NEWS

Santa figurines: Are they worth anything?

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate

Santa Claus is as popular a figure in antique Christmas collectibles as he is in today's decorations. Most are more festive than this papier-mache figure. Santa is usually portrayed holding a small Christmas tree, carrying his famous sack of toys, surrounded by reindeer or accompanied by a child or angel.

Depending on the age and origin of the collectible, he might be dressed in an unexpected color like green or blue. Here, he can be recognized by his red coat and hood, trimmed with fur as white as his beard. This papier-mache figure looks plainer than many popular Christmas collectibles.

There are no reindeer pulling the sleigh, and instead of a sack of toys, there is a stack of firewood on his back. (Is this because firewood is a winter necessity, or maybe a reference to the Yule log?) But there's a surprise in store; the bundle of logs isn't what it seems. Lift the lid, and it has a hollow compartment meant to store candy.

Papier-mache candy containers were popular from the 19th to early 20th centuries. The most famous ones were made in Germany and often themed for holidays like Christmas, Halloween or Easter. They are eagerly sought by collectors, often selling for high prices. This Santa sold for $6,250 at a Hindman auction, where its high presale estimate was $500!

Q: I've had an Energizer Bunny Christmas ornament for several years. The bunny is wearing a Santa Claus hat. Is it worth anything?

A: The Energizer bunny, a bright-pink rabbit wearing sunglasses and blue flip-flops and beating a drum, first appeared in a TV commercial in 1988. It was listed as one of the top brand icons of the 20th century by Ad Age. The American Electrical Novelty and Manufacturing Company began making battery-operated flashlights in 1898. The company name became American Ever Ready Company in 1905. It trademarked its batteries "Ever Ready." The brand name "Energizer" was first used in 1980. After several changes, the Energizer brand became part of Energizer Holdings, Inc. in 2000. In 1992, Energizer offered four different Christmas ornaments free with the purchase of Energizer batteries. The other three ornaments were a caroler, an evergreen tree and a skier. They sell for about $1 each. Even though they are not worth a lot, they still are a fun ornament for your tree.

Q: I have a Christmas ornament that needs help. Can mercury glass that is blue be restored?A: Mercury glass, or silvered glass, was first made in England in the 1840s. It was made in the United States from the mid-1850s to the early 20th century. The silvery mirrored look was made by blowing clear glass into a double-walled shape and filling the small air space between the walls with a mercury solution. First, air was vacuumed out of the space, then the solution was poured in through a hole in the bottom of the piece, coating the inside of the glass, and then the hole was sealed. After the 1850s, "mercury" glass was made using a silver nitrate solution. If the seal is broken, exposure to the air will cause the color to deteriorate. You can try to reseal it but won't be able to restore the original color. Mercury is toxic. If you have a very old Christmas ornament that might contain mercury, you should call the poison control center near you to see how to handle it.

Q: I love the colors and simple shapes of Fiestaware. I recently bought a Lapis Fiestaware plate shaped like a Christmas tree for $39 at a thrift store. Was that a good price?A: Fiesta dinnerware from The Homer Laughlin China Co. of Newell, W. Va., was introduced at the Pittsburgh China & Glass Show in January 1936. It was created by Frederick Hurten Rhead, a second-generation potter who was the company's design director since 1927. Fiesta production stopped in 1972. It was re-started in 1986 because of the dinnerware's continued popularity. Fiesta from the 1930s is more valuable than pieces made since 1986. The original Fiesta colors were dark blue, red, light green, ivory and yellow. Turquoise followed in 1937. Other colors introduced during the first decades of production included chartreuse, forest green, gray, medium green and rose. In 2020, the Homer Laughlin China Co. was acquired by Steelite International. It was renamed as The Fiesta Tableware Company. It doesn't look like you got a bargain. Lapis plates like you describe sell online for between $15 and $25.

TIP: Dust Christmas ornaments after removing them from the tree. Do not store them dusty. Wrap each ornament individually in paper.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers' questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at collectorsgallery@kovels.com.