Vintage Christmas decor on a Christmas Tree

Vintage Christmas Decorations: How much are they worth today?

Vintage Christmas decorations and ornaments are family heirlooms, often passed down from one generation to the next. There has been much speculation as to when the tradition of decorating Christmas trees first began. While no one can be quite sure, it seems that the festive adornment of Christmas trees dates back to the 16th century in Germany. Trees were brought indoors and decorated with fruit, nuts, and lighted candles for church services.

Glass baubles were first produced in the town of Lauscha in Germany and were known as “Kugel” (“ball” in German). Hans Greiner produced glass decorations in the shape of fruits and nuts. Over time, these delicate decorations became popular with the locals. Other local artisans were inspired to create a range of beautiful old-fashioned Christmas decorations and glass figurines using clay molds.

Vintage Christmas Decorations family dancing around Christmas tree

The artisans made these by heating a glass tube over a flame, inserting the tube into a clay mold, and blowing the heated glass to expand into the shape of the mold. Silver nitrate was then stirred into the glass after it cooled – a silvering technique developed by Justin von Liebig in the 1850s. After the nitrate solution dried, the ornament was carefully hand-painted and fitted with a metal cap and hook to hang on a tree.

The practice of decorating homes during the holiday season spread throughout Europe and around the world. Over time, this Christmas tradition has slowly adapted and taken shape. Nowadays, Christmas baubles are made of plastic because glass is too fragile and prone to damage. It’s all too easy for baubles to fall off the tree and shatter on the floor when children and pets are sniffing around.

Fast forward to the 20th century, specifically the 1930s, when mass production of Christmas ornaments began. This was due to the collapse of industry in Germany. During World War II, the method of silver-plating ornaments was discontinued, and clear glass ornaments were painted and covered with paper caps instead of metal ones.

It’s customary to pass down vintage Christmas decorations to younger generations, so over time we acquire an eclectic collection of classic decorations and knickknacks. But if you’re on the hunt for vintage Christmas decorations, get some inspiration from our list of the best places to find them, both online and offline. Add a vintage touch to your home this Christmas!

How much are Vintage Christmas Decorations worth today?

Like all things, vintage Christmas ornaments vary in price based on their rarity and condition. In general, most antique Christmas ornaments should be in excellent condition to command a high value, but sometimes rarity overrides condition. In other words, if an item is rare enough, collectors will pay a high price to own it even if it is not in pristine or mint condition.

One of the most sought-after Christmas décor is probably what is known among collectors as the “bauble,” which is basically the very first iteration (as early as 1830) of the glass bauble as we know it today. Because of their shape and material, “baubles” can be worth more than $1,000 each.

Other sought-after vintage Christmas decorations are figural ornaments in the shape of personalities of the past. Some of these figures often included personalities such as Eddie Cantor (up to $500), John Bull ($300), or President William Howard Taft ($150).

Finally, other vintage Christmas décor in the shape of Indian chiefs, birds, and metal-wheeled airplanes can sell for $100 to $250 each.

The Spruce has put together a very informative Christmas Collectibles Price Guide that features some early Christmas collectibles.

Where to find vintage Christmas Decorations

Flea markets and garage sales

You’re guaranteed to find some quirky, festive Christmas ornaments at garage sales. The beauty of flea markets is that (if you’re charming enough) you can haggle down the price considerably and pick up a great bargain. Many flea markets and vintage shows often have special Christmas displays. Expect to find tacky glass bells, clay snowman candle holders, and angel tree toppers in glittery sheer dresses.

Independent online vendors & online auctions

There are thousands of sellers on Etsy selling beautiful vintage decorations. We especially love the adorable reindeer ornaments, retro nativity figurines, and cute 1980s bear tree ornaments from VintageByJade. It’s also worth checking out eBay for authentic vintage Christmas goodies – you can bid on unique vintage decorations from the comfort of your own home. Keep your eyes peeled and you could pick up some rare gems!

Christmas markets/fairs

Most cities and towns host a Christmas fair during the months of November and December. They are the perfect place to find handmade crafts as well as some lovely vintage decorations. Shop for pinecone-shaped vintage Christmas decorations, intricate early 20th century glass baubles, and beautiful vintage serving plates.

Vintage boutiques/charity shops

Vintage stores are brimming with festive treasures. You’ll usually find holiday decorations year-round – usually lurking in the same cabinets where you’ll find sterling silver jewelry set with gorgeous gemstones like opal and rainbow moonstone. Pick up some quirky decorations at your local thrift store and have a sustainable Christmas.

Family/friends

Ask your grandparents or other family members – chances are they have a bunch of old Christmas decorations they are willing to give away or trade. Friends will also have piles of decorations for you to sift through. By swapping with friends and family, you’ll both discover a selection of ornaments that are unlike anything you can find in stores. You can also save a lot of money!

Don’t forget to be creative. Go through your (or your parents/grandparents) basement and dig up old postcards or vintage jewelry. An item doesn’t have to be made specifically as a decoration to be used as one. Why not collect old candles and paint festive words or illustrations on the wax?

If you have any other imaginative and resourceful ideas, please share them in the comments section below. We love to hear from you!