One of the most intriguing collectibles to hit the décor scene in recent times is the vintage pillar candle.
As common as they were in US households during the first half of the 20th century, it’s hard to believe these decorative gems would be as rare as they are today.
Photo: TheSwankySeahorse on Etsy
Their rarity comes from the fact that a candle is inevitably consumed through use, and even if a candle was never burned, the wax composition was vulnerable to heat, cold and marring.
By the end of the 1970s, when interest in pillar candles had phased out, many were relegated to the garage or attic where destruction by extreme temperatures was almost guaranteed. (What treasure hunter hasn’t opened an old packing box to find a disfigured candle inside?) Many were simply trashed.
Today however, the intricacy, beauty, variety and rarity of vintage pillar candles has reignited their collectibility and made them ever more appealing to interior decorators and collectors seeking quality examples.
Carved and Molded Pillar Candles
A vintage pillar candle is sought for its carved or molded details. Both types have value.
Many carved pillars found today were made in Germany between 1890 and the 1970s. These were poured into a pillar mold, and elaborately carved by hand. They are considered works of art.
Carved candles can depict intricate battle scenes, a kings’ court, angelic bodies, or more.
Photo: Piklandia on Etsy
Molded pillars are no less intricate. They can also be fanciful, whimsical or cute.
As the name suggests, these were made by pouring hot wax into molds. Molded pillars can, nevertheless, be quite rare.
Quality and Worth of Vintage Pillar Candles
A good quality example is defined as showing minimal signs of use (though a few burnings do not affect the value) and should be in B+ overall condition, meaning absent of bangs and dings.
A pillar that was burned to the point where wax has spilled over the design creating either a large wave or canyon on the body is considered in poor condition.
A candle with its original wrapping does not value higher than one without. The original makers tag (check the bottom) is a plus especially on German carved pillars.
A good quality vintage carved or molded pillar candle can be worth between $18 and $100 to a collector.
In order to assess a value a buyer must consider detail intricacy, rarity, size and theme.
Common Themes of Vintage Pillar Candles
Not to be confused with the glass, salt-faced candles sold in the 1970s for church fundraisers. Religious pillars include the Madonna, Jesus, shepherds, angels and sheep.
Photo: Crackerjackarma on Etsy
Celebration and Seasonal Candles
Bicentennial, Christmas and Halloween are the biggest sellers and include the Liberty Bell, American eagle, stars & stripes, Santa, elves, trees with scary faces, pumpkins, black cats and more.
Photo: BestThingSince on Etsy
Character and Theme Candles
These include owls, flowers, birds, country western or old man cowboys, and sailors, to name a few.
German Traditional Candles
These artistic candles were carved and sold by well-established German makers including Johann Gunter.
Photo: GhostTownShack on Etsy
Often found in unusual shapes and themes rather than in cylindrical form. Yet, these too are considered pillars.
Photo: AnnasDream on Etsy
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Happy Hunting! - Hettie
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