(Retro)active Browsing: Vintage Christmas Catalogues

1933 Spiegel Christmas cataloguesAnyone who spends time browsing antique fairs, flea markets, and eBay knows that vintage retail catalogues are in demand and command a pretty penny, but no catalogues are more coveted than vintage Christmas catalogues.

As we’ve said here before, there’s something about Christmas that fosters a wistful nostalgia more potent than any other holiday, and it’s the pull of Christmases past, we’re convinced, that keeps these old mail-order catalogues in such demand.

1946 Sears and Roebuck Christmas cataloguesIf you find you can’t swing the price of one of these treasured commercial publications, don’t despair. We’ve found a site that will fill in ably while you’re saving your pennies.

Wishbookweb.com boasts scans of complete Christmas catalogues dating all the way back to 1933 (and up to 1988). The majority of the catalogues featured are from Sears, but there are other delights to be enjoyed, too, including a 1941 Lord and Taylor catalogue and a Spiegel catalogue from 1933.

And this site doesn’t just offer selected highlights from these forty-plus catalogues; they’ve scanned and posted each in its entirety.

a page from a 1937 Christmas catalogueSo if you’ve ever wondered what kind of holiday toys might have enticed your parents, your grandparents or, heck, even your great-grandparents when they were whippersnappers, you need wonder no more.

And of course, Christmas catalogues don’t limit themselves to toys—these publications are terrific resources for researching and tracking the changes and advances in clothing, furniture, electronics, housewares, and so much more.

And if you find yourself wondering, while perusing these catalogues, “What would that gorgeous console radio that cost $52 in 1937 run me today?”, just call up the Inflation Calculator, which compares and contrasts prices from as far back as 1800 all the way up to 2014. (To answer our own question: $52 in 1937 was the equivalent of $846.21 in 2014.)

This post was first published, in slightly different form, on December 21, 2011.