Vintage mini ceramic Christmas Trees

How Much are Ceramic Christmas Trees Worth?

As with anything in retail, miniature ceramic Christmas trees are worth however much someone is willing to pay for them. The good news is at the time of this writing, vintage mini ceramic Christmas trees are at the perfect crossroads of “popular” and “affordable.” Because of the wide range of styles and shapes, you can expect to spend somewhere between $50 to $400. Under 8” should be less, while trees over 22” tall go for over $500. This range is a driving factor in their recent popularity, as there’s literally a ceramic Christmas tree available for every taste and budget. Let’s get into the roots of these trees.



Believe it or not, from the first European immigrants in America 1607, Christmas was absent from American history as the Puritans and Pilgrims didn’t celebrate the holiday, believing it “too pagan.” In 1659, the Massachusetts Bay Colony of Puritans made Christmas illegal, and it wasn’t repealed until 1681. As more colonies popped up from other European countries, Christmas became more known. In the 1820s, German immigrants in Lancaster, Pennsylvania brought the tradition of decorating a tree with them.

Decorating a Christmas tree would only be a German immigrant's tradition if it hadn’t been for Queen Victoria. The Queen's husband (and first cousin) Prince Albert (same guy who's "in a can") brought a fir from his homeland of Germany, as per his custom. Queen Victoria’s yearly Christmas display, including a tree, would grace the covers of magazines like London Illustrated News and Godey's Lady Book. It wasn't long before American homes followed (for better or worse), and Christmas was finally made a federal holiday by Ulysses Grant in 1870. Some 80+ years later, an artisan movement would start a craze of miniature ceramic Christmas trees that overtook American households in the mid-1960s and lasted until mass-production pushed them out in the 1980s.

1840s pictures and drawings of Queen Victoria's Christmas Tree by Price Albert

It’s important to note that in the world of commerce, everyone loves orchestrated popularity created to sell more inventory, like engagement rings being invented to sell more diamonds. Different, and certainly more coveted, is “lightning in a bottle” popularity that’s independent of any will or design. This kind of popularity is completely self-propelled, partially thanks to regional flavor. The popularity of ceramic Christmas trees in the 1960s and 70s was a completely organic, decentralized movement that grew into a Christmas staple. This also means there isn’t one maker or designer to feature as “the” ceramic Christmas tree source. This was a multi-decade trend completely fueled by the finishing expertise of local artisans and shops.

Vintage neon standing Crucifix of Jesus Christ from Industrial Artifacts


There were several mold-makers who participated in rise of the ceramic Christmas tree, and we’re going to go though a few here. These companies would sell molds to local artisans and potters, who would then paint, decorate, and glaze according to their individual style and geography. In the 1980s, “paint at home” kits using acrylic paint became popular, as did chalkware and plaster reproductions. Soon came an influx of mass-produced pre-painted ceramic trees from outside the United States lacking in density, originality, and weight. Naturally, the popularity of the look declined.

President Coolidge lights first national Christmas tree in 1923

There are 2 major ways that ceramic Christmas trees have their bulbs illuminated. The older versions have each plastic bulb individually lit with its own tiny bulb. It takes a bit of effort to maintain them, but nothing traumatic. The newer, and far more easier version are the trees with a single standard bulb at the base that illuminates all the plastic “lights” from a single light source. You can determine which one works with your style, budget, and mental health. Not all trees came with lights. Some ceramic Christmas trees were made to hold hors d'oeuvres on a stick, called “gum drop” trees, meant to lift your holiday party from the indignities of laying your bacon-wrapped shrimp flat by floating it in the air with a ceramic Christmas tree.

Editor’s note: Should you find yourself at a fancy holiday party where hors d'oeuvres on sticks are being held by a miniature ceramic Christmas tree (see the bottom-right ad in the pic below), start for the bottom and work your way up to avoid food floppage, bodily injury, bacterial meningitis, etc.

Ceramic Christmas Tree newspaper ads from the 1950s and 1960s

Now that you understand what you’re looking for, let’s get to some of the mold makers. Mold makers have their mark at the bottom of the tree, if there is one. If you see a date, chances are it’s the date of the mold, not the date the ceramic was poured. There are many artisans and local shops that still use these vintage molds today.

Large Midcentury Cheetah made of leather at Industrial Artifacts


The Ceramic Arts Studio of Madison

CAS comes from Madison, Wisconsin and originally founded in 1940 by Lawrence Rabbitt. In 1941 Reuben Sand joined the business. In 1942, Rabbitt left the firm and Betty Harrington (shown in the ad in previous heading) joined as model maker, marking the distinctive figurines the company is now known for. Within 5 years, the small studio went from a new business to store demonstrations that not only promoted their business, but teaching others the story of ceramics. In the 1950s, Japanese-made imports flooded the market, and the studio closed in 1956.

Holland Mold

Holland was founded in 1946 by Frank Hollendonner and his brother, Rudy, in a 4-car garage in Holland, Michigan. The friendly and likable Austrian immigrant brothers, and their children, kept the business booming for over 50 years. Holland didn’t make any finished ceramic products, only molds.

Arnel's Molds

Arnel's / Arnels was founded in 1953 in Beaverton, Oregon, and soon also had studios in Salem and Eugene. They were both a shop and offered lessons at their locations. They also only produced molds that local artisans and potters who would create their own ceramics. Considering the popularity of arts and crafts between Eugene and Portland, many of the local artisans would have Arnel’s molds, which are still being used today.

California Originals / Heirlooms of Tomorrow

California Originals was formed by William Bailey in 1945 in Manhattan Beach, California. Originally named Heirlooms of Tomorrow, Bailey created intricate porcelain figurines, candy bowls, and those dolls with the fluffy dresses your grandma wouldn’t let you touch. In the 1950s, Bailey moved to Torrence, California and changed the name to California Originals, focusing on pottery art and ceramics. The studio closed in 1982.

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Duncan Enterprises

DE was founded in 1946 by Erma Duncan in Fresno, California. Originally a ceramics company starting in her and her husband’s garage, the enterprise grew into a massive arts and mold supply company. The company stayed in the family for 4 generations, diversified in 1976, and was sold in 2020.

Atlantic Mold

Atlantic was a major manufacturer of ceramic molds, operating out of Easton, Pennsylvania from 1946 until the early 2000s. As noted by Paul in the comments (thank you!) Atlantic trees were not only popular, but the company made trees over 22" tall. 

There will be other names and, of course, many will not be marked at all. If you already own a mini ceramic Christmas tree, check to see if one of these mold makers were used. Let us know what yours is, or if we missed any important makers that should've be included.

Antique cast iron table on wheels by Barrett at Industrial Artifacts


  1. You don’t need to pay over $150 for a vintage ceramic Christmas tree unless you really love it, it’s in perfect shape, and the Spirit of Christmas moves you.
  2. Some trees are made to hold things like hors d'oeuvres or lollipops and will not have lights.
  3. There are two ways to illuminate the plastic Christmas tree lights. Choose which one works best for you and your hand-eye coordination.
  4. Original vintage ceramic Christmas Trees were hand-painted and glazed, so any tree that feels light, is pre-painted, or is molded from colored clay is mass produced and probably from the 1980s or later.
  5. Dates on the bottom probably mean the date of the mold and not the date of the ceramic’s creation. You can sometimes find the artist's name or initials (see pic below).
  6. Some mini ceramic Christmas tree owners glued the plastic "bulbs" in place after purchase. Today, you can buy replacement plastic “bulbs” easily, so if you find a tree that came without bulbs, or find a tree with a bulb missing, all is not lost. You can mix types of bulbs for a more festive tree (see pic below)
  7. The most important aspects are the paint job, that beautiful shimmering glaze, the condition, and how much it makes you smile.
Vintage mini ceramic Christmas tree collage

The miniature ceramic Christmas treed used in this post were found with Ted and Gaylene at Roscoe Woodstock Antique Mall in Woodstock, Illinois. In the spirit of supporting small businesses and shopping local, if you're in the greater Chicagoland area looking for an antique mall, theirs is worth the drive. 

Vintage miniature ceramic Christmas trees
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1 comment

  • Paul Froiland

    I have 9 and love them. Display them like a forest. How do you not mention Atlantic Molds though? My 25 inch Atlantic is one of my favs.

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