Have you ever wondered whether those old, dusty vintage Christmas decorations you keep in the depths of the attic could be worth something? While you can't put a price on the joys of family tradition, it might interest you to learn that some of your Christmas decorations are in high demand and can be valuable. We've put together a list of the decorations to look out for.
1. Putz villages
Putz villages are decorative, miniature-scale villages rooted in the elaborate Christmas traditions of the Moravian church. The small houses, often covered with fake snow and outfitted with lights, were introduced in the US by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the late 1800s.
The most sought after pieces are those made in Germany or the Czech Republic in the late 19th and early 20th century. Typically they're crafted from wood and can sell for around $250 for an individual piece – that's just under £200 to us!
Those made in Japan in the 1920s are also popular. These, however, are crafted from cardboard and often fetch a lower sum of $50.
2. Vintage Christmas catalogues
By the 1930s, Christmas had become a big business in America. Department stores set up huge Christmas trees, places for children to meet Santa and sweeping window displays of their toys, often encircled by a lifelike Lionel train set. All the trappings of this era – the trains, the toys, and even the catalogues, are highly collectable.
The most in-demand of these vintage catalogues are those from the 1950s and 1960s, particularly for the big department stores like Sears or Macy's. Rare examples in great condition, such as those produced by Disney, can sell for up to $500.
3. Vintage Christmas records
Bing Crosby's 1938 recording of 'White Christmas' launched a wave of popular Christmas record albums which are now highly collectable (and perfect holiday music for a snowy day, if you still have a turntable knocking about).
There's a lot to look out for in this genre, from the now-rare Beatles Christmas albums to recordings by Frank Sinatra, Gene Autry, Pearl Jam, and of course, Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Another one to keep your eyes peeled for is Elvis's 1953 Christmas album. While millions were printed, there are a few which are highly valuable. If you have the red vinyl edition – congratulations. Only three were ever printed and each copy is worth a whopping $30,000 (approx. £24,000).
4. Shiny Brite ornaments
In the 1880s German craftsmen began producing images of fruits, hearts, stars and angels in glass to adorn Christmas trees. FW Woolworth, an American mass merchandiser, began to import these German glass ornaments to sell in his five and 10 cent stores across the U.S. The trade began to flounder after World War I so Max Eckardt, a German immigrant and representative of the FW Woolworth company, began manufacturing and selling the ornaments in the US under the name Shiny Brite.
Today, Shiny Brites that are in their original festively coloured boxes are highly desirable, and can reach sums of £80.
5. Aluminium Christmas trees
As you may have noticed, there's a correlation between mid-century kitsch and value with these Christmas decorations. Nowhere is that more evident than in the market for aluminium trees (yes, it's a thing).
Americans became enamoured with these gleaming, glittering artificial trees. Today these novelty trees are considered highly collectable. Lucky enough to have one in the attic? You could be looking at several hundred pounds – more if it's pink. One seven foot pink number made £2,860 in a 2005 sale. Quick get the stepladders.
Don't be disheartened if you don't discover any vintage gems amongst the cobwebs of your attic. One thing you can do is hang on to those decorations and hand-me-downs, not to mention new Christmas items you pick up this year. You never know what might become valuable 30 years from now!
First published in: December 2016