What impact does the Christmas holiday have on the antiques and collectibles market

The trend of gifting antiques and collectibles for Christmas gained popularity in the 1990s. Previously, the months of November and December were slow months for antiques and collectibles flea markets, malls, shops, and shows. In the late 1990s and into the first several years of the 21st century, November/December sales continued to increase. November/December became the best or second best sales season in the year.

The 2008-2009 Great Recession impacted sales throughout the year. Most antiques and collectibles flea markets, malls, shops, and shows witnessed a decline of between 15 and 30 percent in holiday sales. There were multiple reasons.

First, the secondary market for seasonable collector edition collectibles collapsed. The entire market suffered, from Hallmark and Radco Christmas ornaments to the Bradford Exchange’s White Christmas Village, Dept. 56, Thomas Kincade’s Cobblestone Corners, Lemax Village, and St. Nicholas Square Village Collection. At antiques and collectibles malls and shows, buyers resisted paying more than the initial purchase price. At auctions, a dime on the initial purchase dollar was common, a quarter on the dollar was fantastic.

Second, the secondary market for antique Christmas memorabilia declined as the per unit cost rose. Although in ample supply, sellers of 1950s and 1960s Christmas items kept raising prices. Objects that were affordable at $5.00 or less became expensive at $25.00 and $30.00.

Third, decorating and other seasonal magazines began emphasizing modern reproduction and copycat pieces rather than historical examples. In addition, a homemade, craft look came into vogue. New now is better than old.

Fourth, antiques and collectibles flea markets, malls, shops, and shows did not adapt to a Christmas selling season that begins in early October. Their focus is on the end of the summer and the early fall outdoor season.

Fifth, 21st century seasonal buying is discount focused. Retail merchants now offer their after Christmas prices in mid-November. Black Friday is discount time. Historically, it represented the first buying opportunity to see the winter season merchandises. Full retail held until the day after Christmas. The antiques and collectibles business is not discount oriented. Although price negotiation is common, especially for individual sales, the discount is in the 10 to 25 percent range, not the 40 to 50 percent found in retail stores.

The news is not all bad. Enterprising antiques and collectibles auctioneers and sellers have learned to take advantage of the holidays. Since the 1990s, Sandford Alderfer Auction & Appraisal has held an annual Black Friday auction. Merchandise ranges from Longaberger baskets to estate material. It is well attended. Many show promoters have targeted the first and second weekends in December for annual shows. Scott’s Antique Market at the Atlanta Expo Center the second Saturday in December is an example.

Many antiques malls hold holiday sale events in December. The Factory Antique Mall in Verona, Virginia is holding its second annual Christa Open House on December 2. The Brass Armadillo Antique Mall in Omaha, Nebraska is having a “Name Your Own Price” sale, one my favorite promotions, on December 15. Focusing on objects that appeal to current decorating trends and inexpensive but unusual holiday gifts are the keys to successful November/December sales.

Several show promoters, especially in the South, have discovered that individuals who are not enchanted by football welcome alternative methods to spend their time over the New Year’s holiday. The West Palm Beach Antiques Festival, December 30-January 1, is one example.

By adopting many sales techniques used by retail merchants, the antiques and collectibles trade continues to enhance the productivity of the October to December sales quarter. As a result, the slow months, especially in the North outside New York City, are now limited to January and early February.

How collectibles is Thanksgiving holiday material?

In the 1980s and the early 1990s, Thanksgiving held the number two position on the holiday collecting list. Christmas and Santa Claus were and remain kings of the hill, a position they will never relinquish. Beginning in the later 1990s, Halloween replaced Thanksgiving, now a distant third and continuing to lose ground, in the number two slot on the holiday collecting list.

What happened to Thanksgiving? First, it lost its importance as a holiday. Today, it is referred to the holiday sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas. Historically, it was the harbinger of Christmas. When I was a youngster in 1950s, Black Friday was the day when “Santa’s Toyland” opened in major department stores. The Christmas buying season was four weeks in length. This year, my wife Linda and I spotted Christmas store decorations in place by mid-October. Linda finished her Christmas shopping for the grandchildren by November 10. The presents were mailed two day s later.

Second, saying thanks in 2012 does not seem as important as it once did. The Pilgrims have disappeared from the scene, even in New England. The meat on the Thanksgiving platter is just as likely to be ham and roast as it is turkey.

Third, merchants no longer support the holiday. Gone are the Thanksgiving Day displays featuring decorations from Hallmark, Napco, and numerous Japanese manufactures. Pottery Barn still offers several turkey platters. But, a buyer has to hunt to find them in the store.

Finally, decorating for Thanksgiving is passé. I still have the Hallmark centerpiece decorations from my parents’ 1950s/1960s family table. My collection of holiday candles includes several dozen turkey and pilgrim candles. Whenever, I see one of the 1920s/1930s large, black, papier mâché turkeys at an antiques malls, I am tempted. But, I do buy it. I would never use it. It is November 9, and Linda already has started to unpack the Christmas decorations. My box of Thanksgiving collectibles remains in storage.

Whereas over a dozen reference books have been published about Halloween collectibles, the only book devoted to Thanksgiving is John and Sandra Thomas’ Thanksgiving and Turkey Collectibles Then and Now, published by Schiffer Publishing in 2004. Janice Harbaugh’s Thanksgiving Post Card Art Circa 1910 is nothing more than a compilation of 55 Thanksgiving postcard images. There is no Thanksgiving Collectors’ Club.

There are more than a dozen Thanksgiving subcategories with dozens of closet collectors for all of them. The most obvious is postcards. The imagery of Thanksgiving postcards is comparable to that of Halloween cards. In fact, Thanksgiving postcards outnumber Halloween postcards by at least four to one. The variety of turkey platters numbers in the hundreds, even if one limits the collection to platters with a pilgrim or turkey them. Candles from Gurley Novelty and Tavern Novelty are usually priced between $5.00 and $10.00 at flea markets, malls, and shows. My favorite remains the folding table centerpieces.

I am certain there have to be Pilgrim and turkey collectors. When I did a “Turkey collectors” search on Google, the first references were for turkey call collectors and turkey stamp and print collectors. Even “Turkey collectibles” produced a series of initial listings focusing on hunting. A 2008 Flying High article by Jim Casada begins: “One of the best ways to determine the popularity of an outdoor activity is to trace the level of interest in the history and memorabilia of that sport.

“If one were to judge by the unprecedented interest in the various types of collectibles associated with wild turkeys or the National Wild Turkey Federation, it is about the hottest thing going in the world of hunting memorabilia.”[http://www.nwtf.org/flyinghigh/thanksgiving_collectibles.html]

Jim’s opening line is a concept I need to investigate. It is a new collecting connection for me.

I have digressed from the subject at hand- how collectible is Thanksgiving holiday material? The answer is not as much as it once was with little hope of a renaissance. Pass the white meat.

Is there something special about which you would like me to blog?

I love writing about antiques and collectibles and developments within the trade. I welcome your comments and suggestions as to topics you would like me to cover. E-mail your suggestions to harrylrinker@aol.com.


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