Caring for Your Collection
Used with permission of author: Linda Wilson
Visit Linda's website at http://www.theornamentqueen.com
Eighty percent (80%) of Hallmark Keepsake ornaments are made of high impact Styrene, which is a very durable, long lasting plastic. These ornaments can usually be cleaned with a light dusting. If they are stained or very dirty, a very mild solution of hand dishwashing soap (liquid Ivory or Dawn) and water should do the trick. Soak for a few minutes, then rinse well and air dry. Do not scrub! If your piece has any attachments, such as fabric or ribbon, do not use water as it will be stained permanently. These pieces can be wiped with a damp cloth.
Keepsake ornaments are made with a very durable colorfast paint, but they will fade if displayed in direct sunlight. Normal display during the Christmas Holiday season should not have any adverse effects. Year-round display may fade some ornaments if exposed to lights brighter than 75 watts at close range. Normal room light should cause no harm.
If a material other than high impact styrene is used in Hallmark ornaments, it is usually printed on the box and in the dream book. Use this information to determine the correct cleaning method.
Special care instructions
Bisque Porcelain has no glaze (shine). It will easily pick up hand oils and dirt, so handle these ornaments as little as possible. When you must handle them, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly. These ornaments must never be soaked in water to clean, they will absorb the moisture. Use a very slightly damp cloth to clean if necessary.
Ceramic Porcelain has a glaze (it is shiny). It should be cleaned in the same way as bisque porcelain. The key here is to try and not get these pieces dirty, by handling with care.
Cold cast resin is an example of a material used in the '98 Timberwolves. This is a very delicate material as the paint is not baked on. It will come off! Use care when cleaning these pieces. Clean with a soft, dry cloth only.
Die Cast metal is used in all Kiddie Cars. These items are painted with a baked on finish similar to your car, and as such are perfect for year round display. Even though the paint is fade resistant it is recommended that you keep out of direct sunlight. As these items are made of metal, they will rust if exposed to water, therefore do not use soap and water to clean. A soft artists brush can be used to clean very small areas that gather dust and dirt. Fingerprints can be cleaned by wiping with a soft cloth, (old cotton diapers work great!) Again care should be taken when handling these items to avoid getting hand oils on them.
Acrylic is a material that looks like glass, but it is plastic. It will scratch so avoid using any abrasives on these pieces. Items can be hand washed in soap and water and air dry. Even a soft cloth may scratch this kind of plastic. Do not stack acrylic ornaments on top of each other without some kind of barrier in between, as they may scratch each other.
Satin ball ornaments provide the biggest challenge in cleaning. Many ornaments were made in the 70's & 80's of this type material, there are no current ornaments of this type. Due to their age these ornaments sometimes show many stains and lots of dirt collects in the fibers. A stain is almost impossible to clean, because any water will cause a bigger stain to appear. Therefore, they should never be immersed in water, or even cleaned with a damp cloth as the water will stain the fabric wrapping the ornament. The best way to clean is to use a vacuum cleaner with a small attachment, or canned air to blow the dust off.
Glass ball ornaments that have plastic shrink wrap should never be cleaned with water, as the water will get under the wrap and may loosen or stain. Again, dust with a soft cloth, or a slightly damp cloth may be used taking care to stay away from the shrink wrap. These ball ornaments are very susceptible to fading. Take care to keep them out of direct sunlight. These glass balls very frequently have spots on them either from moisture or they are mildew spots, (which is caused from storage in a damp location). It is not recommended to try and clean these, you may end up making the spots worse, or you may chip some of the paint off. These are very delicate and will break easily. Handle with care!
Blown Glass should be cleaned with a damp cloth, but please be aware that some of the paint used IS water soluble, so proceed with caution!
Magic ornaments should never be exposed to water!!! Use a dry cloth to clean only after they have been unplugged from their power source. Magic ornaments come with a three or four year warranty against manufacturing defects. If you have a Magic ornament that ceases to work while under warranty, call 1-800-HALLMARK for details on how to get a replacement.
Pressed tin should be cared for in the same manner as Die Cast Metal. It will rust so please do not use water to clean.
Pewter is a very beautiful metal that will naturally darken over time. If you do not like the darker look of aged pewter you can softly rub with a dry cotton cloth to restore some of the luster, but be aware that pewter is a very soft metal and rubbing too briskly, (or rubbing too often) can wear down some of the details.
Brass Hallmark ornaments are coated to prevent tarnishing. Care should be taken to never use a brass polish or any kind of abrasive. Clean using a soft dry cloth.
Silver will tarnish with age. This is a natural occurrance and actually your assurance that your piece is real silver! Any over-the counter silver polish can be used to clean your silver ornaments. A liquid dip might be better than a paste for a finely detailed ornament as it may be difficult to remove all the paste from the small areas.
Gold plate does not tarnish. A soft cloth is all that is necessary to clean these pieces.
Repairing a broken ornament
The high impact Styrene ornaments are very durable, but in some cases one will break. Many times this is in a joint, such as an arm or leg of a character. Heat and age may loosen the glue holding these joints together. To repair these pieces, use a "gap filling" super glue. Clean both pieces with a dry cloth and add a small drop of glue to each side. Hold together for 30 seconds then lay on a paper towel for 24 hours. Do not wrap or place in a plastic bag during this time. This waiting period is required to get a strong hold and to prevent the "glue dust" from settling on the ornament.
After repairing an ornament, do not try and repaint to "cover" the seam. It is very difficult to get an exact color match and most times the paint will show more than the repair itself.
Glass balls unfortunately are very difficult, if not impossible to repair. They should be carefully wrapped in newspaper and thrown away.
It is highly recommended that all ornaments be stored in their original wrappings in their boxes. If the boxes are no longer available, or if you don't have enough space to store in the boxes, wrap in tissue paper or bubble wrap to protect them from knocking against each other. The boxes then should be flattened and stored separately. Ornaments should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place, preferably in an airtight, waterproof container. Although not waterproof, a corrugated cardboard box would be the next best thing as long as it is sturdy. A damp, musty basement or hot humid attic is NOT the area where you want to store these precious collectibles. The best place to store is in the living part of your house which is usually climate controlled year-round. If this is not practical because of space limitations, a basement is better than the attic because you can use a dehumidifier to control moisture in the basement. The temperature extremes in an attic need to be avoided as much as possible. A temperature extreme is said to be one over 90 degrees or under 40 degrees Fairenheit.
If you notice a musty or smoky odor on your ornaments and boxes, you can try several different methods to help remove the odors. None of them are guaranteed to work, but they might help.
Loosely pack your ornaments in a plastic container with a few scented dryer sheets and leave for a few weeks. The scent of the dryer sheet will take over the unpleasant scent, this may or may not be the preferred method to use.
Any ornament that can be cleaned with water, (see above) can be wiped with a mild solution of baking soda and water. If the ornament cannot be cleaned with water, try placing a small cup of dry baking soda next to the ornament in a small plastic container and seal for a few days/weeks. The baking soda may absorb the odors. (This is the same principle as putting a box of baking soda in your refrigerator.)
How would you replace your precious collectibles if they were ever lost or destroyed by fire, flood or even theft? Insuring your collection can give you the protection you need. A documented list of all ornaments and collectibles in your collection should be kept for insurance purposes. Before appraising your collection for insurance, it is wise to contact your insurance agent, because different companies require different records, but generally the listing should include:
Name and issue date
Special Edition/Limited edition
Any special markings
Condition of ornament and box
Secondary market value
(replacement cost) .
The listing and any photos should be kept in a safe place away from the collection, like a safe deposit box. When talking with your agent, be sure you purchase adequate insurance to cover the full replacement cost of the collectible, not the just retail value, which in the case of ornaments would be the box price.
How do you know what the full replacement cost would be? There are many reputable guides on the market, that will help you evaluate the value of your collectibles. Most insurance companies will accept these values as a source of the replacement costs.
After you determine the value of your collection, you must decide with your agent how much insurance to purchase, the amount of deductible you wish to have, whether this is a "rider" to an existing policy, or a totally separate policy. Some companies will insure only up to a specific dollar amount, be sure to ask! Don't be afraid to call several different companies and ask about their policies. be sure to evaluate in your own personal situation whether your risk of loss outweighs the cost of the insurance.
Information gathered from the "Caring for your Collection" seminar at the Hallmark 25th anniversary Celebration; Rosie Wells Secondary Market Price Guide,12th edition; and 1998 Edition of the Collector's Value Guide. İİ1998-2003 Linda M. Wilson - All Rights Reserved