Collecting Christmas Snow Globes
Collecting Christmas snow globes is a warm holiday tradition that allows you to have a winter wonderland any time of the year.
History of Snow Globes
The first snow globes were created in the early 1800s in France for use as paperweights. They didn’t become an overnight success, however. It wasn't until the Paris Universal Expo in 1878 that snow globes were embraced by the general population. A year later four companies were manufacturing them and they could be found all over Europe.
These early snow globes were made of glass and filled with water. The snow was created from bone shards, porcelain chips, metal flakes, meerschaum, and even pieces of ground rice. Later globes used either light oil or a mixture of water and glycerin which made the liquid thicker and caused the glitter to float more slowly.
Although popular in Europe, snow globes did not make the trip across the Atlantic until 1920. The trend caught on in America, too and in 1927 the very first snow globe patent was granted to Joseph Garaja of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. They became sought after collector's items; showing up both as Christmas décor and as souvenirs from roadside shops.
Until 1950 the globes were made of glass. Beginning in 1950 the snow globes began to be made in plastic and inexpensive versions became widely available in dime stores.
Other names for snow globes are:
- Blizzard weights
- Snow dome
- Snow shaker
Evaluating Your Antique Snow Globe
The value of a snow globe depends on two basic things; rarity and condition. The more unique the scene in the dome the more a collector will be willing to pay for it whether it is a Christmas snow globe or a souvenir of the World's Fair. The glass or plastic dome should be unscratched, clear, and without crocks or flaws.
Recent Auction Prices
Here are some recent auction prices for vintage snow globes. Condition is described where the information was available:
- 1930s chalkware house. Excellent condition but with cloudy water. $55
- Late 1950s Santa $10
- 1920s dog Very good condition $25
- Italian Fontanini restored condition, musical $25
- New York City, made in Hong Kong, $20
- 1961 Disney Snow White $103
As you can see, while globes tend to be very affordable to the collector, there are a few that are very desirable and fetch significantly higher prices at auction.
Displaying and Collecting Christmas Snow Globes
Displaying Snow Globes
Your snow globes should be kept out of direct sunlight. It can cause the water to be very cloudy and weaken plastic parts, as well as causing fading of colors. Keeping the globes on a safe shelf or in a glass front cabinet are safe choices but because snow globes are meant to be touched it is best to keep them on an accessible table where they can be picked up, shaken, and enjoyed.
Cleaning Snow Globes
To clean them just wipe gently with a soft cloth. Use a little clear water to clean of any stubborn dirt. The water in the globe will evaporate and discolor over a period of decades but should not be replaced or restored. Many times "fixing" and antique or collectible will reduce the value.
With some care your snow globes should last for years, bringing that sense of joy, wonder, and magic to all who gaze at the softly falling "snow".
Choosing Snow Globes
Today's snow globes are tomorrow's vintage collectible snow globes but with so many to choose from how can you decide which to purchase? Here are a few rules of thumb to collecting snow globes.
- Buy what you love. No matter how collectible or valuable it might be, if you don't like it you shouldn't buy it.
- Buy items that are limited editions.
- Buy items that are unique.
In 1961 there weren't a lot of people that could prophesy that a Snow White snow globe would sell for over a hundred dollars just fifty years later. Keep an eye on those things that may become the nostalgic memories of your children and grandchildren when they are grown.
Most of all, enjoy collecting snow globes. They are pieces of magic in a mundane world.