Snow Globe Collecting

Snow Globe Collecting  

Magical and enchanting, those little transparent snowy globes have intrigued children and adults for years. Sometimes made from glass, though nowadays more frequently moulded from plastic, each dome contains an ornamental figure which becomes hidden amongst a whirling flurry of snow when it is shaken.

These simple but fascinating toys are fast becoming collectible - and as many are cheap 'n' cheerful, they are ideal for collectors on a shoestring budget, or children spending their pocket money.

The Americans usually call these novelties snow globes, but in Britain they're more commonly referred to as snow storms or snow shakers.

No-one seems to know for sure exactly when they were first made, but the Victorians enjoyed them and collected them as souvenirs of their travels.

 They were extremely popular in the 1920s and 30s, then again in the 1950s when most children would find a snow storm in their Christmas stockings.

Today, they seem to be all the rage with manufacturers producing an amazing variety of models. Images of snow storms are cropping up all over the place,

Snow Globe Collecting  
especially in advertising: a recent edition of the Radio Times featured a cover illustration of a cherub holding a snowy glass globe containing the millennium dome, while a current Legoland campaign depicts Legoland Windsor inside an oval-shaped shaker.

The early globes were glass, and the snow made from a variety of substances including ground-up bone, ceramic dust and sand. Even ground rice was tried! Nowadays, both globe and snow are often plastic.

 The liquid is water but sometimes has an additive such as glycol to slow the fall of the snow. In the 1940s a German manufacturer experimented with various shapes and decided that a compressed oval shape was less likely to break than the traditional globe.    

Although many globes are still made, the oval shape is very common, especially for the cheaper plastic ranges, but rectangular, bottle, bullet, cube, cylindrical, lantern, octagonal, egg shaped and conical are just a few of the other shapes encountered.   Sometimes, instead of snow, you find glitter, tiny coloured beads, stars or confetti - and the correct technical term for the snow is flitter!

Snow Globe Collecting  
 A recent innovative snow storm contains a battery-operated fan which causes minute polystyrene granules to blow around inside the globe.

This means that you can watch the swirling effect for hours rather than just a few seconds. Of course, there is no liquid inside, and as you can't actually shake it, you lose the feeling of satisfaction at drumming up a blizzard!

Conventional snow storm subjects vary enormously - Christmas themes are extremely popular, with a plethora of nativities, angels, santas, reindeer and snowmen. Nursery tales are another favourite: the British toy company Hawkins supplies Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, The Frog Prince and Hansel and Gretel snow storms which are made in Germany by the son of the man who invented the compressed dome shape.

He Still uses toe uditiaont rranulds, methods and hand painted figures. Many of the most desirable snow storms originated in Europe.

Snow Globe Collecting  
The Erwin Perzy factory, in Vienna, have been producing them since 1900, and their designs are renowned for their simplicity of style, detailed hand painting, and, especially, the clarity of the specially formulated liquid which allows the snow to stay suspended for well over a minute before re-settling.

These beautiful globes can still be bought today, costing between £20-60, depending on the size. Another well- known company is the German firm Koziol, whose globes have been delighting people since 1948.

In the United States, snow storm collecting is very popular, and there are shops solely devoted to the sale of these items.

 They are sold at tourist attractions in the same way that, over here, we find pennants, thimbles, badges or notebooks.

The US have many companies who manufacture the globes, including Silvestri, Adler and Enesco, and a trawl through the internet will reveal others, as well as mail order companies.

Snow storm ornaments, cover a wide range of subjects including advertising, tourist attractions, animals   ballerinas, fish, houses and boats. Today,

the majority of the snow storms which are sold in tourist attractions or as Christmas mementoes originate from China or Taiwan.

Snow Globe Collecting  
Though at the cheaper end of the market,they shouldn't be overlooked,  the designs are often ingenious and include aliens or planets as well as more traditional scenes. Some modern snow storms revolve as the snow falls, or are fitted with musical movements - occasionally they do both at once.

Many collectors prefer the earlier snow storms, dating   from the 1950s or before. As the majority of these were made from glass they are prone to cracking - after all, at the time they were mostly sold as novelties for children, and consequently may have been stored in boxes or subjected to roug handling.

 A crack doesn't necessarily detract from the collect ability of storm: it can still look attractive if maybe in a group, on a well-lit shelf (though beware of too much light, or sunlight, which could cause algae to form inside globes which still contain water.)

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