Antique Snow Globe

by Dr. Lori Verderame

Snow globes are widely collectible. While they were once reserved as a seasonal, winter collectible, the snow globe has become a popular keepsake year round. Snow globes were introduced in France as a successor to the glass paperweight. They were made of heavy leaded glass in the form of a dome. These glass domes were placed over ceramic tableaus or tabletop scenes starting in the late 19th Century. The first snow globes received attention when they were introduced at the International Exposition held in Paris in 1889. At the International Expo, snow globe souvenirs had a small scale model of the newly unveiled Eiffel Tower inside. They were a big hit! Throughout Europe, snow globes became a great collectible and market success story. By the turn of the 20th Century, these souvenir paperweights–also known as snow storms–were collected by young and old alike and even Her Royal Highness, Queen Victoria owned snow globes.

Origin of Snow Globes

By the early 1900s, German glassblowers made glass domes to protect clockwork movements. These domes were exported and impacted the fledgling snow globe industry in America. While invented in France, snow globes were soon mass produced in the United States. The American interest in snow globes was sparked by an innovation of a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania man named Joseph Garajha who got a patent to improve upon the snow globe. His patent featured a new style of glass based that allowed water-filled snow globes to screw, like a light bulb, into a socket base.

The artificial snow was made of bone or porcelain chips or non-soluable soap flakes. Read how to tell the difference between bone and porcelain. Today, fake snow is made of tiny pieces of plastic. The snow globe blizzard is enhanced by the use of distilled water or glycerin which makes the flakes hover within the enclosed globe. Some collectible snow globes have Swiss music box mechanisms too.

By the 1950s, snow globes were produced as travel collectibles, tourist items, paperweights, religious items, or advertising souvenirs to promote a product, service, or business.

Valuable snow globes

Snow globes that were advertising give-aways for laundry detergent are collectible. Disney character snow globes featuring Mickey Mouse, Pinocchio, and Donald Duck dating back to the mid 1900s are collectible. Lone Ranger snow globes made by the Driss Company are very valuable on the vintage market today, too. Certain snow globes are worth as much as several thousands of dollars.

What to Look For

Snow globe

Collect snow globes by category such as by age, by maker, by character, etc. Some valuable snow globes feature tourist landmarks or famous cities. Antique and vintage snow globes of good quality materials hold their value. Look for a strong base and a complete interior tableau that is complex or intricate as these types of snow globes will bring greater value with collectors. Avoid snow globes that are cloudy or show signs of significant excessive wear or damage on the interior as that will negatively impact the snow globe’s value.

Get an online appraisal report of your snow globe from Dr. Lori.