Hallmark, The Christmas Ornament Company

Raggedy Andy. Barbara Crews

The Hallmark Company has been around for over 90 years, but it wasn't until 1973 that the company started producing Hallmark Christmas ornaments and started to set the standard for other ornament companies. Although other companies produced different collectible series before that time, e.g. plates, figures, etc, it was Hallmark that turned the Collectible Series into a marketing tool and turned Christmas decorators into Christmas collectors.

1973 and 1974 Ornament Production

Hallmark produced six balls and twelve different yarn ornaments in 1973. The 1973 ball ornaments have risen in values to around $75+, while the yarn ornaments have values in the $25. range.

1974 produced sixteen ornaments, six of those were yarn ornaments. I feel like the perhaps yarn ornaments looked too much like something that could be made at home and were proving not to be very popular. I've had several yarn ornaments and didn't realize they were Hallmark ornaments until I happened across them in the price guides.

First Figural Ornaments in 1975

A few figural ornaments started appearing in 1975, these included Santa, Mrs. Santa, and a very sought-after Raggedy Ann/Andy. There were still quite a few yarn ornaments being made, but the majority of the line consisted of satin and glass balls.

Betsey Clark Series

The first series from Hallmark was the ornament ball Betsey Clark Series. The 1973 ornament was a white glass ball with a little girl feeding a deer and another girl cuddling a lamb. The original price was $2.50 and the secondary market price is well over $100. Although the first piece in a series is almost always the most valuable one, that is not always the case. for instance, in this series, the 1977 ornament was shown in secondary market guides with values over $400. making it the highest priced piece of the thirteen ornament set.

Nostalgic Houses Series

In the long-running Nostalgic Houses Series, the first 1984 Victorian Dollhouse is shown in secondary market guides with a value over $200, but the third ornament in 1986 is valued at over $300. I've heard that Hallmark scaled down on that year's production, which only seemed to whet collector appetites even more.

Pictures of the Houses in the series.

Other Series

The marketing strategy of making an ornament into a series has become one way to hook new collectors and keep the old collectors coming back. After all, we have to complete our series!

The popular series are almost too numerous to mention, but some particularly fun series include Frosty Friends, the Rocking Horses, and Star Trek. And the early ornaments in these series all have high prices to match their popularity.

What's Hot?

It's hard to predict what the "hot ornament" of the year will be, so as with other collectibles, find and buy the pieces that appeal to you. Then if it escalates in value, it will be an added bonus. But if it doesn't go up in value, you'll still have an ornament you enjoy.

Keep the Boxes Clean and "Mint"

Hallmark collectors are quite particular about their boxes, as well as their ornaments. A MIB (mint in box) ornament can be sold for more than 25% than an NB (no box) ornament. Dented and creased boxes also take away from the value of the collectible. Keep the boxes dry, clean and mint as possible.

  • Hallmark Values and Prices

Finding Vintage Hallmark Ornaments

Finding vintage Hallmarks ornaments is as easy as surfing the web. Numerous sites sell the ornaments on the secondary market and eBay has a huge Hallmark category.

Garage sales and flea markets are also places to pick up some of the older pieces. The yarn Raggedy Andy was found recently at an estate sale for a quarter and the Santa {see other images) was picked up at a thrift shop for $2.

Bottom Line

No matter what you collect, there is a Hallmark ornament that "fits just right". Advertising, cars, toys, racing, Star Trek, Barbies, Disney -- Hallmark has it all. From eighteen ornaments in 1973 to almost two hundred ornaments in 2008, Hallmark ornaments are one of the most enduring and endearing collectibles lines made today.

Why is Hallmark so popular?

  • The release of the "Dream Book" showing everything in the line is readily available to everyone.
  • One of the largest, if not THE largest, company sponsored Collector Club.
  • All dealers unveil their items the same day nationwide with lots of advertising, again, making the ornaments readily available to everyone.
  • There are always numerous series available. If you buy #1, can you then resist #2 the next year?
  • The designs are great, ranging from whimsical to religious and cover different themes, hobbies, pop icons and characters appealing to everyone.
  • Basically unbreakable.
  • And last, but certainly not least, The Price is Right!