An excess of Christmas decorations
  • Christmas decorations with a touch of class
  • Christmas tree in the form of a Victorian woman
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    Auction Finds

    A whole lotta Christmas decorations

    I used to dutifully go out and find the right Christmas tree each holiday season. I’d buy it from a seller who’d set up rows of trees with full thick branches in the same parking lot each December.

    Over the years, I also had bought an array of decorations from one of my favorite stores that sold them at a discount. I was always ready.

    Then I lost interest in searching for a tree, dragging it back to my house, setting it up, pulling the decorations out of storage, trimming it – and at the end of the season, taking it down. Now, I barely put up a wreath.

    Those decorations are sitting in paper bags in a closet in my house. Someday, they may end up on auction tables just like the ones I saw at two auction houses this week. At the first, many of the items appeared to be vintage – Santas, ornaments, displays, a carousel. At the other, most were new.

    The first auction house was holding what it called a vintage Christmas sale, and there were plenty of people – dealers, I’m sure – packing the chairs looking for items to peddle. They apparently found a lot of what they liked, and most importantly, they got them at some great prices – except, as my auction buddy Janet pointed out, those that carried brand names.

    For the spurts of time I watched the auction proceed, many of the items were selling for less than $5 each, while others went a bit higher. Janet was in the Christmas-sale room a lot more often than me – she picked up a pixie for a few bucks – and said those prices were the norm.

    The prices were so low, she said, that the auctioneer became visibly frustrated, quickly passing on lots that bidders were slow to react to and admonishing them for not bidding at all. She was surprised because this auctioneer is usually the cool one.

    At one point, she said, the auctioneer couldn’t seem to fathom why no one wanted an antique Santa that was practically falling apart. Because it’s ragged, I’m sure she wanted to shout out in answer to him.

    There was something there for everyone: The glass cases were filled with Christmas ornaments of all types, tree lights (even the bubble lights) and lots of jewelry (some of the pins and earrings sold for $4 and $5 each). Along the back were two tall and bulky angels swarthed in gold.

    One long table held rows of what looked like ceramic houses waiting to be decorated with foliage and other exterior pieces. The decorations were in boxes just beyond the houses. I assume you’d buy a house and then dress it up.

    Only a handful of people were interested in them; they sold for $5 each. Near the end of the auction, the auctioneer asked bidders to choose what they wanted and make a bid.

    Many of us have our own Christmas collectibles, and if you’re like me, they don’t mean anything to anyone but me. But there are other folks, however, who consider themselves serious collectors, people with hundreds of items who have spent time learning the history behind them. I came across interviews with one who collects ornaments and another who collects all kinds of decorations.

    It’s hard to know what to look for in collectibles (this site offers some guidance). I was at another auction a few months ago, a Decorative Arts sale where the prices tend to be higher. One table held a set of 48 antique figural Christmas light bulbs in fruit and flower designs (photo below). The bidding started at $200, and I sat there astounded as the price went higher and higher. It stopped at $800.

    I’ve found that the Christmas season isn’t the only time to find such items at auction.  

    Earlier this year, I picked up a stack of Christmas cards from the turn of the 20th century. They resembled calling cards with a short verse and the name of the sender. I don’t recall spending a lot of money for them, but they were interesting because they were different.

    I’ve also come across Christmas postcards mid-year. So, it seems that you don’t have to wait until the season rolls around to find that vintage or antique Christmas item. It’s always somewhere at any time on some auction table.

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