Any vintage Christmas ornament collection in the United States should include a fair amount of Shiny Brite ornaments and my collection is no sloucher in that regard. Growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Shiny Brite was affordable and easily accessible from places such as Ben Franklin, Woolworth’s or Kresge. We always had an assortment of Shiny Brites on our tree as a kid.
Starting in 1937, Shiny Brite was American made and promoted until 2001 when the company was purchased by Christopher Radko. For a more complete history see Wikipedia.
During the second World War, metals were very scarce and the government controlled through rationing the use of metals. Shiny Brite and other companies manufacturing non-war related items were forced to be creative in order to get their products to market. Shiny Brite used a paper/cardboard cap during the war and until rationing was relaxed. They also limited the amount of silvered finishes used on their ornaments. Most WWII ornaments were of a translucent colored glass with a paper cap. Those with paper caps are rare because the cap often disintegrated with age.
One way to tell a Shiny Brite ornament from any other is the cap. Shiny Brite used an aluminum cap with ridged and scalloped sides. The top of the cap is stamped with their name “Shiny Brite” and “Made in USA”.
Shiny Brite made mostly round baubles painted with stripes or embellished with holiday greetings. Their figural shapes are much more difficult to find but you can still get some bargains. Just remember to always be on the look out. I find some of my best Christmas pieces in the summer at flea markets because not too many people are thinking Christmas when it’s 90 degrees out.
Begin your collection with a couple very affordable Shiny Brite ornaments. They can often be found in sets of 12 in their original box for under $20. That’s quite a bargain.
Just remember to look for the distinctive cap to ensure it’s a Shiny Brite.