The Story Behind Those Precious Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments
Every year a tradition takes place at Hallmark stores across the nation – the anticipated release of the Hallmark Keepsake Christmas Ornaments. Generations have collected and passed down their ornaments through the years. Pulling them one by one out of the box, you’re reminded of that special time in your life when you were gifted a Keepsake Ornament chronicling that things like learning to ride a bike or getting your first car or baking your first pie. We asked Ali Thomas, Associate Marketing Manager for Hallmark Keepsake to tell us about their program and get some inside scoop about the most popular ornaments. Now I’m headed to my local Hallmark store to get a couple of ornaments for my tree…it’s not too early, right?!
SL: When did Hallmark introduce Christmas ornaments? Were they always called Keepsake Ornaments?
AT: In 1973, Hallmark launched the first collection of what would become Keepsake Ornaments. That collection included glass ball ornaments and 12 yarn figures. Since then, we’ve introduced more than 8,500 Keepsake Ornaments and more than 100 ornament series. In those earliest days, Hallmark had a vision of creating ornaments with magical qualities— ornaments that would recall timeless memories, celebrate beloved traditions, and commemorate special times we share with family and friends. Today, technological advances and artistic innovations are bringing new kinds of magical qualities to our ornaments every year. Sound, light, motion, responsive storytelling combined with unparalleled artistry and craft bring the very latest and best to our loyal consumers. Even with all these bells and whistles, we continue to be guided by the vision that started it all. Because at their core, Keepsake Ornaments are about creating, capturing, and keeping memories. And that’s where real holiday magic begins.
These are Hallmark’s very first Keepsake ornaments that were released in 1973.
Photos courtesy of Hallmark.
SL: How many new ornaments do you release each year?
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SL: What are your most popular ornaments over the years?
AT: Check out this video where we talk about our top 10 series over the years. That video should give some insight into the most popular ornaments over the years! An ornament series is a grouping of ornaments that releases a new ornament each year around a similar theme, character, aesthetic, etc.
According to Hallmark, the Angel Series is their most popular. It was created in 1988 by Hallmark’s Master Artist, Mary Hamilton. “Miss Mary” as she’s lovingly called, has worked for Hallmark for 60 years. Each angel is named for a flower and sits on his/her own little cloud with Mary’s signature.
Photo courtesy of Hallmark
SL: I’ve seen Keepsake Ornaments sell on secondary markets for over $100 so they are certainly collectible.
AT: You certainly are correct! Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments have been around since 1973. The older ornaments do often sell for a high price on the secondary market.
SL: How many unique ornaments have been issued since the beginning?
AT: We’ve made over 8,500 unique ornaments and more than 100 ornament series since 1973. Our longest running series is Frosty Friends, which is now in its 39th year.
SL: Are there any stories you could share of families/generations who’ve collected Keepsake Ornaments?
AT: Keepsake Ornaments help capture the memories from the year (a baby’s first Christmas, a new home purchased, a child’s first book he/she read, etc.) and help families relive those timeless memories year after year as we open our ornament boxes and hang the ornaments on the tree. These ornaments are often ‘boxed up’ and passed down to a child when they move out of the family home to live in their own home for the first time. In turn, the tradition lives on. Families are at the heart of the holiday and we hope that their stories can be celebrated with and around Keepsake Ornaments on the tree.
Families will come to our ornament release events (Ornament Premiere in July, Ornament Debut in October, and Gift of Memories in December) as three generations – grandchild, child, and grandparent. We hear countless stories of the grandma allowing the grandchild to choose one ornament for their stocking this year!
Our most passionate fans share many stories with us daily via our community Facebook page.
SL: How many people are on your creative team coming up with the ornaments each year?
AT: We have a studio of artists who are constantly dreaming of their next ornament. They are inspired daily, by the little things in life like a butterfly outside or a conversation they had in the hallway at work. Our artists carefully craft each ornament. The details are impeccable and the details of life’s moments are often what our artists put in their designs. Our artists always like to add that little something extra.
Typically, our artists will sketch out their idea and run it by the team. At times, they will have multiple ideas and we will choose one for this year and save the rest for years to come. We will then refine the idea and they will go to sculpt. We have traditional sculptors who work out of clay as well as modern sculptors who sculpt digitally. After it’s sculpted, we bring it to life by adding color and paint, as well as attachments at times. The ornament is then sent out to be produced!
SL: How do they come to a decision on which ornaments pass the test to be on the list each year?
AT: We ensure that our line up each year is bringing something fresh and new to the ornament brand, as well as range across our 500 ornaments. We have multiple different licensed ornaments as well as our own Keepsake equity. We have ornaments that are made from different materials, such as styrene, blown glass, porcelain, metal, wood, and fabric.
SL: What is the approximate price range of the ornaments?
AT: $16 is the average price, but we range from $7 to $100 for our ornaments.
SL: When are they released each year?
AT: January is when we release our ‘every day’ ornaments (think wedding, baby, new home, bereavement, etc.). Ornament Premiere is in July. We typically release around 250 ornaments. Ornament Debut is in October. We typically release around 150 ornaments. Holiday Open House in November. Gift of Memories in December.
SL: I see that there are Keepsake Clubs. What do these people do in their clubs? How many clubs are there and are they only located in the US or internationally?
AT: There is a national Keepsake Ornaments Club (KOC) as well as local ornament club. The national KOC is where collectors and fans celebrate their passion for Keepsake Ornaments, and create and share memories. They can discover more of what they love—sneak peeks from the Keepsake Studio about next year’s lineup, stories from the artists, have access to exclusive ornaments, and rewards/benefits of membership throughout the year. There is also a Keepsake Community social page where members can connect with one another as well as with the Keepsake Studio.
The local clubs are self-run and are sponsored by a local Hallmark Store. There are over 300 local clubs around the US and Canada. They will often get together to celebrate their love or Keepsake Ornaments and the holidays. They raise funds for local charities, craft together for the holidays, and get together to chat about the artist sneak peeks and stories from the studio.
So, start a Keepsake tradition with your family this year. Check out the adorable Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments available online or in your local Hallmark Store.