My Guide to Vintage Ornaments and Holiday Decor

Vintage holiday decorating can be intimidating, but with this guide in hand, I bet you'll discover some epic pieces.
A stylist guide to vintage holiday decor, decorations, ornaments, garlands and lights. This guide covers where to shop for the best vintage ornaments, what to look for when shopping for vintage Christmas decorations, how to store them & MORE!

Now that it’s officially November, I have one thing on my brain: holiday decorating! This is my favorite time of year because it means I get to unpack all of my favorite vintage ornaments and holiday decor. After creating a winter wonderland in our cabin last year, I have some big ideas for how I want to step things up this year. Stay tuned for that! But until then, I wanted to share some tips with you on how to shop for the best vintage Christmas decorations. It can be intimidating, but with this guide in hand, I bet you’ll discover some epic pieces.

A stylist guide to vintage holiday decor, decorations, ornaments, garlands and lights. This guide covers where to shop for the best vintage ornaments, what to look for when shopping for vintage Christmas decorations, how to store them & MORE!

The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Ornaments and Holiday Decor

After I wrote this post, I realized just how long and in depth it is! There are so many elements to picking and storing heirloom decor. If you have any questions that aren’t addressed in this post, be sure to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help! Let’s dig in.

Where to Shop for Vintage Christmas Decor:

Chairish

Beyond being one of my favorite sources for vintage artwork and decor, Chairish can be an excellent source for vintage holiday decor. Typically, the sellers on this platform are very knowledgable about the pieces they have and usually prices reflect that. So keep that in mind. But if you’re looking for Christmas decor that is truly special and unique, this is a great place to search. You can also make an offer to the seller and try to negotiate down a lower price.

Etsy

Etsy will always be a great source for vintage ornaments — and it’s amazing what you can find! Currently, I’m searching for holiday decor and ornaments from Eastern European countries like Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic because they are so different and unique from what I’ve found in my local shops. Don’t be afraid to message the seller if you have questions about the items before you buy, too.

eBay

I don’t typically shop on eBay as much as I used to, mostly because there’s just SO much stuff and it can get overwhelming. But if you’re keyed in on your search terms and know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s a wonderful resource for antique holiday decor. Plus, there’s always the ‘Buy It Now’ feature, so you don’t have to deal with auctions (I’m too impatient to wait for auctions to end sometimes).

Poshmark

My love of Poshmark runs deeeeeeep as you may recall from my guide to shopping for vintage artwork. It is truly one of my favorite secret sources for pretty much ANY sort of home decor. I’ve found that you can score holiday decorations from so many different eras including antique ornaments. If you’re on the hunt for something specific from your childhood, I’ve had a lot of success shopping on Poshmark with that in mind!

Your local thrift stores

And don’t forget to visit your favorite local thrift stores, antique malls, estate sales, and donation stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army. Chances are that the pricing will be more affordable. Plus it’s always great to support local shops!

What to Look for When Buying Vintage Christmas Decorations:

Brand names

There are a few iconic, well-known holiday decor brands, especially when it comes to Christmas ornaments. Shiny Bright is one of the most popular. If you’re looking for a specific brand, be sure to include that in your search terms and be prepared to pay a little bit extra since they are so well-known.

Condition

The condition of vintage ornaments available online can vary, especially depending on the age of the item and what it’s made of. That being said, there’s something so magical and special about the patina and charm of vintage holiday decor. They are basically heirlooms!

When shopping for vintage ornaments, be sure to pay close attention to the photos. Zoom in, ask for more info from the seller, and be sure you are fully aware of what you’re getting.

A stylist guide to vintage holiday decor, decorations, ornaments, garlands and lights. This guide covers where to shop for the best vintage ornaments, what to look for when shopping for vintage Christmas decorations, how to store them & MORE!

How to Identify Vintage Ornaments:

Overall look and aesthetic

While there are so many brand new, modern ornaments that are mimicking vintage style now, the look of a vintage one is specific. Typically, there will be patina on the ornament like chipped paint and less glitter.

They aren’t nearly as shiny as modern decor, too. Because most old ornaments were mouth-blown, the shape isn’t exactly symmetrical or perfect.

Materials

Most vintage Christmas ornaments are made of mercury glass or a similar mouth blown, thin glass. Sometimes there is tinsel or glitter added. They also used mica to replicate the look of snow.

The shapes

Another big tell with whether an ornament is vintage or not is by judging the shape of the ornament. If it’s something modern like a hot dog or cupcake, it’s probably newish! Vintage shapes typically include ball ornaments, balloons, teardrops, candles that clip on, mushrooms, pinecones, and birds for example.

The cap

This is honestly the best way to tell if an ornament is vintage or not. The general rule of thumb is to look for a silver metal cap at the top of the ornament where you’d place the hook to hang it.

This is the most common cap on a true vintage ornament. Look for silver metal that isn’t shiny. Sometimes they will also be stamped with the country of origin including countries that have been renamed like West Germany and Czechoslovakia.

How to store vintage Christmas ornaments and holiday decor

Because you’re investing in heirloom quality holiday decor and ornaments, I also recommend splurging on some sturdy storage to house them during the off-season. Here are my recommendations:

Crinkle paper or upcycled kraft paper packaging

I don’t recommend wrapping your ornaments in newspaper because the ink can rub off. Instead, I save crinkle paper from packages that people send me. I also like to run paper grocery store bags through my paper shredder to make gentle packing material. Then, to store the vintage Christmas decorations, I make a nest of the materials and place an individual ornament in that.

Individually store the decor in water-tight bins

Chances are you’ll store your ornaments and vintage Christmas decor in an attic, basement or garage. Because of this, it’s very important to make sure your pieces are moisture-free and protected. Here are a few ornament organizers I like:

Store in a cool, dry, dark place

This is pretty self-explanatory, but basically you want your special pieces to stay away from sun, water, and heat so that they last as long as possible.

Styling Tips for Decorating with Vintage Christmas Decor:

Mix and match with new

Definitely don’t be afraid to mix old with new! I personally love a curated, layered Christmas tree because it feels so much more personal and unique.

Try a specific color palette

If you’re struggling to come up with a look for your Christmas decor, try selecting a specific color palette. This will help narrow down the options so that it’s easier to shop and style.

Opt for a theme for your entire tree

Another way to show more personality with your Christmas decor is to style your tree based on a theme! I’m actually doing that this year. A few theme ideas include food, activities, and destinations.

A stylist guide to vintage holiday decor, decorations, ornaments, garlands and lights. This guide covers where to shop for the best vintage ornaments, what to look for when shopping for vintage Christmas decorations, how to store them & MORE!

So what do you think about my tips and tricks for vintage Christmas decorations?? I hope you found them helpful and inspiring as you start to plan out your festive decor!

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Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest digital influencer and former textile designer with an eye for beautiful things. Jojotastic is a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress home, interior styling, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style.

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