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It's trickling in already, and it won't be long before Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas merchandise dominates store shelves.

For some consumers, holiday decor is a constant quest, said Lynn Short, co-owner of Knitting Mill Antiques on Manufacturers Road.

"Sales pick up considerably this time of year with some shoppers, but collectors of holiday merchandise shop year-round," she said.

Baby boomers, Short said, are avid collectors of vintage decorations.

"It's all about nostalgia. They're wanting things that remind them of their childhood," she said. "That's why the dealers sell holiday items all year. It's great to see people find things they had as children."

The highest demand is for Shiny-Brite tree ornaments, according to Short.

"Christmas tree decorations are very popular, but Shiny-Brite ornaments are incredibly popular," she said. "They sell for as little as $3 apiece to more than $30 each. They're more valuable if they come in the original box."

Mr. and Mrs. Ronnie Gowan, collectors for more than 15 years, have Shiny-Brite ornaments, some in the original boxes, in their booth at the Knitting Mill.

"Original packaging not only increases the value of the ornaments, it helps us identify their age," Mrs. Gowan said.

Dealer Robert Stoney said it's fascinating to see what turns up among the Knitting Mill's 100-plus booths. Among items he had available recently was a large, hand-colored, Staffordshire turkey platter priced at $225.

"It really is an amazing piece," Stoney said. "It was made around the time of the first World War."

Baby boomers, he said, are some of his best customers.

"I get a lot of people who like things that were made in the 1950s and 1960s."

The Gowans also have pieces ideal for Thanksgiving decorating.

"We have a metal wind-up turkey that was made in the U.S.

zone of Germany during the war," Mrs. Gowan said. "It costs $65."

The Gowans also have a century-old jack-o'-lantern that was used by children when trick-or-treating. It is rare, she said, and sells for $125.

Short said the merchandise is ever-changing. "You never know what you'll see here."

VINTAGE VS. ANTIQUE

Lynn Short, co-owner of Knitting Mill Antiques, explains the difference.

  • Antique: It used to refer to an item 100 years old. Today, if something was made in the 1930s or before, it's called antique.

  • Vintage: Typically, this refers to items made in the 1940s-1960s. Now, as thirtysomethings shop for items from their childhood, things made in the 1970s are being called vintage.

  • Age and origin: "If it says 'made in Japan,' it was made in the 1950s or before. Things made in Hong Kong were typically manufactured around 1960. Items made in Taiwan date to the 1970s-1980s. Most holiday merchandise is manufactured in China," Short said.

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