Beautifully crafted ornaments’ aren’t worth what they cost

Published 6:10 pm Friday, December 14, 2018


Personal Effects 

Question: Dear Mr. Jerry, I had something that I had to ask you. My beloved aunt passed away about two years ago. We were in a hurry, as her townhouse was up for a two-year lease renewal, and she passed about 20 days before she was to have signed this contract.

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We quickly packed everything for a storage unit. It wasn’t an overabundance as she lived lightly as she traveled so much. But we’ve been steady in giving away, keeping and dividing up family pieces.

We found in her Christmas totes just dozens and dozens of ornaments like these. All are just gorgeous. Some are glass, some are metal and many are porcelain.

She saved all the papers and boxes. It looks like a few were from the cruise ships she traveled on. Many were from membership clubs for ornaments. The receipts were still with a lot of them. And we were shocked! Some of these decorations were $50-$100, with several topping out at $200 each! Money wasn’t a big deal to her and she did enjoy decorating her home.

But are they worth this kind of money? An internet search only directed to the clubs or to upscale gift shops, wanting to sell more. Anything you can tell us is much appreciated.

Answer: I do encounter this from time to time. First off, I’m so happy that you aunt enjoyed her

ornaments and used them in her home. That is the main tenet to collecting. Yes, the retail world of high-end “designer” ornaments can be a terrifyingly expensive place. It’s reassuring that she wasn’t borrowing from household or pension accounts to pay for her passion — that’s important too. Many people don’t pay heed to their finances when building their collections.

Let me say this —  there are ornaments from expensive stores made by fine companies, and there are ornaments that are created to serve a need. That need is, “I need some beautiful ornaments to collect and show off to my friends.” I guess that you and many of my readers know of the collector plate investment scheme from the 1980s to the mid 1990s — so-called experts touted that “investing” (sorry if I’m using too many quotation marks) in these limited edition plates would yield amazing returns in the coming years.

Today, we know this simply wasn’t true and it will never be true. These plates were manufactured in such massive quantities that supply-and-demand ratios were tossed out the

window. There were always more plates than willing buyers. Plates that sold for $100 today sell for $5.

In a nutshell, this is what you have but instead of plates, it’s ornaments. Also, the papers, boxes and certificates are worthless.

I would look on a site like eBay to see what they are really selling for. Look under completed auctions.

The photos that you supplied show me some beautiful ornaments. Beyond that, that’s about it. I did notice you have several fine makers in your hoard. Names like Waterford, Baccarat, Wedgwood and Lenox will have some crossover traits to them. Even fine names only fetch a fraction of a their initial purchase price, as a rule. Some that are the first in a series can fetch more.

Yes readers, many old Peanut or Disney Hallmark ornaments are worth more than something from Waterford.

I think realistically you could expect to see ornaments like your “collector” pieces in an

antiques mall or at a holiday show priced for $10 to $15 each. I’d share them with her family and

friends. Just take pleasure that your aunt enjoyed and used her collection. Thanks for a great question.