Vintage Christmas decoration is back this year
Move around on the inflatable snowmen. This year, hollow plastic light-up figures are making a comeback and giving those inflatable fabric ornaments — the kind with the fan inside — a run for their money.
Vintage-looking plastic lawn ornaments called blow molds are made by inflating molten plastic inside a die, similar to how water bottles are created, then cut and painted. Shaped like reindeer, toy soldiers, Santa Claus, gingerbread men and even arctic locomotives, decorations have been around since at least the 1950s, having arrived around the same time as the flamingo in plastic.
Although two of the major manufacturers of classic blow molds, General Foam Plastics and Union Products, went out of business in 2018 and 2006, respectively, other companies such as Cado, which acquired the molds from Union, the Twillery Co .and Mr. Christmas manufacture new models and reproductions of old ones. Shoppers can now find blow-molded nativity scenes and giant holiday candles at Wayfair, Rudolphs and Grinches on Amazon, heartfelt snowmen at Home Depot, ornamental Olafs of “Frozen” fame at Walmart, and saddle-carrying reindeer. at Target.
“Customers are responding even more to blow molded decorations than in previous years,” said Sarah A. White, spokeswoman for Target.
For collectors, however, the original vintage models remain the most exciting to find. Those in good condition can sell for a high price.
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“The demand and price for vintage holiday blow molds has skyrocketed over the past four years,” said Megan Morrison, a Homer Glen, Illinois-based antique dealer who specializes in holiday decor. A 36-inch light-up “Giant Santa Face” Empire made in the early ’70s that she recently featured on her Moxie Vintage Instagram account, for example, reportedly went for $65 in 2018. “The asking price this year is more in the $300 to $400 range,” she said.
Such inflation has led some collectors to mix both old and new.
“It was getting hard to find vintage stuff at decent prices,” said Karen Ellis, a Christmas kitsch collector from San Diego. “But Target, Big Lots, Michaels, and a bunch of other places all sell really good reproductions.” Nostalgic Christmas decorations are always collectible, she says, “but blow molds are especially having a moment.” Ms. Ellis has added three new and one vintage model to her bright plastic collection this year.
Social media, Ms Morrison explained, fueled this retro trend, much like the revival of illuminated ceramic Christmas trees a few years ago. “There is a large and very active group of people on Instagram who share photos of their vintage Christmas collections, which often include blow molds. This inspires others to search for similar items to add to their own decor.
If blow mold collectors have a king – at least in Los Angeles – it’s producer Glenn Geller.
Former CBS Entertainment president Mr. Geller amassed a glut of these decorations, including 120 glowing toy soldiers, each nearly three feet tall. In all, he’s collected over 500 blow-molded figures for Halloween and Christmas.
For each of these holidays, Mr. Geller decorates his residence – a Tudor Revival-style house in the Toluca Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles that was built in 1927 – with his collection of plastic figurines. There are so many on his lawn that neighbors call the place “the blowing house”. It is known as Lilley Hall, after composer Joseph J. Lilley, who performed the vocal arrangements for the 1942 Christmas film “Holiday Inn” and lived there from 1954 to 1971.
Mr Geller began collecting blow molds in earnest, often via eBay, about seven years ago, a period in which he described as “not as long as it would take for someone to own 500 molds of blowing”. He started by buying glowing plastic pumpkins to bewitch cheaters in his neighborhood, who can number in the thousands every Halloween. Christmas, however, has always been her true holiday love. He started this collection with illuminated choir members, each 40 inches tall. “I bought 10, then it became 20, then it became a lot,” Mr Geller said. “I ended up with 52 of them.”
His passion for this type of decoration began in the 70s when blow molds were at the height of their popularity. “When I was a kid growing up in northwest Indiana, my dad and mom would take me and my sisters and drive on New Years Eve and watch the Christmas lights. On a lawn, he there was a Santa with nine reindeer, and it looked like they were flying. It was the most magical thing. I remember thinking: When I’m old enough to have a house, I want a Santa and nine flying reindeer.
He far exceeded that goal. Each year, Mr. Geller’s home is adorned with his vast collection of blow molds and more than 100,000 lamps. They’re mostly LED bulbs, he noted, so the whole season only drives up his electric bill by $600. The display has made his home, if not a tourist attraction, a seasonal draw for locals who marvel at the multitude of characters. “The more you have, the more magic,” Mr. Geller said.
Although these blow molded figures were intended for outdoor display, some collectors have welcomed at least the smaller ones into their vacation homes in recent years. “Lacking a fireplace in my New York apartment, I fit as many as I can in my window wells,” said Chuck Hettinger, an East Village-based artist and painter who owns dozens of cast Santas. by blowing. “They come in all shapes and sizes and all colors, as long as it’s red. The glow is gorgeous, and as a mid-century kid, they can bring tears to my eyes.
And what about those fabric inflatable decorations that have become so popular over the last decade? Those who prefer blow molds are not fans. “I just don’t like them,” Ms Morrison said.
“Everyone should just get them out of their yard,” Geller said. “I hate them.”
Mr. Hettinger agreed. He remembered spending a recent Christmas in Ocean County, NJ, with friends whose neighbor’s house was decorated with a lawn full of inflatables. No matter how extensive the collection or good intentions, the display didn’t have the same appeal as a blow-molded front lawn extravaganza like Mr. Geller’s.
“Honestly,” Mr. Hettinger said, “it was like a bad drug trip.”