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Is it true that your ceramic Christmas tree might be worth a few hundred dollars?
Over the past few years, you might have seen news stories that promised you could make a tidy sum by selling the vintage ceramic Christmas tree that was likely handed down to you from an aunt or grandmother. But the truth is a bit more complicated than that.
Wondering how much your ceramic tree is worth? First, you need to consider the year that your ceramic Christmas tree was made, and whether it was made from a particular mold.
The Atlantic Molds Christmas Tree
The 1950s was a decade that transformed the way we approached decorating for the holidays. This was not just thanks to the booming economy, but also thanks to the new mass-production of things like Christmas ornaments and tinsel.
A company called Atlantic Molds was in on the trend. Its production of a unique ceramic Christmas tree that quickly gained popularity came at the perfect time, when Americans wanted to deck the halls as big and bold as possible, whether that meant aluminum trees, bubble lights or a mountain of presents from Santa Claus.
Atlantic Molds first copyrighted its original ceramic Christmas tree mold in 1958, and now, many people look at the bottom of their ceramic Christmas tree and get excited when they see the year “1958,” assuming that this means they own a vintage piece of history. However, this year only refers to the mold’s copyright date.
Over the decades, several other companies started to produce ceramic trees with similar designs. When Atlantic Molds closed up shop in 1999, they sold their molds to other companies, meaning that this style of ceramic tree is still being reproduced to this day.
Spotting Authentic Vintage Christmas Trees
So, how can you tell if you own a real vintage tree, or one that was produced just a few years ago?
Appraisers at A-Z Appraisal and Estate Consultants told Arcadia News that the vintage trees from original molds will have a number on them.
“A truly vintage tree should be individually numbered,” say the appraisers, so look out for a number on the bottom of the tree to check for authenticity.
You can also consider how your tree is lighted. The originals had glass lights. Newer models have plastic lights.
“The first versions of the tree had tiny glass bulbs that were individually lit, these are highly coveted,” the antique experts at Nostalgia Antiques and Collectibles, located in Providence, Rhode Island, explain on their website. “With advancements in production techniques, more companies started to produce similar molds, but with different styled trees, the bulbs made of plastic, in a variety of shapes and no longer individually lit, but lit from the base with a single bulb.”
How Much Do Ceramic Christmas Trees Sell For?
It’s common for sellers on sites like Etsy and eBay to sell various ceramic trees around the holidays for a couple of hundred dollars, vintage expert Bob Richter, the author of “A Very Vintage Holiday,” told “Today.” If you want a bargain, shop in summertime, he advises.
On eBay, Atlantic Molds ceramic trees are listed at higher prices, with taller options listed for $500 and $600. Etsy has options marked as vintage Atlantic Molds Christmas trees starting at around $30, with prices above $400 for “rare” trees.
But before you buy one of these just ahead of the holidays, remember that just because a tree has the year “1958” on it or appears to be vintage doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.
Some of these newer options will be clearer to buyers than others. For example, modern ceramics artists are still making them, like this classic 17-inch ceramic Christmas tree from Etsy seller The Ceramic Barn, which sells for $179.
But many are marked “vintage,” so if you’re in the market, it pays to know what’s really valuable — and it pays to know what you want. Ultimately, whether your tree is an original or one of the newer reproductions, what really matters is the joy that it brings you and your family during the holiday season.
“The truth of the matter is, I think it’s great to turn them into cash, and it’s also great to bring them down and plug them in and use them, and tell a story of your grandmother or your aunt or your mother or whoever it was who had them in the first place, because I think that’s the true value,” Richter told “Today.” “It has emotional value, and that has gossamer wings.”
Besides, some newer versions (like this pink pearlescent option from Walmart, or college sports themed optionslike this one for Wisconsin Badgers fans) offer plenty of kitsch and personality. And who knows? They might soon become vintage collectibles in a few decades.
This story originally appeared on Don't Waste Your Money.