Friday, 27 July 2007

Money on trees

Congratulations! Now, stand back and admire your handiwork. You manoeuvred the ladder up to the loft, you scrambled around in the dust and cobwebs, you found the old suitcase containing the Christmas decorations and the tree looks fabulous.

But stop and take another look. Those baubles, knickknacks and trinkets that you remember when you were a child might actually be highly desirable collectors’ items.

And that means hard cash to pay the credit card bill which arrives when Christmas is but a distant memory.

The thought occurred watching Coronation Street the other night. Ken Barlow probably didn’t realise what the Bakelite crib ornament was worth as he hung it on his tree, but it was not lost on me.

Fact is, almost any Christmas tree decorations dating from the 1930s, 40s and even Sixties has a value as a collectable, while some rarities could fund the entire festive season.

Particularly sought after are the hand-blown glass ornaments that I remember used to come in brown cardboard boxes divided into compartments and each wrapped in tissue paper.

That was probably how so many survived the journey from Czechoslovakia, where they were made.

Favourites are the clip-on birds with their fragile spun glass tails and the gaudy baubles, hand-painted with glitter to make them look like they are covered in frost.

To a collector, each has a value of £10 to £15. Rarer examples, particularly those with an unusual shapes or modelled with the heads of cherubs, clowns or animals can easily be double that.

The same can be said for early plastic and even decorations made from cardboard, providing of course they’re in perfect condition.

I remember the Christmas tree from my childhood was hung with little Japanese paper lanterns, each one with a tiny metal candleholder (I was never allowed to put candles in them for fear of burning the house down) that today would be worth £15 to £20 apiece.

I was told they came home in the rucksack of a relative who saw action in that part of the world during the war. Whether that was true, I’ll never know, but I wish I still had them.

Old electric fairylights can also be worth serious money, particularly when they remain in their original cardboard boxes. Own a set today and you’d be best advised to speak to an electrician before putting them to use.

Of course, collectors of such things would ever dream of actually switching the things on!

Picture shows an unusual seasonal survivor – a 1930s artificial Christmas tree complete with its original decorations which was in a sale at Brightwells auctioneers in Leominster. It had been purchased from Binns department store in Sunderland to celebrate the first Christmas of a baby boy and had been kept carefully by the family ever since. It sold for £350.

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