The vintage aluminum Christmas trees sought by collectors today were introduced in 1959 by Christmas tree manufacturers, Aluminum Specialty Company. Soon after their debut, aluminum Christmas trees were rapidly introduced by a variety of other firms and they became one of the staples of the modern American home during Yuletide throughout the 1960s and well into the Seventies.
Aluminum Christmas trees have been characterized as having a design, look and feel of sophistication. In fact, when the trees were launched, many observers and the manufacturer itself called them the ‘Space Age Christmas trees’. The silvery color and the unique structure and appearance made the aluminum trees different and more appealing to many people.
Vintage aluminum Christmas trees are most commonly found in silver, but other colors are available as well. If you take a look at some auctions, you’ll find that pink trees go for the highest prices due to their rarity. In addition to pink and silver, the trees can be found in green, blue (gorgeous!) and red as well.
If you do decide to get a vintage tree, there are some things to keep in mind to protect both your home and the tree. Just remember that your tree’s branches are likely at least 30 years old or more. You won’t be able to place heavy ornaments on them without tearing the tinsel. Also, they were never designed to be strung with lights and doing so now could prove hazardous.
When you buy your tree, you should try and get a rotating color wheel to go with it. The color wheel is composed of a spotlight that has three to four different colored lenses, and as the lights are reflected onto the aluminum branches, your tree will appear to change colors as the light rotates.
Don’t worry though if you can’t find a color wheel at a price you are willing to pay. Any halogen spotlight aimed at the tree will have a nice sparkly effect. You can pick up a spotlight at your hardware store and get a few bulbs in different colors for variety.
If you are just shopping for an aluminum Christmas tree at an online auction, a couple of things you want to make sure of is that all of the branches are intact. While the “branches” are usually made of steel rods and therefore sturdy for a lifetime, the aluminum foil strips that make up the tree’s “needles” are no thicker than paper so they are quite fragile. You’ll want to make sure auctions have good photos showing off the tree after assembly. Also, ideally, the tree you purchase should have the paper wrappers that protect each branch when the tree is dissembled.
Once your tree is delivered, carefully remove the branches from their wrappers and inspect for damage and breakage, then put the wrappers somewhere safe so you can re-sheath your branches when Christmas is over.
Take your time putting the tree together and be careful not to force branches into the slots of the tree trunk. Many of them are made of wood and if you dig into it, you may end up with a hole that is too loose to hold the branch. So push gently. If the branch won’t fit, try it in a different hole.
If you decide to decorate your tree with ornaments, use single lightweight ornaments with wires rather than strung garlands, which can damage the tinsel. And be sure to keep your tree indoors. It won’t survive a visit to your front lawn. It probably also won’t survive a tree-climbing cat either so if you have cats who love to climb, I’d wait until they grow out of it before putting your precious aluminum Christmas tree anywhere they can reach it.
Once the holidays are over, carefully remove an ornaments you’ve added to the tree and then remove each branch and return it to its paper wrapper. Store the box somewhere safe and make sure nothing else gets placed on top of it. If you take care of it, there’s no reason your vintage aluminum Christmas tree shouldn’t last another 30 years.