Quirky Berkeley: Ron Morgan’s extraordinary Christmas ornament collection is for sale

Photo: John Storey

During the last 50 years, Ron Morgan has amassed an extraordinary collection of Christmas ornaments. Each Christmas he would open up his Alameda home and visitors could wander through, their mouths agape, as they looked at rare Victorian figures, German hand-blown glass ornaments, Santas in many varieties, 100-year-old garlands made from mercury glass beads, French puppets, and Italian marionettes, snowmen and elves, and other Christmas fare.

Now Morgan has put up his entire collection for sale.

But there are so many that The Addison Studio, 3054 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, will have to hold two separate sales to show them all. The first runs Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The second sale will be held in about a month.

The Santa shown above is best of show for this sale. It is German, from about 1910, and in excellent condition.
Ron Morgan. Photo: La Dolfina

Morgan is one of the most sought-after and well-recognized floral designers in the United States. His website reports that “He has dazzled lecture and garden club audiences for over twenty years with his wit, knowledge and unparalleled creative talents.” He has owned antique shops in Oakland and Lafayette. And he collected Christmas ornaments.


Changes in his life led Morgan to the decision to divest of his ornament collection. He has known Geneva Addison for most of her life, and she and her mother Julie are the obvious choices to handle the sale.

Goose feather trees. Photo: John Storey

Morgan decorated his house with goose feather trees, about 20 of which will be offered for sale.

Feather trees were made of goose feathers dyed green attached to wire branches. The feathers were split and then attached with wire to form the branches which in turn were wrapped around a central dowel acting as the trunk. The branches were spaced to keep the candles from starting a fire. They were first created in the late 19th century in Germany. They were sold in American department stores in the early 20th century.

No surprise, but there are many Santas in Morgan’s collection.

Photo: John Storey

This Santa has Asian facial fixtures and was made in Japan.


Photo: John Storey

Geneva Addison describes this Santa as a belsnickel, a crotchety, fur-clad Christmas gift-bringer figure in the folklore of the Palatinate region of southwestern Germany along the Rhine, the Saarland, and the Odenwald area of Baden-Württemberg. This figure once carried alcohol.

Photo: John Storey
Photo: John Storey
Photo: John Storey
Photo: John Storey
Photo: John Storey
Photo: John Storey

There are many hand-painted blown glass ornaments for sale.

Photo: John Storey
Photo: John Storey

Lots of them!

Photo: John Storey
Photo: John Storey

Turning from the hand-painted blown glass ornaments, there are thousands of beautiful things for sale.

Photo: John Storey
Photo: John Storey
Photo: John Storey

The figures in the lower left corner of the case featured above are in the style of Guignol, a French puppet show created by Laurent Mourguet in the early 19th century, representing the silk industry workers of France.


The ornaments would be sufficiently quirky and wonderful on their own, but the joy is doubled by the flat case in which they are displayed, originally designed for an insect collection. Display-case-lovers will geek out over this.

Photo: John Storey

The ladybugs are examples of wooden art from Erzgebirge in the Ore Mountains, which form a natural border between Germany and the Czech Republic.

In the background of the photo are putz houses. Their heyday was the 1920s and 1930s. People made or bought these cardboard houses and with them created villages around Christmas trees. They would “putz around” with them until they were just right. They are sometimes called “coconut Putz houses” because, to the eyes of Putz collectors Ted Althoff and Barbara Lovejoy, the glitter on the houses looks fuzzy like a coconut. The house in this photo looks like it could be a Berkeley house built by “One-Nail MacGregor.”

Photo: John Storey

The googly-eye piece in the center of the photo above originally contained perfume.

Photo: John Storey

My mother collected musical angels, including ones very similar to the German trumpet player in light blue above.

Photo: John Storey

These paper ornaments were churned out in cottage industries.

John Storey
Photo: John Storey

There are a few Easter ornaments, and nothing says “resurrection of Christ from the grave” better than bunnies.

Photo: John Storey

Uncanny, creepy, scary – pick your adjective. For me, this little girl in a bunny suit is the stuff of nightmares.

Photo: John Storey
Photo: John Storey

And, lastly, there are a few antique toys that are not associated with any holiday.

Photo: John Storey

The origin of the jack-in-the-box is not agreed-upon. One thought is that it comes from the 14th-century English prelate Sir John Schorne, who is often pictured holding a boot with a devil in it – a reminder that he once cast the devil into a boot to protect the village of North Marston. In French, a jack-in-the-box is called a “diable en boîte” (literally “boxed devil”).

Photo: John Storey

These remind me of flat soldiers. Tin soldiers were originally almost two-dimensional figures, often called “little Eilerts” or flats.. They were the first toy soldiers to be mass-produced. I remember train trips into Philadelphia as a boy, visiting a soldier shop with my father, buying flat soldiers.

Photo: John Storey
Photo: John Storey
Photo: John Storey

This is a stunning collection. The Addisons have created a brilliant display for this first of two sales. Geneva Addison says that they have lived, breathed, and slept Christmas ornaments for weeks. It shows. If you have the chance, check it out. It is major league holiday quirk.

The Ron Morgan Christmas estate sale will be held  Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Addison Studio,  3054 Telegraph Ave. Cash and credit cards only, $40 minimum for credit card sales. Because delicate things break easily, only 12 buyers will be allowed in the store at one time.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,000 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.