White House Christmas ornaments

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12 12, 2016

Christmas Trees – the custom and traditions

By |2016-11-30T08:48:45-06:00December 12th, 2016|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

A small tabletop tree with candles stands as a tribute to our German grandfather’s ancestry. A hand sewnSt. Nicholas doll stands beside the tree.

The tradition of putting up and decorating a Christmas tree began in Germany in the 16th century.

Legend has it that Protestant reformer Martin Luther, who was awed by the brilliance of twinkling stars amidst evergreens on a nighttime walk, wired candles to Christmas tree branches to recapture the scene.

The idea of a decorated Christmas tree was slow to gain popularity in Puritan America. Puritans held to a strict sacred observation of Christmas. In fact, in 1659, hanging decorations brought fines for breaking the law against observance of December 25 (other than a church service).

The Puritan legacy diminished with the influx of German and Irish immigrants and Christmas trees became the focal point of those who celebrate Christmas in America.

Thinking about Christmas trees from childhood is sure to stir a bit of nostalgia.

I can remember piling into the family station wagon and driving into the Texas hill country to cut the perfect tree. We’d sing Christmas carols and eat a picnic lunch. Fun times.

I’d stare for hours at the icicles reflecting in the multi-colored bulbs then beg to be in charge of cutting off the lights before bedtime so I could stay up late.  I might add that those icicles had to hang single strand over single branches. Daddy was always watching to be sure.

Once I married and we had our own tree, I’d planned to throw the icicles haphazardly on the tree. Somehow, it didn’t look right. Or maybe it was Daddy’s voice echoing in my head.

Christmas trees continue to play an important role in our holiday decorating.

In Houston, we placed multiple trees around our Victorian home. Most were artificial and each tree had its own theme.

For years we’ve collected White House and Texas Capitol ornaments. Those collections hang on gold-branched display trees every year.

With the Rio Grande National Forest as our backyard, we can secure a permit, take a short hike, and have a fresh cut tree whenever we’re ready to decorate.

I do miss all the little helpers I had in years past. Putting gumdrops on the gumdrop tree by myself (a tradition from my Irish grandmother)  isn’t the same.

gumdroptreeThis year our new four-legged baby, Finnegan MacCool will be helping, which may or may not be a good thing.stockinghelp

Here’s Finn helping me make a Christmas stocking for the newest family member-our granddaughter’s new husband.

Should be fun time decorating the Christmas tree this year with an Old English sheepdog puppy. At five months everything is a chew toy.

How’s the decorating going at your place? Is a Christmas tree part of your holiday tradition?

27 01, 2014

A Lesson in Fad Collectibles for Investment – Part 1

By |2014-01-27T06:00:08-06:00January 27th, 2014|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

I’m an avid antiques collector/buyer/seller. Though I’m not so active in the business part of antiques anymore, I am still out there buying for my personal collections, evaluating estates, and doing appraisals.

Too often, when I do an estate evaluation or appraisal, I have to explain to heirs how little a loved one’s collection is truly worth. That’s why I wanted to talk about fad collectibles.

A fad collectible is an item or group of items that rise in popularity, flourish, then fade until the value of the item often drops below the original purchase price.

If you’re an antiques dealer in the business of buying and selling, that’s not so bad. Sometimes you have to take a loss and sell for what you can get.

If you’re the consumer who bought a certain collectible(s) as an investment, fading fads can sting.

Here are three examples of fad collectibles that rose and faded so that the value is currently quite low.

Hummel figurines (also known as M.I. Hummel figurines or simply Hummels) are a series of porcelain figurines based on the drawings of Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, O.S.F. hummel one

W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik in Germany first made the porcelain figurines of children with sweet faces in 1935. They became popular in the U.S. after soldiers returning from World War II brought them home as gifts for wives, mothers and grandmothers. Original quantities sold quickly and soon old figurines, identified by the mark, rose in price.

Collectors snatched up available figurines, forcing an increase in producing more figurines. Plates with Hummel figures were also made. Soon the market was flooded with Hummels. Interest dropped.

The secondary market for the figurines and plates virtually disappeared.

A vibrant speculator market in the figurines emerged again in the 1970s. Prices skyrocketed then floundered. Today most Hummels sell for less than $50.

beaniesBeanie Babies are the line of popular stuffed animals, made by Ty Inc. in late 1993. The inner “posable lining” and plastic pellets (or “beans”) rather than conventional stuffing give Beanie Babies a flexible feel.

Hundreds of different animals were made, some in limited or special editions, some were “retired” and became hard to find.

By 1995, Beanie Babies were a hot collectibles fad. I was selling them in my shop as fast as I could buy them, especially the McDonalds’ kids’ meal beanie sets.  The collectible craze ended in 1999, when Ty Inc. stopped production.

Production restarted in 2000 and in early 2008, Ty released a new version of Beanie Babies called Beanie Babies 2.0, which provide its owner with a code to access a Beanie Babies interactive website.imagesPIBWS14Y

Renewed interest in these new Beanies did nothing for those of us who have a stash of the early Beanies in a box in the attic or closet.

imagesA4X6CILULimited Edition Items This can include collector plates, Christmas plates and ornaments, anything Franklin Mint—dolls, coins, figurines and die-cast cars—Norman Rockwell merchandise, paperweights, figurines, bells, enamel boxes, spoons, mugs and steins have all been offered in limited editions. Any item promoted as limited editions, limited by quantity or period of production is considered a collectible fad.

Limited editions were a new idea during the 1970s and quickly became a fad. Clubs were formed and conventions were held so collectors could buy and sell older editions of items. Collectors saw prices rise, ads promoted “investment” possibilities, and many people bought large collections.

Those same collectors were shocked in the 1990s when prices plummeted and their “investment” turned out to be a loss. Today’s younger buyer often considers such items kitsch.

imagesICP4MTYXHaving the original box and paperwork increases value, but most items languish in closets, yard sales or resale shops.

That said every Christmas since the 1980s I order the collectible White House ornament and a Texas capitol ornament. Someday my heirs will hear the same thing I tell others.

I’m not saying don’t invest in collectibles.

Truth is there’s no way to predict what collectible or antique will remain a profitable purchase and what won’t.

Based on my years of experience, my best advice is to buy what you like and enjoy the piece(s).

Next week we’ll talk about Precious Moments, Cabbage Patch kids, and Longaberger baskets.