Stick Legs Nativity Sheep 5"Vintage Double Indent Mercury Glass Beaded Garland Christmas Red Pink 88"Lot 19 Vintage Christmas Ornaments Shiny Brite Mica Shapes Antique Mid CenturyVintage Silver Aluminum 7' Christmas Tree,never Assembled,sapphire By RegalVtg 1930's 1939 Gund Rudolph Reindeer Stuffed Animal Plush Robert L. May W/ BoxPackage 5 Vintage Spun Cotton Tuile Angel Christmas Ornament-japan-new Old StockLot 17 Vintage Fruit Pinecone Christmas Ornaments Glass Mica Antique Tree8 Vintage Bottle Brush, Bristle Christmas Trees.4" To 14"Vintage German Scrap & Tinsel Ornamemts & Pressed Dresden LotVintage Christmas Light C6 Bulb Figural Clown On Ball5 Vtg 1930's C6 C-6 Christmas Ge Mazda Logos Candle Light Bulbs Near Spotless1971 Towle Sterling Silver Christmas Partridge & Peace Dove Medallion Ornament Paramount Bubbling Lights, #320 Biscuit, 10, In Original Box, Tested, No CordAntique Electric Angel Chimes Tree Topper Christmas Tree Ornament With BoxNon Working Reliance C6 Bubble Lights LitesVintage Christmas Silver Mercury Glass Leaping Reindeer OrnamentVintage Mid-century Modern R.o. Kent Splendor Aluminum Christmas Tree 7.5ft 202bOrginal Box With 6 Old Free-form Glass Hunting Dog From Lauscha , Very Very RareColor Wheel Revolving Light Christmas Tree Motorized 1950s Aluminum Tree LightAntique Original Glass 1" Cobalt Blue Christmas Kugel / Ornament ,germanyLot 25 Vintage Christmas Tree Ornaments Indents Antique Mid-century Modern GlassVintage Christmas Bulbs - 8 Small Base Figural Bulbs - Non WorkingAntique German Santa And Reindeer5 Vtg 1930's C6 C-6 Detector Detecto Christmas Mazda Light Bulbs SpotlessVintage Christmas Relco Japan Girl Ridind In Sleigh With Reirdeers Pulling ItAntique Vintage German Christmas Santa Belsnickle Paper Mache & SheepRare Vintage Lighted Santa Christmas Putz Village House Reindeer Trees JapanVintage Style Christmas Noma U.f.o Bubble Light Bases3 Package Vintage Red Blue Bead Mercury Glass Christmas Tree Garland-japan-newVintage Blown Glass Christmas Ornament Silver With Hanging Miniature Red BellA Christmas Story Deluxe Full Size 50" Leg Lamp31 Wwii Unsilvered Vintage Christmas Ornaments Antique Mid-century Modern