Holiday Recycling

As a youngster, learning the value of a dollar was important to my family. We had everything we needed but my parents knew enough to re-use and re-cycle for finance’s sake. They taught us not to be wasteful and to recycle whenever we could.

At holiday time, for instance, we reused the wrapping paper, saved the cardboard gift boxes, and reclaimed the ribbon and bows. It comes as no surprise that the actual tree was planted in our Connecticut backyard and made a nice addition to the landscape for years to come.

Holidays remind us of what we have, what we are thankful for, and what we really desire. With that in mind, I think some of the most interesting objects that I have seen over my years appraising art, antiques, and collectibles are those which show ingenuity, creativity, and spirit.

At my appraisal events, I have seen my fair share of holiday collectibles: Molded paper candy containers in the shape of Santa Claus, 1950s tree toppers with blinking lights, 1960s silvered aluminum Christmas trees, collectible ornaments in the shape of Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, and Gumby. However, with this new-found interest in repurposing objects and making some group of old, damaged, or just plain ugly things new again, I thought I’d share some of the ideas that I have seen at my events worldwide. Here are just a few…

In Kansas City, MO, I met a woman who sews printed papers, gift wrap and old road maps, into expandable wallets, luggage tags, lampshades, and credit card cases. They are strong for the user as she (Suzanne of Dumb Kid Designs) uses a clear sheet of a strong plastic adhesive which prevents tearing when the paper goes through the sewing machine. They are fun, bright, cheerful and useful objects which also demonstrate a good way to reuse all that wasted paper. I think the road maps are cool as they remind me of a time when I didn’t have to scream at my GPS. Ah, the good old days.

In Denver, CO, I met a woman who had a holiday picture that was made from old broken pins, jewelry pieces and settings, earrings, etc. Vintage pins, cameos, rogue stones, and other shiny objects were glued down onto a piece of velvet in the shape of a tree. The picture of the holiday tree sparkled and was made from brooches which served as branches, bracelets which hung in swags like garland, and colored rhinestones which were carefully placed to simulate lit candles. This recycled costume jewelry tree makes a great holiday addition to any home’s décor and it is a cool project to do with your little ones re-using Mom’s or Grandma’s broken junk jewelry. On the vintage collectibles market, at holiday time, this recycled junk jewelry holiday tree picture commands $150.

I am not a big advocate of the recent trend where some of these self-proclaimed re-cycling mavens make nearly everything imaginable into a candlestick holder. Really how many candlestick holders to you need? And I’d be a hard one to convince that I can’t live without a wine bottle stopper made from a piece of cork and a small ceramic drawer pull glued on top. I am just fine using a boring old cork and letting it serve as a cork. I don’t need my wine cork to be decorative. Besides, the idea is to drink the wine and toss the cork, right? Sure, it is somewhat creative I guess but I can live without it.

I do think that the creative objects and fun crafts where we re-use holiday items are interesting and remind us of the important aspects of the holidays like doing projects together. One year, my sister and I made wreaths from the broken ornament pieces that we found damaged in the attic. The pieces looked colorful and cute on a small wreath all glued down next to each other. I still hang it up in the guest bathroom at holiday time. It reminds me of the fun we had reminiscing over the ornaments and working on the craft project together. And, certainly take the wilting juniper wreath and save those few branches for a fragrant centerpiece, make turkey tetrazzini from the left overs, and make a holiday picture from grandma’s old jewelry. Recycle and reuse within creative reason and remember that part of the reason why we want to save or collect all of this stuff is because it meant something to us at some point in our lives. Happy holidays!

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide. Visit, or call (888) 431-1010.


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