Little bottle brush village piece found at New Generations of Harmony Antique Mall, Harmony.jpg

A little bottle brush village piece found at New Generations of Harmony Antique Mall, Harmony. (Contributed photo)

Oh, how we love our Christmas trees. The ceramic trees are still hot collectibles found in antique malls, thrift shops, flea-markets, catalogs galore, online and in the big box stores. Though a favorite of mine are the bottle brush trees, also found at all the above or if you are lucky, you might just happen to come across one in Grandma's attic or at an auction.

The vintage bottle brush tree over the years has become a regular favorite. According to the Museum of History and Industry, Seattle, Wash., “During World War II, when real trees were hard to come by, Addi's Bottle Brush Company made these artificial trees on their brush-making machinery. Many of these fake trees were sent to London where, after the city was bombed, there was no access to real trees for the holidays. The bottle brush trees are more similar to the artificial trees produced today.”

In her book "Collecting Vintage Christmas Decorations,” Diana L. Petrillo, an antiques dealer, author and blogger, writes, “The most desirable bottle brush decorations have small glass beads attached, along with other decorations, like the brush wreaths -- one with bells and a spun cotton snowman. Some brush trees have been found on a glittery wooden base stamped 'Japan,' that holds four pretty pink presents, displays gold garland, glass ornaments, and crushed glass type of 'flocking' and they have been found selling in some antique malls during the Christmas season around $27 to $47 for these 1940s, 12-inch trees.”

Collector

Local collector and whimsy artist Cindy Habermann, of Rochester, tells of her bottle brush trees: “My fondness of bottle brush trees started with some my grandma gave me in the early '70s, along with some of her vintage Christmas ornaments. She put them on her windowsills and I do the same! I have incorporated them into Christmas scenes, along with vintage houses, teddy bears holding them, Santas, snowmen and pretty much everywhere!

"Over the years I have found many vintage (bottle brush trees) at thrift stores and antique shops. At first they were very plentiful and very inexpensive. Now the older the tree is, the higher the price is. It is possible to still find 'old' ones -- you just have to be patient and keep looking," she said. "My favorite tree is 18 inches tall with a red wood base, it is marked 50 cents on the bottom. It was purchased in the early '80s for a few dollars at an antique store in Wisconsin. I treasure it!"

"Bottle brush trees are very popular and the reproductions are quite lovely. They even have some at the Dollar stores," Habermann said. "Over the years I have experimented with bleaching them, then using glitter and vintage glass balls from garlands; they turn out really well. It’s fun to display them through the winter months.”

Local shops

Laurie Rucker, of Vintage Treasures & Home Decor, St. Charles, said, “Bottle brush trees are a fun way to decorate with, think out of the box with a red truck. I have a few left, they sell for $1 to $5, as they sell fast.”

Sarah Kieffer, of Sarah's Uniques and Jim's “Man”tiques, St. Charles: “Yes, I do have several ceramic Christmas trees in the shop and are a hot collectible and have gone up in price from previous years quite a bit. I also have a lot of different bottle brush trees, and antique bottle brush wreaths. They are a wonderful collectible and are small enough to be grouped together or stand alone among other collectibles. The bottle brush trees can be purchased for anywhere between $1 on up. This is another item that has become very popular and part of any vintage and antique collector's Christmas items. They also come in many different shapes and sizes, some are flocked and have Mika glass ornaments on them, some are plain, they are the perfect accent to any Christmas decorating.”

Joan Thilges, of New Generations of Harmony: “It's definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas at New Generations of Harmony! We have Christmas trees ranging from tiny 1-inch bottle brush trees, a forest of vintage ceramic trees, and several fun aluminum trees. The bottle brush trees range from $6 to $10 and the ceramic trees typically range from $20 to $60.”

Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at life@postbulletin.com.

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