All the early Christmas trees were freshly cut trees from a nearby forest. By the 19th century in America, the fresh trees were brought into a church or home and decorated. But it was a problem to keep the tree upright and, without water, it quickly dried out and lost its needles.
In 1876, a man in Philadelphia patented an iron tree stand and, by 1919, a cone-shaped tin stand weighted with sand or water was being sold. But the stands were not large enough to hold all the water needed, and that is still a problem for stands.
The stands had to be heavy to keep the tree from tipping, so they were made of cast iron. Many were made with three legs that looked like tree branches. All had large screws that pierced the trunk to hold the tree in place.
Collectors search for the iron stands made in unusual shapes, a Santa Claus, village scene or even a group of reindeer. They sell today for $250 to $900.
An unusual tree stand made of concrete shaped to look like a Santa Claus head was sold at a Bertoia auction in 2015. It was made to hold a feather tree and had a small concrete cylinder attached to the back to hold the trunk. No water was needed. The 11-inch high stand, painted white and red as expected, sold for $118.
Q: We have a wooden board that is 8 inches by 9 inches by 1½ inch thick. In the center is a 7½-inch round elaborately carved design that is 1 inch deep. The design looks like some sort of house with a figure on each side surrounded by falling leaves. The bottom and the border have repeating crescent patterns and the inner rim is fluted. We would like to know what this was used for.
A: Your mold probably was made for lebkuchen, a soft ginger honey cake popular in Germany for centuries at Christmas.
Lebkuchen dates back to 14th-century Germany. The earliest was made in monasteries, where, long before sugar, bakers kneaded flour and eggs with honey from local beekeepers. That gave lebkuchen its unique flavor and acted as a preservative.
The dough was claylike and pressed into wooden molds that were delicately carved with pictures that told the stories of Christmas and the saints, like St. Nicholas. When trade routes opened, spices were added to the dough, making it more like it is today.
Lebkuchen is still made around the holidays, and molds and recipes can be found online. Your mold is probably from the 19th century, and if clean, there is no reason why it couldn’t still be used.
Q: I have a collection of Avon pewter Christmas ornaments, but I’m missing the ornaments for 1998 and 2003. Were any made for these years?
A: The first ornament in this series was issued in 1993. A different ornament has been issued each year since then, except in 1998 when none were sold because of “transportation problems.” The 2003 ornament is a snowflake. It’s harder to find than some others, but is available at some online sites. We saw one for $39.99.
Q: I found three cases of unused Coca-Cola Christmas glasses in the attic after my mother died. There are 72 glasses in each case from the Haddon Sundblom Series 1, 2 and 3 in original boxes. The boxes are worn from age. My parents owned a restaurant and purchased these in the 1970s. Is there a market for collectors for these cases of glasses?
A: Haddon Sundblum (1899-1976) was an American artist best known for his paintings of Santa Claus that were used in Coca-Cola ads. His depiction of Santa as a jolly, rotund old gentleman influenced the way Santa Claus is pictured today.
Sundblom’s first painting for Coca-Cola was used in a 1931 ad. His last was done in 1964, but Coca-Cola continued to use Sundblom’s images for several years. Coca-Cola collectibles are popular and there is a club for collectors, The Coca-Cola Collectors Club, www.cocacolacollectors.club.
The Sundblom Christmas glasses have been reproduced. Glasses from the Sundblom series sell for $2 to $10 each.
Q: I received a set of Avon glasses as a Christmas gift when I was an Avon representative back in the mid-’70s. It includes four water goblets and four wine goblets. The glasses are etched with the “Original Avon Lady with her Parasol.” Have you seen these listed anywhere? Any idea where I could sell them?
A: These goblets are usually listed online as “Victorian Lady with Parasol.” Avon gave them out as Christmas gifts about 1971-1974.
The company was founded in 1886 by David H. McConnell, who started out selling books door-to-door. He began selling perfumes to make more money and founded the California Perfume Co., which became Avon in 1939.
The original “Avon lady” was Mrs. Persis Foster Eames Albee of Winchester, New Hampshire. She was hired in 1886, and developed and supervised the home-sales method still used today. A set of 12 Avon goblets like yours was offered for sale online for $42.
If you decide to sell them online, remember that you must spend the time and money to pay for an ad, then pack and ship them to the buyer. You might try an antiques shop or a mall.
Tip: To date a mesh purse, look at the bottom edge. If it is zigzagged or fringed, it dates from the 1920-1930 period.