How to Start Collecting Antique & Vintage Nativity Scenes

For those that love collecting indoor nativity sets, finding the perfect nativity set can be like Christmas in and of itself. Many collectors and aficionados tend to gravitate more towards vintage and antique sets or pieces over contemporary sets. So what do they look for when buying a set and how to tell if they are an authentic? These four basic tips will help you navigate both the antique and vintage nativity set options out there, landing you a quality collectable set you can be proud of.

Tip #1: The Older, The More Expensive

Nativity sets must be at least 100 years old by most standards to be considered an “antique”. On the other hand, “vintage” sets are considered those between 20 and 100 years old. Antiques command a higher price as the older they get the more rare they are to find in good condition.

Tip #2: It May Take Time to Find all the Pieces

To complete a set, you often must buy the individual pieces that are sold separately. The central nativity pieces go for upwards towards $100 or more. However, if you are looking for more rare pieces beyond the holy family and the wise men, you will find that they are even pricier.

Tip #3: Know the Material Composition of Nativity Set

Nativity sets 100 years and older were typically made of chalkware or paper mache. Some of the more valuable sets are pre-Victorian aged nativities from Germany such as Belsnickle sets. In the 1920s, the most popular and affordable sets for the time were made of cardboard and imported from Japan. From the 1940s to the 1950s, the most popular sets were made of chalkware painted brightly and were imported from Italy. From the 1960s on, the most common nativity sets were made of indestructible plastic and were widely available from Woolworth’s and nearly a dozen other stores.

Tip #4: Look for Notable Brands of Antique or Vintage Collectables


An Italian company, Fontanini, has been making paper mache nativity sets since 1908.

See an example of a large Fontanini nativity village here:

[embed][/embed] One thing to note, when looking for an antique Fontanini nativity set or individual figurines, not all will be made of paper mache. After the 1960s, Fontanini also produced plastic nativity sets. Be sure to double check the composition before purchasing any nativity sets online or in person.


Hummel is a type of porcelain figurine that has been produced by the German company W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik since 1935. These figurines became popular after WWII as American soldiers brought these figurines home as gifts for their families.

Here is an example of a Hummel nativity set:

[embed][/embed] Before purchasing Hummel set or individual figurines, know what sizes you are getting. Hummels are known for producing the same pieces in two different sizes, one that is around 4 ½ inches tall and another that is around 6 inches tall. Another thing to note before purchasing, at the bottom of each figurine, you will find the copyright year for that specific model. This indicates when they legally were allowed to start making the model, but does not indicate what year the actual figureine itself was produced. You could have a model that received its copyright in 1945, but was made in 1995. Good luck in finding your perfect antique or vintage indoor nativity set! There is something uniquely special about having a quality antique nativity set that helps to bring the Christmas spirit.