What is Vintage? What is Antique?

Posted by kathy stanton on

Try doing a search for VINTAGE ORNAMENTS on Google, and so many pages pop up. The “vintage” ornaments that you find at established stores like Hallmark, Target, Macy’s, etc., will almost surely be replicas. Although they're lovely if you want something authentically vintage you’ll have to look at sites like Etsy or Ebay, just to name a couple. Purchases from these sites can be great but you need to be diligent about verifying authenticity. One thing is certain, so many options for VINTAGE indicates its popularity today. Nostalgia is in!

Vintage or Antique

According to industry experts, Vintage refers to something that is from an earlier generation, while Antique refers to something that is over 100 years old.

What is Vintage

Collectors of Vintage ornaments and decorations are numerous! If you have a garage sale you can be sure that several people will ask if you have any “holiday stuff”, making it sound less valuable. But they are searching for that special find; a box of Shiny Brights would make their day! Original packaging is often as valuable as the items inside. Cutsey Kitsch items like the Napco figurines above, are another popular collectible.


About Shiny Brites

These timeless treasures were produced in Germany in the early 1900s and imported to the U.S. until the late 1930s, when businessman F. W. Woolworth and German immigrant Max Eckhardt collaborated with U.S.-based Corning Factory to perfect the traditional ornament-making methods for mass production in the United States. Individual ornaments go for about $10 each, but prices can go up if original packaging is included.


Other highly collectable vintage items include 1950’s silver Christmas trees, which were related to America’s fascination with NASA and the space race. Find a pink or purple tinsel tree and you’ve hit the Holy Grail! The electric color wheels that were often sold with these trees are also valuable to collectors.

What is Antique

Of course you can go directly to an antique shop to find authenticated antique Christmas ornaments and decorations. Paula Rubenstein on Bond St. in New York is one such highly regarded dealer. In these specialized shops you will find extraordinary pieces at understandably extraordinary prices. Another option is flea markets which can be found in many cities around the world; one of my favorite ways to collect, traveling with an objective. The annual Christmas fair in Frankfurt is a fantastic way to find both originals and replicas of old-world European glass ornaments.


Below is an excerpt from an article in Antique Trader by editor, Karen Knapstein. If you are interested in collecting antique ornaments and Christmas decorations you will want to start your research with Ms. Knapstein’s highly informative article.

Antique Ornaments

“Kugels are traditional holiday (and even year-round) decorations originating in Central Europe. First invented by craftsmen in Germany in the Biedermeier period (about 1830), these hollow glass ball ornaments didn’t appear in the United States until the late 1800s, where they are often called “friendship balls. The hole left in the glassblowing process is filled with an ornamental brass cap and fastened to the ball with twisted wire, allowing for ease of hanging. The earliest kugels were thick-walled and too heavy to hang on the branches of a tree; instead, they were often hung from the ceiling. Smaller, lighter ornaments were later created to adorn the tannenbaum, sometimes in the shapes of fruits.”

According to The Golden Glow of Christmas Past, a non-profit group dedicated to studying the historical and educational background of antique and vintage Christmas items prior to 1966, you should learn as much as you can about kugels before you begin investing in them. 

Antique and Vintage

Snow globes are one great example of Antique AND Vintage. The best known antique snow globes were produced in Austria by the Erwin Perzy studio, distinguished by their heavy black base. The vintage versions are plastic snow globes produced in Japan or Hong Kong in the 60’s. Both are delightful to behold and highly collectible. In other words, for those that like to hunt and collect, there is something for everyone.

Who collects

Christmas ornament collectors are a very diverse group. One common thread however is a desire to recreate the Christmas trees we saw as children. The fascinating, shiny objects hanging precariously on a big tree, the warm glow of the lights, the beautiful star or finial at the very top, and all those presents underneath. Add to that the fun weeks at home with out-of-town-family, delicious food including and lots of Christmas cookies; those are truly magical memories.

There is another, sadder motivation for all too many Christmas ornament collectors, and that is broken ornaments. Over the years we’ve had many customers recount their own experiences of losing ornaments and that sadness and, or guilt that made an indelible impact. Arguably the most famous name in Christmas Ornaments, Christopher Radko himself, attributes his love of old-world European ornaments and his subsequent business success to a toppled tree when he was a child, here is an excerpt from the Radio site,

"It all Began with a Crash - Once upon a Holiday Night, a Christmas tree fell and startled the Radko family household. With more than 1,000 vintage mouth-blown glass ornaments broken to bits, Christopher was distraught. Searching endlessly to replace them, he found nothing quite good enough to replace his treasured memories. He soon realized that the only option was to start from scratch. Thus began the creation of Christopher Radko Ornaments.

With nothing but his Christmas memories to build upon, Christopher enlisted a Polish glassblower and went to work recreating his family’s lost heirlooms. The project went so well that by 1985 sixty unique designs were debuted and a respected business was created. Today, after thirty years of designing and creating, the Christopher Radko Company has produced more than eighteen million fine European glass ornaments that have become a part of family traditions across the United States."

Collectors can be seriously invested financially, emotionally or both. They can collect as a business, or just for their own pleasure. Regardless, most collectors know that their prized collections will be sold or passed down to appreciative and loving hands to hopefully continue to enjoy and represent the traditions of Christmas’ past.


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The Golden Glow of Christmas Past, a non-profit group dedicated to studying the historical and educational background of antique and vintage Christmas items prior to 1966, you should learn as much as you can about kugels before you begin investing in them.

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