Every Christmas, your family breaks out the popcorn, candy canes, garland, and childhood ornaments to decorate the best Douglas fir on the lot. Yet, what many people forget to do is beautify the bottom of their tree; today's products just don't compare to the vintage Christmas tree stands of old. Vibrantly decorated and sturdily built, old Christmas tree stands can be one way for you to bring a sense of nostalgia from the past into your modern holiday celebrations.
Historic Christmas Tree Stand Styles to Collect
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, approximately 25-30 million living Christmas trees are sold in the United States every year. That means there's a huge market for Christmas tree stands because every real tree has to be held up by something. So, if you've decided to part ways with your grandparents' old Christmas tree stand that you've relegated to the closet, or you're interested in finding out how old your family's Christmas tree stand is, there are a few key characteristics to look out for.
Antique Christmas Tree Stands
Given that Christmas trees didn't start getting popular until the mid-19th century, there wasn't a huge need for Christmas tree stands until rather recently. In fact, the first U.S. patent for a Christmas tree stand wasn't issued until 1876. These early stands were made in a distinctively Victorian style - overly decorative, and painted with swirling scrolls, flowers, reindeer, and other traditional motifs. Most often, these stands were made out of cast iron, as it was a durable material used to make all sorts of household items at the time. Quickly, these hefty stands fell out of favor, and they were replaced to reflect the airier and glittering fashions of the mid-20th century.
Vintage Christmas Tree Stands
There's nothing quite like the vintage Christmas aesthetic with its blinding colors and unusual textures, and the uptick in thrifting with Millennials and Gen Z-ers means that there's no time like the present to fish out grandma's favorite decorations. As cast iron became a thing of the past and lighter materials took over, stands from the 1950s-1970s were made out of either tin/aluminum, brass, or plastics. Some defining characteristics of these eye-catching things include:
- Trendy shapes - Many mid-century modern tree stands were made in shapes that reflected the atomic age aesthetic. One of the most popular was the bullet-shaped stand, which had three or four legs extending from the base. Think of an upside-down acorn painted in bold reds and greens, or the Sputnik taking your tree into outer space.
- Adjustable sizes - Once Christmas tree stands were lighter, manufacturers started making them adjustable. About half of the remaining ones on the market from the mid-20th century feature these adjustable prongs.
- Bright colors - If there's one thing the mid-20th century is known for, it's the unforgettable color palette. Brighter than neon and richly pigmented, Christmas tree stands made in the 1950s and 1960s were painted or printed with an iconic range of colors, with red and green being the most popular.
- Electrical wiring - Since a majority of homes had electricity by the mid-century, a lot of these old tree stands were fitted with multi-colored bulbs that shone as bright as Rudolph's nose on Christmas Eve. Thankfully, they're not too difficult to retrofit with modern wiring, and so you can find ones that're safe to light up this season.
- Christmas motifs - Printing technology in the mid-century allowed these stands to boast seasonal iconography in both realistic and cartoon styles. Things like poinsettias, holly sprigs, and bells were printed or painted onto these stands to make them extra festive.
How Much Are Vintage Christmas Tree Stands Worth?
While you can find a lot of examples of old Christmas tree stands from the near and distant past for sale on online marketplaces, there's not enough buyer interest for them to be able to sell for hundreds of dollars. Simply put, no matter how rare or interesting it is, no one's willing to pay a lot of money for something they're not really going to see. So, neither antique nor vintage Christmas tree stands will usually sell for more than about a $100-$200. Rewired electrical ones, cast iron ones from the 19th century, and ones in particularly pristine condition will normally hit the higher end of this price range while unboxed plastic ones will fetch about $30-$40.
Take these that've recently come to auction, for example:
- Despite having the original box, this late 20th century plastic tree stand that shows a minimal amount of wear was mass-manufactured and isn't rare or special enough to be worth a lot. In fact, it only sold for $19.99.
- Anything that's electrical and in working order (and also has the original packaging) is a big-ticket item. For instance, this simple Garnet domed tree stand revolves and comes with the original box; thanks to these two characteristics, it sold for $169.
- Bright and colorful tree stands are also a valuable collectible, such as this 1950s tin saucer-shaped stand that features a vibrant lithographed snowman scene. It sold for $189.
Best Places to Buy and Sell Vintage Christmas Trees
With the variety that's on the market, you won't have any trouble finding one that speaks to you. Yet, if you're trying to sell off a stand that's been collecting dust in your attic for decades, that might be a bit more difficult.
Granted, you can donate or sell your antique and vintage Christmas tree stands to a local thrift shop, but chances are that they won't give you nearly the same amount for it as an interested buyer might. Thus, you want to get directly in front of the consumer, and that's by listing your items online.
Whether you're a seasoned collector looking for a new piece or you're new to selling off your collectibles, each of these websites makes buying and selling a super easy process:
- 1st Dibs - While individual people can't sell through 1st Dibs, the quality of their inventory makes them well worth the digital visit. Granted, you'll usually only find rather expensive antiques selling on their website.
- Chairish - Chairish is a digital marketplace that sells antique and vintage collectibles from dealers around the world. Their inventories are smaller than some companies' are, but they do have multiple free tiers for anyone interested in selling through them.
- Etsy - The Millennial equivalent to eBay, Etsy is well-known for its collection of vintage goods for sale from independent shop owners around the world. While it's easy to buy from Etsy, it's a little more difficult to sell through them, as there are steep fees that come with every sale.
- eBay - The internet's tried-and-true auction website for anything and everything, eBay is simple for first-time sellers and chock full of inventory for interested buyers. There's not a strict vetting process for the items that're listed, so you should be critical of anything you find and reach out to the seller for as much information as you can get before purchasing anything.
Christmas Tree Stands to Rock Around For
Get your Christmas tree ready for the annual holiday party's 'rockin' around the Christmas tree' party playlist by outfitting it with a vintage Christmas tree stand. From the delightfully animated, kitschy ones to cast iron relics Ebenezer Scrooge would be jealous of, there're no rules as to how you can deck out your tree this year, or the many years to come. Hang old holiday postcards, antique glass ornaments, and plenty of tinsel. Use whatever says "Christmas" to you.