Collecting Vintage Christmas Ornaments

Remember the vintage Christmas ornaments your grandmother gave you; the ones you always hang high on the Christmas tree away from prying little fingers and curious pets? Imagine collecting so many that your entire tree is covered with these timeless treasures. It's not impossible. Many of these beautiful bulbs and blown-glass ornaments are probably lying in your grandmother's or mother's attic, where they will crackle from the heat and be useless to anyone. Spread the word that you're interested in collectable ornaments and save a few precious vintage ornaments from an untimely demise.

Finding Vintage Christmas Glass Ornaments
Vintage Christmas ornaments can be found in numerous places, if you're willing to look. Spend a little time searching for vintage Christmas items at yard sales, estate sales and thrift shops. Do a weekly check on eBay and you'll be surprised at how much turns up. While ornaments may not be a collector's item to the person who owns them, we all tend to hang on to things from our past. Even sentimental folks are usually happy to part with something from their past that's taking up space they don't have, as long as the person who's getting it will give it a good home.

Die-hard collectors know the importance of asking as well as conducting a random search. Sometimes an antique collector will have an entire collection of vintage Christmas ornaments, but because they're fragile, the set has been left at home. The dealer may be very willing to schedule a private showing at your convenience or bring the set to the next show for your perusal.

Highly Collectible Vintage Christmas Ornaments
Some of the most sought-after Christmas ornaments were made by Shiny Brite. Shiny Brite was a manufacturer in the 1950s and 1960s. In its heyday, Shiny Brite created a multitude of ornaments in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes, many of which can still be found today.

When seeking Shiny Brite ornaments, however, don't believe everything you hear or see. It's not unheard of for sellers to store poor-quality ornaments in vintage Shiny Brite containers. Sometimes the homeowner found the ornaments stored this way and doesn't realize it's a problem for collectors. There are also some unscrupulous vendors who will try to pull the wool over your eyes. Educate yourself on what Shiny Brite actually sold so that you don't get duped by an imposter.

The time period that is most collected tends to be the Victorian era, perhaps because the ornaments are a little fancier and depict a richer lifestyle. Vintage Victorian ornaments usually include beading and intricate glasswork. Some collectors like to display their ornaments on a vintage tree as well. Some of the most fun trees are the foil trees from the '60s and '70s, complete with the rotating color wheel, and the goose-feather trees that were popular in the '30s and '40s.

Mercury Glass Vintage Ornaments
Not all vintage Christmas glass ornaments were created equal. True Mercury Glass is rather rare and very collectible. Though many ornaments have been made out of silver glass, that doesn't necessarily constitute Mercury Glass, regardless of what the seller says. Know the items you're searching for and you won't fall for the very misleading statement that all old, silver Christmas ornaments are Mercury Glass ornaments.

Mercury Glass ornaments were constructed of two layers of glass with mercury or silver nitrate between the layers. Ornaments made from Mercury Glass can't withstand freezing temperatures or the heat of an attic for long. Few people spent the money or time each year to insulate Christmas ornaments while they were packed away. A costly manufacturing process, the tendency of ornaments to break and the need for storage at moderate temperatures means that few original Mercury Glass ornaments have survived.

Expect to pay a pretty penny to add vintage Mercury Glass ornaments to your collection. When it comes to recognizing a true Mercury Glass ornament, look for oxidation spots. These spots alone do not identify an ornament as Mercury Glass, but they're a good sign. Mercury Glass also weighs more than silvered glass, partly because of its double-walled construction. Pieces made with real mercury will weigh significantly more than comparable ornaments coated or filled with silver nitrate. Always ask the dealer what type of glass it is before you buy; if the dealer isn't sure or you're not sold on the answer you get, don't buy the piece.

Kitschy Kitschy Koo
Nearly everyone has seen a knee-hugger elf on someone's Christmas tree or in an antique shop. These adorable red or green felt elves began appearing in the 1950s, with the originals reportedly being made in Japan. Whether these knee huggers were created in the likeness of real North Pole elves-perhaps to watch children and report back to Santa Claus-or it was a creative artist in Japan who gave life to this concept, we may never know. What we do know is that these knee-hugging elves are kitsch at its best. If you don't have one, or a dozen, scurrying around your Christmas tree along with your other vintage Christmas ornaments, you should.

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