Old vintage aluminum Christmas trees have suffered years of exile in attics and basements- IF they survived at all. But they've made quite a comeback in recent years.
I never thought I would see the day.
Vintage Style Aluminum Christmas Tree
Collectors, "fad seekers", particularly baby boomers stricken with a longing for a retro-Christmas, are purchasing these glitzy trees at prices that would have been laughable years ago.
More about that later...
So what are vintage aluminum Christmas trees, you ask?
Well, they are these trees that were hugely popular in America from the late 1950's to early 1970's made almost entirely out of aluminum- foil that is!
To make them, factory workers glued shiny aluminum strips containing tinsel-like "needles" to thin metal branches. The branches were then attached to a silver wooden "trunk" at an angle to create a futuristic-looking tree.
Trees varied in height from two to eight feet.
Glass ball ornaments, usually a single color like red or blue, were hung on the branches. And the branches were of one length, packaged in paper containers. Assembly was easy.
You NEVER put lights on the tree- a sure-fire electrical hazard! Instead, you used rotating color wheels that shined up from the floor and made the tree turn three or four different colors.
Imagine being in an otherwise dark room with one of these sparkling trees, watching them turn blue, then red, green and orange. The colors reflected off the silvery needles onto the walls and ceiling and created a spectacular light show!
Some of the trees were mounted to platforms that rotated so the entire tree would turn as it changed colors. Though most trees were silver in color, others came in blue, green, even pink!
As a kid I was fascinated by these vintage aluminum Christmas trees. I remember one Christmas when my family put one up. I could sit and watch that thing change colors for what seemed like hours. The light motor made a slight grinding sound as the color wheel turned that was soothing to listen to.
You could see the these vintage aluminum Christmas trees glowing in store windows just about anywhere you went during the holidays.
A Chicago company named Modern Coatings created the first aluminum Christmas trees in 1957. They were hand-made and rather expensive, fetching prices of $75 and up-a LOT of money back then.
But it was the Aluminum Specialty Company (ASC) in Manitowoc, WI that put this unique tree on the map. The firm began selling its flagship product, called the "Evergleam" tree, in 1959. Target price: around $20 to $25. Some were much cheaper.
At first, retail merchants laughed at these silver oddities. They were ridiculed as "tin tannenbaums". Nobody thought they would sell.
But sell they did. And other companies began taking notice.
Though dozens of other outfits jumped on the bandwagon to handle the growing demand for these "space age" trees, the Aluminum Specialty Company remained the star producer. ASC sold well over a million trees during a ten year period.
In it's heyday ASC used three shifts and dozens of workers to create hundreds of thousands of trees per year. Interestingly enough, many employees were housewives, looking to make some extra cash for the holidays.
I remember recently watching this amusing You Tube video where a former ASC employee reminisced about creating aluminum trees. She sang on camera the jingle she and her team used to stay awake during the overnight shift.
Kinda corny-sounding, but interesting nonetheless!
Well, as fads do come and go, aluminum Christmas trees fell out of favor beginning in the late 1960's.
Why? Some say it was the new "back to nature" movement. Others suggest it was the "Charlie Brown Christmas" special which first aired in 1965 that killed the tree. Remember when Lucy tells Charlie Brown to get a huge aluminum tree; he gets the scrawny green one instead.
Beginning in the late 1990's, however, collectors, nostalgia fans, people searching for a new "flashy" way to decorate for Christmas, began buying vintage aluminum Christmas trees again.
At first there was no competition. You could buy a six foot aluminum Christmas tree for $5 to $10 at a yard sale or in a thrift store.
Today the prices are much higher. Ebay sells the most aluminum Christmas trees now. At any given moment you may see a hundred or more trees available online. For an average 6 foot tree in fair to good condition you can expect to pay $100 to $200.
And expect to pay more for a rarer tree. Perhaps the rarest of them all is the pink aluminum Christmas tree since so few were made. Count on paying $1000 and up for one today.
Ebay is a great place to start, as I mentioned, but you might try any online classified site such as Craigslist or Oodle.
Other online auction companies such as Etsy have vintage aluminum Christmas trees for sale.
Want to buy a NEW aluminum Christmas tree? Click here.
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