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10 Gifts for History Buffs

Updated on September 25, 2012

Welcome to the History Lover's Holiday Gift Guide!

Whether you are or aren't a history buff yourself, giving gifts with the history buff in mind is easy with this gift guide! Get creative, fun ideas and inspirations that will be genuinely appreciated by the history nuts on your list!

Produced for and by the history enthusiasts at LetsPlayHistory.org!

Old Newspapers and Magazines

You just never know what treasures you'll find in old magazines and newspapers! For example, I purchased a $2 beat up 1917 copy of The Women's Magazine, and found an adorable - and very positive - article on early women drivers! (The article is viewable on my LetsPlayHistory.org blog under "Mixed Bag," for Sept. 17, 2010). On another occasion I bought a late 1800's cook stove handbook, and it contained a fantastic period article on how blue delft china was going out of fashion.

Old periodicals make wonderful gifts simply because they're so much fun to rummage!

There are plenty of vintage and antique magazine sellers online, plus you can always shop on eBay, Amazon, or AbeBooks.com. Use search terms like "antique magazines," or "vintage newspaper."

Antique Train "Money"

These make wonderful gifts anytime, but they're really perfect as stocking stuffers! Beautiful "fake" money with an antique train design. I purchased mine through eBay seller: ThisTexan. (Logon to eBay, click on "Community," and type in the seller name in lowercase letters, no spaces). If this seller doesn't currently have any listed, you can always contact them through the eBay email system to ask if they have some they could list.

I enjoy using mine as a bookmark :-)

Vintage or Period Recipe Collection

Something fun to make by hand for history enthusiasts, is to collect vintage women's magazines, cut out or copy old recipes from them, and assemble a period-specific recipe book. You could easily do a Victorian collection, or a Depression era, or WWII era recipe book. In many cases you can find suitable public domain images online that you can print and use to compliment the collection.

Antique Prints and Ephemera

I am always watching for beautiful old lithograph and chromolithograph prints on eBay. Depending on your intended end use, such as reproduction for art or wearable art, or if you simply intend them for framing, there's always an ample supply to choose from. Keep in mind there's less competition and prices end up lower during the summer months when people are busy outdoors.

You can search eBay for "antique print," "ephemera," or "lithograph," among other terms. Shown here is "Victorian ephemera."

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Antique Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles

Antique wooden puzzles reached their zenith of popularity during the Depression Era, and remain a fun collectible to hunt for today. Typically these old wooden puzzles feature whimsies, or figurals, which are little shape pieces within the cuts. Whimsies are just as popular today as they were when they were first introduced around 1910 or so. Over the years we have purchased a couple on eBay, bought one at a resale shop, and we've made our own.

As antique toys, wooden puzzles can demand a high price tag, but If you're the handy sort you, too, can easily learn to make these heirloom collectibles. An inexpensive how-to guide offering both modern and historical techniques (historical techniques are from 1930s Depression Era primary source documents), as well as instructions on how to make an authentic early-style puzzle box, is available through the following sources:

$7.99 pdf download, full color, TeachersPayTeachers.com

$14.99 softcover, B&W interior, Amazon/CreateSpace

A comparison page on free and paid how-to instructions for making wooden jigsaw puzzles is also available on our sister lens, Squidoo.com/How-to-Make-a-Wooden-Jigsaw-Puzzle

Stereoscopes and Cards

Stereoscopes are the earliest forerunners of the modern day Viewmaster. Antique stereoscopes are not cheap, but boy are they fun! Today there's an endless supply of old stereo cards available out there, so they're highly usable. As of 2010 the earliest table top models, which date back to the mid 1800's, run upwards of $400, but the hand-held turn of the century type, like the one shown in this Rockwell depiction, average somewhere between $50 and $100 at antique stores, and on eBay.

Very fun! If you'd like to see a picture of an older model, visit http://letsplayhistory.org/live-it/old-pastimes/st...

Genealogy Stuff

Decorative genealogy charts are both economical, and coupled with old family photos, they make wonderful heirloom displays.

You can purchase decorative family charts ready-made online by googling "decorative genealogy charts," or you can purchase the $2.99 download for the 11x17-inch chart pictured here, which offers you unlimited printing for personal use. This black and white floral design, as well as a skull design in black and white, are both available through the LetsPlayHistory.org Store.

If your intended recipient is new to genealogy, you might also consider a genealogy how-to guide for gift-giving. The best book we've found is George G. Morgan's How to Do Everything Genealogy (included in the Amazon module below).

Antique Photo Family Portrait Display

This beautiful display was made using a stamp-print butcher-paper background, and hand cut decorative paper "frames" to highlight each photo. Because the butcher-paper background was/is not acid free, I cut out acid free liners to be hidden between each photo and the backing.

To make the framed piece most appealing, consider matching the background paper to your intended recipient's d├ęcor. You could use most any gift wrap or fabric, or make your own using rubber stamps (I have included a how-to book in the Amazon module below :-).

Warning: Don't buy a cheap, pressboard frame as they can't handle their own weight! I speak from experience as I made that mistake with this project... I had barely finished it when the hanging hardware pulled out of the frame and sent the whole project crashing to the floor! Moral of this story: Buy a real wood or metal frame :-)

Victorian Sheet Music

Have someone on your list who plays the piano, AND is a history nut? Victorian sheet music is always fun!

Victorian era sheet music can be purchased on eBay, or you can call your local antiques dealer to see if they have anything in stock.

Old-Fashioned Horse Art

Horse lovers who are also history enthusiasts might thoroughly enjoy the old-fashioned feel of these pen and ink Victorian-style horses (rendering one of two shown here). The images can be purchased as ready-to-frame prints, or as digital graphics, suitable for use in arts and crafts.

Available through HorseVector.com.

Old Stuff to Match Sentimental Dates

The basic idea here is to find old things that match a history buff's sentimental memories, or belongings. For example, our house, pictured here, was built in 1946 (which, by the way, was the year of the Nazi war criminal trials). We like to collect ANYTHING 1946, as it gives us an idea of what life was like when the original owners built the place. So, shown alongside our house is a picture of an old automobile magazine fold out that chronicles all the American made cars that were available new in that year. Very fun! We also enjoy 1946 ads, household items, and stories.

With a little research you could match a birthday, an anniversary of any kind, or any other significant date or life experience of your intended recipient.

This is almost like a sleuthing assignment! Enjoy!

Make a Skeleton Key Windchime

This is really a cute idea... though, again, not necessarily an inexpensive one, since the nicest skeleton keys average $7 apiece (as of 2010). IF, IF, IF you're able to buy a nice lot of old skeleton keys (I would watch online auctions), they would make beautiful pieces to a decorative wind chime.

For the main chime parts you can sometimes buy them through craft stores, or you can cannibalize an existing windchime set.

Courtesy A2Armory.com
Courtesy A2Armory.com

Reproduction Firearms

There are some AMAZING reproduction firearms out there that can be used for display or stage props. If your budget allows, you can even buy kits to make working models.

Pictured here is an 18th century Spanish pirate's pistol, available through A2Armory.com.

History Channel Episodes on DVD

As a history enthusiast myself, there are sooooo many History Channel productions that I would give my eye teeth to own, that I cannot image other history buffs wouldn't feel the same way :-)

You can browse the History Channel shop at Shop.History.com, or shop eBay or Amazon.

Old-Time Radios, Music & Programs

CrosleyRadio.com sells beautiful reproduction radios that play modern CD's, tapes, and such. We purchased the one pictured here for the 2009 Christmas season, and have had so much fun listening to old-time radio programs on it. Many of the old-time radio shows and tunes can also be downloaded for free through online sources such as Archive.org. If you don't want to invest the time to do the downloads, nice collections can be purchased on eBay for relatively cheap.

Your Comments are Welcome! - Feel free to share YOUR ideas here... Happy Holidays!

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    • MirceaFlorea profile image

      MirceaFlorea 4 years ago

      I am a history buff! I'm going to send this to all my contacts so when the time comes they won't any excuse.

    • JoyAgain profile image
      Author

      JoyAgain 5 years ago

      @C_Rivait: This is wonderful, Chris! History-themed T-shirts. Love it!

    • profile image

      C_Rivait 5 years ago

      If you are looking for great gifts for a history buff, check out http://yesteeyear.com