Ed Cantilli owns about 6,000 Christmas tree ornaments. Last year, he and his wife decorated 11 trees in their West Chester, Ohio, home. He admits to spending up to $2,000 a year on new collectibles.
On Friday, the couple was among 1,800 ornament devotees at the Hallmark Keepsake Ornament Club convention at the Sheraton Crown Center in Kansas City.
It’s a noisy and crowded biennial gathering of people who willingly stand in long, slow lines, carrying boxes and bags of ornaments for the opportunity to get favorite artists’ signatures on their items.
Cantilli is a charter member of the club, founded 30 years ago, which now numbers 55,000 members worldwide.
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“We’re crazy,” Cantilli laughed. “We’ve been to every convention since they started the conventions in 1991.”
Each convention is a chance for collectors to buy or trade with each other, win prizes at games, attend collecting seminars, and meet the artists who design all manner of snowmen and Santas, butterflies and birds, cats and cookie cutters that fill the Keepsake catalog.
Licensed lines — from the likes of Star Wars, Disney, Barbie, Peanuts, Harry Potter, Hasbro and Lionel — complement more traditional holiday-themed products.
Lisa Loebl, who works on Hallmark’s retail marketing, said the club still has about 5,000 members who signed up in 1987, the first year. About 250 of them are attending the convention which closes on Saturday.
Club members get early access to the ornament catalog, which offers about 500 items a year, as well as exclusive access to specific products. They get Keepsake publications, newsletters and occasional invitations to in-store events at Hallmark Gold Crown stores.
Like many collectors, Cantilli and his wife, Mary Ann Krivacsy, collect by themes — puppies, cars, snowmen, bunnies and Santas, to name a few. Kirvacsy has a kitchen-themed tree in, of course, the kitchen. Another favorite is a 4-foot tree they fill with 550 miniature ornaments. They also are decorating a “premier” tree to showcase ornaments unveiled this year.
Some enthusiasts keep their collections on display year-round. Others meticulously repackage them in their original boxes until they’re unwrapped again.
A prize addition to collections this year is a remote-controlled, tiny cuckoo clock with lights and movable parts. It’s listed at $119.95 and sold out in the Keepsake online catalog.