Category Archives: Christmas decorations
Have you come across wooden nutcrackers among the boxes and bags you’ve inherited? Not sure about their value? Check the label on the bottom or, if possible, the maker’s name on the box. German = good news. Chinese = bad.
Traditional German nutcrackers have been handmade in German-speaking parts of Europe since the eighteenth century. Cheap knockoffs have been made in China since the 1980s. Nutcrackers first came to the attention of Americans after World War II when American soldiers stationed in Germany during the occupation (1945-1955) brought them home as souvenirs, so your German nutcracker is unlikely to be older than the middle of the 20th century. Because American law since 1891 requires all merchandise imported into the U.S. be marked with its country of origin, telling Chinese copies from German originals is usually easy. The distinction is crucial: collectors will pay a hundred dollars and up for good German examples. Chinese copies will fetch a couple dollars at a yard sale. Sell genuine German nutcrackers to antiques dealers or online.
Almost every house will have some Christmas decorations in the attic. Those dating to the 1950s or earlier deserve better than a garage-sale fate. Historic houses of the early twentieth century or late nineteenth would almost certainly be interested in having such things donated for their use in historic Christmas decorating. But if you prefer to sell, tree ornaments are probably the most salable of all decorations, because they are so widely collected. Consider them in three broad categories: antiques (pre-1960s), modern collectibles (1970s to present), and ordinary modern. One way to recognize age is by size—old ornaments are generally smaller and lighter in weight than modern ones.
Beware: Old doesn’t necessarily mean valuable. For serious collectors, the most desirable ornaments are those made between the two world wars (1918-1939). A few of these can sell for hundreds of dollars, but many also sell for $2 on eBay. The only way to distinguish between them is to research the subject. Get a copy of the Pictorial Guide to Christmas Ornaments and Collectibles: Identification and Values by George Johnson, or other similar guide, from your library and figure out what you have.
For example, my own (inherited) wax ornaments from the 1930s are very sweet. But are they valuable? Nope. You can buy them on eBay for a couple dollars each.