Five For Friday: Collecting Vintage Christmas Items with The Golden Glow of Christmas Past

Rebekah Kaufman
Published on
Cover of the February 2020 edition of The GLOW Magazine. Photo courtesy of The Golden Glow of Christmas Past.
Cover of the February 2020 edition of The GLOW Magazine. Photo courtesy of The Golden Glow of Christmas Past.

Christmas is often called “the most wonderful time of the year.” Given the current spate of bad news, we thought sharing the joy, fun, and nostalgia associated with holiday collectibles could lift a few spirits among our readers. Auction Daily spoke with Joe Meyers, Chairperson of The Golden Glow of Christmas Past, to learn more about this festive category. The Golden Glow of Christmas Past is the premier organization representing Christmas collectors worldwide. Far from being active just in the winter time, The Golden Glow of Christmas Past hosts their annual convention in the summer and publishes a bi-monthly magazine. Here’s what Meyers had to say.

Auction Daily: Tell us about The Golden Glow of Christmas Past.

Joe Meyers: We are a non-profit organization focusing on the education and history of antique and vintage Christmas ornaments, lights, and decorations. The Glow was founded in 1980 as a club bringing together a small group of Christmas light bulb collectors in Brookville, OH. Now we have more than 2,200 members representing every US state and Washington DC, as well as sixteen foreign countries.  

Today, the “Glow” focuses on things made or manufactured 40 years prior to the current year. So, this year our organization celebrates Christmas items and history prior to 1981. We publish THE GLOW Magazine six times per year and have a robust, member-accessible website featuring research articles, a searchable database, forums, a marketplace, and a virtual museum. 

Auction floor of the 2018 Golden Glow Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo courtesy of The Golden Glow of Christmas Past.
Auction floor of the 2018 Golden Glow Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo courtesy of The Golden Glow of Christmas Past.

Auction Daily: Tell us about the main categories of vintage Christmas collectibles. What are enthusiasts collecting today vs. 10 or 20 years ago? Has that changed over time? 

Joe Meyers: These span from A to Z, literally, and include advertisements and catalogs; aluminum trees; angels; Belsnickles; blow molds; books; boxed light sets; bubble lights; candy containers; cards and postcards; celluloid; chromos and scraps; cotton batting; Dresdens; Erzgebirge; feather trees; glass ornaments; Italian ornaments; jewelry and pins; kugels; lighting; matchless stars; nativity figures; nodders; plastic and 1950s items; Putz; Santas; toys, wind-ups and games; Victorian glass ornaments; and Victorian wire wraps.

20 years ago, people were collecting 1920-1940s era decor – things like paper decor, feather trees, and German ornaments. Today’s collectors want to see what their grandparents had at their house for Christmas, such as aluminum trees, blow molds, plastic, and lighting.

Santa on a growling polar bear. Photo courtesy of Bertoia Auctions of Vineland, NJ.
Santa on a growling polar bear. Photo courtesy of Bertoia Auctions of Vineland, NJ.

Auction Daily:  Does collecting vintage Christmas items have seasonality? Do collectors display their treasures year-round, or do they only come out during the traditional Christmas season?

Joe Meyers: It just depends. Some collectors have their collections out all year, and some have spouses (like mine) that don’t want it out all year. As such, I have a backyard studio/guest house decorated for Christmas 24/7/365!

Auction Daily: Christmas collectibles can go sky high at auction, especially for things like antique nodders, Belsnickels, and other rarities. Within the last six months, a 22″ Santa on a polar bear grower toy realized $43,200 at Bertoia Auctions of Vineland, NJ! What is considered the “holy grail” for vintage Christmas collectors? And what is your “holy grail?”

Joe Meyers: The holy grail is whatever is near and dear to the collector and varies from person to person. I personally value a ceramic tree like Mom’s, but some collectors want Grandma’s aluminum tree. We have an auction at our annual convention, and a glass Christmas tree lamp sold for over $6,000 one year!

Salesroom of the 2018 Golden Glow Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo courtesy of The Golden Glow of Christmas Past.
Salesroom of the 2018 Golden Glow Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo courtesy of The Golden Glow of Christmas Past.

Auction Daily: And finally, tell us about your annual convention. 

Joe Meyers: The Glow holds a convention each year in the summer. Our last two gatherings averaged 800 attendees. The official convention runs from Wednesday through Sunday. Here, the focus is on items produced 40 years prior to the current year, and activities include educational talks, an auction, a salesroom, banquets, a museum room, and round table discussions. Prior to the opening reception and banquet on Wednesday evening, guests enjoy a Christkindlmarkt, workshops featuring handmade crafts related to antique Christmas, and local tours of the area.

Our annual convention is the largest marketplace for antique Christmas items in the world.  More than 200 sellers convert their hotel rooms into stores. Larger vendors reserve multiple rooms, or larger meeting rooms, to showcase their treasures. Every seller is bound by The Glow’s Ethics Policy of honesty and full disclosure. All grievances are settled by the board. As such, buyers can rest assured their Glow purchases are the “real deal.”

For more information on The Golden Glow of Christmas Past, please see https://goldenglow.org.