Collecting Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – The Best Tips

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Today’s post is about the most famous reindeer of all –  Rudolph. The reindeer with the shiny red nose that leads Santa Claus on his sleigh ride around the world in just one night. Rudolph has been sharing his charm with us all since 1939. It wasn’t too long after, that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer would become a part of Christmas for families all over the world. If you are interested in collecting Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer then keep reading for the best tips!!

Welcome to the 2021 vintage Christmas collecting series. This is our second post in our series for 2021. Our first post is all about Holt Howard Starry Eyed Santa and you can find it here. If you’d like to review our 2020 six-part guide you can find that here and learn about vintage Christmas collectibles from the 1950s-1960s.

Rudolph was created by Robert L. May, who worked as a copywriter for the Montgomery Ward department store chain and published the story in a brochure for promotional purposes in 1939. The store began preparing for Christmas almost one year earlier when they hired May to write a Christmas story that could be purchased by customers.

Christmas giftware, decorations, and ceramics were at their peak of cuteness (my opinion) in the 1950s-1960s. And it was George Zolton Lefton who founded the Lefton China Company in 1939 in Chicago, Illinois and produced many items from dinnerware sets to Christmas decorations and everything in between and, that includes the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer set.

Lefton’s Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer set includes:

  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer bowl
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer mug
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer salt and pepper shakers
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer planter (Rudolph’s nose lights up)

There are also vintage stacking tea sets featuring a red nosed reindeer made by Shafford and another similar set marked Japan. And of course, several variations of Lefton’s Rudolph that might include candleholders, napkin holders, and figurines that are much lighter in color and often referred to as Lefton pieces, but they are not marked and Lefton pieces are typically numbered, signed, or numbered and signed, and have a foil tag.

But Rudolph is a very charming reindeer so many manufacturers made versions for the holidays just like they do today. Let me know if you would like to see some of these other sets and I can share pictures of mine.

In our collectors’ group on Facebook Vintage Kitschy Christmas (join if you love vintage Christmas and want to see great collections and share your collections) members ask questions about replicas as there are some well-known home décor companies today reproducing their versions of Lefton’s Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Here are my tips for spotting replicas:

Ceramics made in the 1950s-1960s feel very different then the Made in China pieces you find today. If you are not sure what I mean, go to your local thrift shop, or antique shop and ask to see Lefton or Napco mugs, salt and pepper shakers, and vintage Christmas ceramics from the 50s and 60s and hold them in your hands. Touch them, feel them, observe the hand painted details (many were hand painted) notice the modeling of these items. Lefton produced very high-quality pieces and you should see this in the item’s details like facial expressions on animals or people depictions.

Check for markings, signatures, stamps, numbers, and the foil tags that usually have the makers name and Japan on them, or just a tag that says Japan. Then, compare all this to a Made in China replica. The replicas are usually much, much heavier in your hand, not fine and light like the ceramics from the 50s-60s. The details will be minimal as the items are mass-produced in China, and, they usually have that tag or stamp that says Made in China. In my opinion, the cuteness factor is so different when the item is an authentic vintage piece compared to a mass produced Made in China piece.

As with many vintage collectibles and antiques this year 2021, the market has seen a surge in demand with skyrocketing prices. Vintage Christmas items are also getting harder and harder to come by which makes them that much more desired by collectors. Lefton’s Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer pieces are also very hard to find, usually only a couple pieces like the salt and pepper shakers come up for sale at Christmas time, the mug is extremely hard to find, and the bowl is even harder to come by.

As with all collectibles, condition is everything. Though, I have seen in 2021 that collectors are more forgiving if items have dings and chips and signs of wear, paint wear, and will still pay the high prices to be able to add the rare item to their collection.

Lefton Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Prices (based on Ebay, Etsy, Facebook, and Instagram sales):

  • $100+ for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer salt and pepper shakers
  • $175+ for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer mug
  • $200+ Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer bowl

If you can come by these pieces at a lower price then you better snap them up or someone else will!!

Christmas time is the perfect time of year to go thrifting and antiquing for vintage Christmas decorations and collectibles. Not only will you find some really great pieces, but it’s also a great way to support your local economy. You never know what might be hidden in those bins — so get out there and start digging! And, if shopping online is your preferred method, Etsy, Ebay, Facebook groups, Facebook Marketplace, and Instagram are still the best places (I have found) to search the world for antiques and collectibles.

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About the Vintage Christmas Collecting Series: This six-part series of blog posts and pictures focuses on vintage and mid-mod Christmas collectibles from the late 1940s-1960s, giving you the insights on starting a collection with tips on prices and where to find these treasures as well as tips for adding to your collection and scoring the rare and hard-to-find pieces. Both new and seasoned collectors will learn new things so they can enjoy collecting vintage Christmas items year-round.

2020 Series:

Collecting vintage NOEL Christmas candle holders, figurines, and bells
Vintage Holt-Howard Christmas collectibles
Pretty Ladies – Vintage Christmas Head Vases and Planters
Collecting vintage Christmas angels
Have yourself a Mid-Mod Christmas
Collecting vintage Christmas year-round

2021 Series:

Holt-Howard Christmas Collectibles and Price Guide: Starry Eyed Santa

Vintage Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Thrifting Vintage Christmas Decorations: NOEL Sets from the 1950s-1960s

Vintage Christmas Collecting Series