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Addicted to the Holiday Season
by Bob Brooke


Are you addicted to the holiday season? Lots of people are. And those who arenít addicted to Christmas are to Halloween. Both offer a great opportunity to start collections that donít cost a lot of money. While Halloween focuses on the spooky and the supernatural, Christmas focuses on warmth and good cheer. And since Halloween is but a memory to many by now, letís take a look at what the yuletide has to offer in collectibles.

To antiques collectors, thereís more to Christmas than trappings and wrappings. It offers yet another opportunity to add to their collections---or those of others. Some collect all things Christmas year round while others wait until Thanksgiving to pull out their lights and garlands and drape the homes in yuletide splendor.

While it may be a bit chilly for flea markets, antique malls overflow with all sorts of yuletide collectibles, so many in fact, that it may be hard to decide what to collect.

Topping the list are ornaments. Everyone has a favorite ornament, the one that harks back memories of a childhood tree, dripping with lead tinsel and blown glass beauties.

Collecting Christmas tree ornaments can be addicting, but it can also be satisfying. Some collectors prefer glass ornaments from the turn of the century to the 1930s. Others seek boxes of gleaming Shiny Brite balls from the 1940s. You can easily find them at flea markets, estate sales, and antique malls. A 12-piece set of colored balls sold for around 63 cents in the early 1940s. Today, a mint-inbox original set could bring $35 to $70 or more, depending on its design.

Whatever the style, you can start a respectable collection of vintage Christmas ornaments quite affordably. But price isn't really the issue. For most itís the memories of
all those Christmases together.

Even if you have been collecting ornaments for a short time, they will begin to pile up, so how to do you display your collection? You could separate them into groups based on age, design, subject matter, etc. Then you can decorate your holiday tree each year using a different group as a theme. For instance, you may have an antique ornament tree, a Victorian tree, a vintage ornament tree, or a modern tree. You could even have a tree decorated with annual ornaments like the ones that Hallmark Cards produces each year. Whatever you decide, youíll have lots of fun not only collecting them but displaying them.

When it comes to the holidays, few people can argue the charm of celluloid figures. The delicate, blow-molded Santa Clauses are among the most coveted by collectors. Yet tons of variations in size, style, and manufacturer make celluloid Santas an easy-to-find, and often affordable, collectible. While celluloid existed as early as 1896, the small, hollow blow-molded toys began appearing in the United States from just prior to World War I to around the Depression.

The American Viscoloid Company was the most prolific, beginning its celluloid toy making in 1914. Crafted by a German designer, these Santa figures have a German visage. "Those are so highly collectible," Robinson said.

While vintage examples made in America, Japan and Germany are charming, all are also marked with a manufacturers' name or mark. The key to value is their size and detail.

The larger celluloid figures get, the more expensive they are. Small, three-to-five-inch standing Santa figures from Japan sell for $25 to $45. More ornate examples such as a Santa by a chimney, riding a vehicle, holding a dog, etc., bring much more. Santa riding a zeppelin is one of the most, notable pieces and can sell for as much as $700 or more.

During the first decade of the 20th century, people sent Christmas greetings by regular mail in the form of postcards. Colorful postcards depicting Santa Claus, snow scenes, trees, angels and children were common. Collectors especially like adorable children in period clothing and Santas ranging from jolly to stern.

Santa Claus in a red robe is a common image on vintage postcards. Collectors seek postcards showing Santa wearing robes of different colors. The most common and inexpensive are Santas dressed in the traditional red robe, but collectors love to find them dressed in blue, yellow, green or white robes. At the beginning of the 20th century, brown-robed Santas were popular.

Before the tiny twinklers on today's Christmas trees, there was NOMA. Fans of Christmas lights need look no further for some of the most fascinating and valuable collectibles of holidays past. While the first Christmas tree lit by electricity appeared in 1882, the most memorable date for collectors is 1925, when the National Outfit Manufacturers Association formed as a trade group of 15 firms who made Christmas lights. Soon after, NOMA Electric Corp. began marketing lights under that name.

After World War II, the industry was booming, and NOMA boxes and catalogs became pieces of art unto themselves. Todayís collectors seek the packaging just for its retro look. The 1955 catalog depicted Santa dancing with a leggy reindeer while on the cover of the 1958 catalog, Santa draped a sleeping town with NOMA lights.

Loose sets of the NOMA lights are easy to find, but it's the boxed sets that are a thrilling and pricey find. In an online sale, a mint-in-box set of 1940s NOMA bubble lights sold for $150.

Figural Candles
Santa Claus warms the heart of Christmas collectors in the shape of yuletide candles. Vintage Gurley figural candles are perhaps the best known and coveted by collectors.
Gurley also made figural Christmas candles for Standard Oil Co. of New York in the 1930s and 1940s. That company, later known as Mobil, introduced the red Pegasus logo, and some candles can still be found with a paper label on their bottom, helping date the piece and adding extra value.

Figural Christmas candles depict Santa Claus, trees, and angels, as well as a host of other figures. The best retain their labels and shape, but many have lost their labels after years of storage and handling. The best can bring $15 to $20 while the smaller and more common pieces missing their labels might bring $10 or less.

So if youíre looking for that special gift for someone, you might want to look to the not-so-distant past for yuletide objects that will rekindle memories.

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