Antiques & Collectibles: Like Christmas joy, the trees come in all sizes

Searching for that perfect Christmas tree — or should I say, ceramic Christmas tree?

Some have working lights from the inside. Some have lights that are painted on. Some have ornaments, not lights. Put together, they look great in a group.

A new ceramic tabletop Christmas tree sells for $40 or more. That’s about the same price range as vintage trees.

When collecting vintage ceramic trees, make sure they truly are vintage. A true vintage tree will have a special mark showing its maker, if it was mass-produced. Designs originally were made and still produced by Nowell’s Molds in Ohio. These trees became very popular in the 1970s, in shapes and sizes when the technology of the clay and mold improved, versus those made back in the early 1960s.

By the 1980s and ’90s, U.S. ceramic shops found these to be popular projects to make in ceramic glasses, then the prices jumped all around, from $10 on up, and sold in a kit as well, and still can be purchased today at craft and hobby shops. Fenton and Mosser also came onto the scene with their collectible colored glass trees. The price of these trees can be about the same as the ceramic trees.

Local shops

Out on the hunt for these Christmas collectibles, I found new trees online, at Macy’s and the big box stores, and in various catalogs. Vintage trees I have found in online auctions and sales, at flea markets, garage sales, thrift shops and antique shops. If you are lucky, you might just happen to come across one in Grandma’s attic, or when mom and dad are downsizing.

Paul Larsen, dealer at Old Rooster Antique Mall, 106 N. Broadway, said, “We have about nine ceramic trees in various sizes, shapes and condition and priced from $25 on up. Actually, we have several and our tables are full. Some are green with snow tips, white and some come with and without plastic lights.”

Sarah Kieffer, owner of Sarah’s Uniques and Jim’s “Man”tiques Mall, St. Charles, said, “It seems like the new generation of people are decorating for Christmas, as well as the older folks who had ceramic trees and are buying them nowadays. The original old ceramic trees do seem to be continuing to gain in popularity. The prices have also seemed to go up a bit on those trees, and being able to find them and keep them in the store has become difficult as well. I still do have some ceramic trees in the shop, as when I find them, I buy them all year long for the holiday season. Mine range in price from about $26 to about $50. Ceramic trees are all a pretty way to decorate and have a lot of nostalgia with them.”

Chris Rand Kujath, of Old River Valley Antique Mall, Stewartville, said, “I have a white ceramic for sale, but sold the green ceramic along with a few others. I also have some very nice clear and colored Fenton glass trees that look pretty with a light or a candle.”

Care of ceramic and glass trees

Always show extra care by removing dust with a soft cloth or a small duster. Never use water or soap to wash your tree, especially if it has painted tips, as it might just start to flake off depending on age. That, of course, reduces its value.

A collection of ceramic and glass trees should be properly stored in their original boxes or in a box with separations when you are not displaying them.

A gift for the elderly

All of these types of trees are fine gifts for the elderly in assisted living or nursing homes. There, a glass or ceramic trees can bring back childhood Christmas memories.

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