Not just for Christmas
Why your festive decorations might be worth more than you think
There’s little doubt that decorating the Christmas tree is an essential part of getting into the festive spirit. And whether you string up the lights on a tree filled with hand-me-down decorations or each year have a new colour scheme, we invest a lot in our festive ornaments.
It’s a tradition that goes back to the early Victorian period in the UK, when the trend was brought over from Germany, and while decorations at this time mostly came in the form of handmade paper decorations and candles to light up the trees, our love of decorations has been unwavering ever since. But, as well as our obvious sentimental attachment to the tradition, there is also a potential financial incentive to consider as they can often fetch a high price at auction, especially for the more unique and quirky pieces on offer.
For instance, German ornaments from the Victorian period do particularly well in America. Dresden ornaments, which are embossed cardboard tree hangers from 1880 to 1910, are listed on specialist antiques websites for up to $2,850, while early German wax Santa Claus figurines known as Belsnickels are popular in collector circles, with one fetching $10,000 recently at auction.
“The more quirky the better at Christmas,” auctioneer and valuer Gary Don (garydon. co.uk) tells me when I ask him what people should look out for. “And obviously, it’s like most things and especially modern items, the better the name, the more money they bring,” he adds.
One place that Gary suggests people purchase from is the festive lines that big manufacturers release every year, which are popular in the Christmas auctions. For example, Swarovski glass did some boxed star decorations with certificates, which can now go for up to £460 in auction, while Wedgwood Christmas plates can sell for up to £20-£30 a piece at the right time of year.
Antiques valuations are also, of course, dependent on trends, with decorations from the 1950s and 60s doing particularly well at the moment, given their popularity in design. Gary explains that this means things like fairy lights bought from Woolworths in the 1950s and 60s can bring in £100-£150.
However, the most crucial thing to remember when looking at collecting and selling your ornaments is that timing is everything. “Christmas is the time when these items really fetch the money obviously,” Gary explains.
“They can be picked up really cheaply during the rest of the year if you’re very careful.” His advice is that you start selling items in late November and early December, but begin picking them up in January or February. So whether you’ve got some old antique decorations hanging around, or are just intrigued to see what bargains you can buy, it seems that now is definitely the time to give it a go.
“The better the name, the more money they bring”
Fir tree toys in a Christmas market