In 1959, the Aluminum Specialty Company of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, started producing aluminum Christmas trees that quickly became the "industry standard." The novelty tree became a very popular alternative to live evergreens. The retro look of the aluminum tree is coming back with vintage trees selling for several hundred dollars. If you want the look without the price tag, you can purchase a modern but retro-looking tree for a fraction of the cost.
Basic Aluminum Tree
A basic aluminum Christmas tree is a simple design. This artificial tree is made from aluminum. It features aluminum branches with foil needles. You can find a handful of basic aluminum trees that are actually made of aluminum.
Northlight Vintage Tree
Amazon features a 5' Northlight metallic tinsel Christmas tree that has a 36" base diameter and comes with a footed stand. This branches are quite thin and would suit anyone who has a smaller space and doesn't want a dense tree. Price: Around $80 plus free shipping.
Retro Aluminum Christmas Trees
In shopping for retro aluminum Christmas trees, you need to read the description to ascertain if it is truly a metal aluminum tree or a PVC or Mylar tinsel tree.
Jabetc offers a 7' reproduction of a 1950s aluminum Christmas tree in the pompom design. This design features aluminum pompoms on the ends of the branches. The branches are metal aluminum and the tree pole is made of wood in a matching silver finish. The tree comes with a white round tree stand. Price: Around $250 plus free shipping.
Hayneedle features a 4' H x 24W" pre-unlit silver tinsel artificial tree by National Tree Company. The tree is fairly full with 110 silver tinsel tips, and is made of aluminum tinsel and PVC. It also comes with a plastic stand finished in silver-gray. Price: under $35 plus $4.99 shipping fee.
Silver Tinsel Tree With Color Wheel
Modern tinsel Christmas trees are made from either a metallic coated mylar or PVC film. These original aluminum trees were illuminated using a color wheel. This replaced electric lights that would short circuit when making contact with the metal tree. The color wheel was placed on the floor to up light the tree with its rotating color wheel. You will need to purchase the color wheel separately.
The Vermont Country Store
The Vermont Country Store features a 2', 4' and 6' silver tinsel Christmas tree. The needles are plastic but have a shiny silver finish. The overall effect has an authentic feel. Price: Around $50, $110 and $160
Vintage Tinsel Christmas Trees
You can find an authentic vintage tinsel Christmas trees for resale on places like eBay, Etsy, estate sales, and yard sales. The vintage trees often come as straight branches or with pompoms on the tips. Some popular vintage companies include, Aluminum Specialty Co, Evergleam, Peco, Taper Tree, and The Continental Pom Pom.
What to Expect
Most sellers provide original boxes and tubes for individual branches. The number of branches is determined by the tree height. Many vintage tinsel Christmas trees have bent or missing aluminum needles due to age, so chances are you won't find a perfect vintage aluminum Christmas tree. Be sure to request lots of photos when purchasing online. Depending on the size of the tree, condition and manufacturer, pricing can range from $25 to $800 or more.
Colored Aluminum Christmas Trees
You can find some aluminum Christmas trees in different colors. These can be a fun change from the expected classic silver Christmas tree.
Amazon Colored Aluminum Trees
Amazon features several colors and sizes of aluminum trees from National Tree. The sizes are 2', 3', 6', and 7' colored tinsel trees with a matching metal stand. The trees are narrow with 20" width and features 520 branches. Available colors include, pink, black, champagne, blue, red, and green. Prices: Around $18 to $72 plus free shipping.
Bed Bath & Beyond
If you're looking for a dramatic statement, look no further than a dramatic 5' purple tinsel pre-lit Christmas tree from Fraser Hill Farm at Home Depot. This tree has vivid purple branches, a sturdy base, and 250 clear, LED bulbs. Price: Around $130.
Christmas Central has one of the largest and most diverse collections of tinsel trees in almost every color imaginable in their trees. Sizes start at 15" and go up to around 14' high. They also ship through Amazon as well. Styles include:
- Cone: Pop-up style tree that's collapsible for easy storage
- Downswept: Features down-swept flowing branches with a slender, sparse shape
- Looped tinsel: Tree is made of series of tinsel loops
- Pencil: Thinner diameter than normal tree.
- Tropical: Palm tree shaped tinsel tree
- Twig: Tinsel twigs give a fuller look than wire glow tree
- Whimsical: Fun tottering tree shape with tapered needles
- Wire glow: Tinsel wire limbs gives skeletal tree appearance
Pricing is just as varied as the styles available, and given the wide range of choices, you'll find small tabletop options from around $10 to designer trees costing over $2,000.
Light It Up
Aluminum Christmas trees are designed to reflect light with each needle acting like a mirror. These trees weren't designed for strings of lights. In fact, the way to light up the tree is with a color wheel.
Add a Color Wheel
The most popular way to light up an aluminum Christmas tree was the use of a color wheel. This spotlight featured a wheel of colors, including red, blue, green, and yellow (amber). Vintage color wheels can be found on resale and auction sites like eBay.
Rotating Tree Stands
Another popular accessory was the rotating tree stand in addition to the color wheel spotlight. Amazon sells a rotating stand that supports a 90 pound tree and can be adjusted to different size poles. 1000 Bulbs' musical rotating stand words for 6' to 7.5' trees and supports up to 75 pounds and has a 350 degree rotation. It plays Silent Night, Jingle Bells, and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
Decorating an Aluminum Christmas Tree
In 1959, The Aluminum Corporation of America (Alcoa) released a pamphlet titled How to Decorate Your New Aluminum Christmas Tree. Some of the suggestions offered include:
- If using a standard tree stand, cover it with aluminum foil.
- Use glass or aluminum ornaments to reflect more light.
- Stick with one color of ornaments, such as blue, silver, aqua, red, and so on.
- Ornaments can be alike or different as long as they are the same color.
- Use plain ornaments.
- If using more than one color, divide colors so they're spread evenly over tree.
- Use wide hooks to hang ornaments so they don't disturb the natural look of the foil needles.
- Never tie ornaments to tree since this will interfere with foil appearance of tree.
- Less is more. Don't add tinsel, garlands or streamers. These clutter the natural reflective beauty of the tree.
- Homemade ornaments should be reflective, such as shapes made from aluminum sheeting, kitchen foil or wrapping papers.
Appeal of Retro Trees
The original appeal of the aluminum Christmas tree coincided with the race to space and was a modern space age take on an age old tradition. With the retro wave for home design continuing, it's not surprising that this holiday decoration has seen a return in popularity.