Note: This is an archive of "Papa" Ted Althof's online tribute to cardboard Christmas "putz" houses and their history. At Ted's request, this archive was established in early 2012. Except for critical updates and announcements, it will remain exactly as Ted left it in October, 2012.
For more information, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
*House of the Month*
- 2001 -
This huge beauty is sister to the Dec.2K- found
in the same place, have been together for 70 years! Who could separate
This one also was originally marked "50 cts.", then cut to 25 cts.
Special about it are the size (9" X 5 1/2" X 7" high), twin trees and
twin figures!(Just about unheard of...) It also has the
not-unknown-but-seldom found cellophane covering a foil roof, and there is no
doubt this is original, because the cellophane goes under the snow on the
Grim looking thing! Perfect for gloomy ol' February! Probably
supposed to be a castle or great manor house. Actually I have seen two others of
this type. They never have bases, nor do they have holes in the back for lights. They're candy or surprise boxes.
Note that the top tower lifts off and would contain the "goody." There was no
bottom box with this one and the construction doesn't suggest that there ever
was one. The color of the tower doesn't match the main part, either, but that's
how I found it and it fits. Quite a large piece - 6 1/2" wide and 8 1/2" high,
which is the actual building - not a base size. Unusual!
A rare find! A boxed set, like this from the private
collection of Jerry Ehrenberger - founder of The Golden Glow- is a
treasure in and of itself, but even more so for the historical information it
provides. I have found all of these houses individually - medium coconuts of
nice complexity with the little bisque figures - many times over. They are types
often seen individually, but now it is possible to identify them as pieces from
a specific set. I do wonder at the fact that there are two each of two types
present, which could account for the fact that these are commoner and easier to
find. When you do find these set boxes intact, you can only marvel at the
survival, because they were made of the cheapest, flimsiest of cardstocks.
(As were the houses - but paint and glue made them much stronger.) I regret that Jerry either didn't get or didn't show me the cover of this box, but i doubt if it would have given any more information. The prewar boxes were always very plain, usually having a small number label, but never identifying the manufacturer.
An interesting sidebar to the shortage of boxed sets is that several people old
enough to have sold or puchased these treasures in their heyday have told me
that most stores would sell individual pieces from the boxes, or just set the
individual pieces out and discard the "shipping" container. Times were very
NICE find, Jerry!
UPDATE! Jerry has informed me that
he does have the lid for the set, but it is completely plain with no stickers or
numbers or markings of any kind - and quite flimsy, as is the rest of the box.
HACIENDA Style WINDMILLS???
....or badly designed AEROPLANES?
Only the Hacienda family sports these absurdly
impossible little windmills. They are both technological and architectural
nonsense, but have an undeniable charm that makes you dwell on them and find a
way to believe that they could work.... Much of the charm of
all the Japanese Christmas houses had this delightful archtectural poetic
license of forced perspective and nonsense scales and unfunctionable detailings
that could have come from no other culture. The rest are limited and
foursquare-bound by reality, but the Japanese brought an impossible charm to it
that has been contributed so much magic that might well have never been a part
This is an exceptional "coco" anyway, with its raked, multi-depthmensional
segments, but even more unusual is the purple tinfoil windows framing
(or "mullioning.") Very seldom seen.
7 1/2" by 4 3/4" by 9 1/2" high.
This is one of the most charming GREENSPOTS I have ever seen,
and the largest of this style. It's the porch and the balcony and the
most unusual triangular chimney! And the raked angle. And the full
red coco over the sand greenspot sand base. This is an oft repeated
combination among the greenspots and one of the most attractive. At 7 1/2"
by 4 3/4" by 6" high it's almost twice the size of it's smaller sister.
One of the finest examples of the Japanese raked perspective technique I have
seen. A further illusion of great size is also acheived with the narrow slit
windows. Showing it's age somewhat - a little dusty and browning out - it's
nonetheless structurally solid after 70 years. This big guy is 8 1/4" by 5 1/4"
by 5 3/4" high. A swell large coco!
(Aren't you jealous? I am!)
What can you say about this one? Fabulous? I'm dying? Yes!! The owner admits
that when it was aquired it was missing it's tree and that she put an antique
palm tree from an antique nativity on it and - VOILA! -we have
Christmas Beverly Hills! Technically it should have the usual
"luffah-on-a-stick" tree, but this fits so well with this particular piece I'm
not going to play the purist here. It works for me. She calls it her
It's a huge 9" by 5 1/2" by 7" high!
(tree not included.)
Where does Tucson find these things???
A marvelous large COCONUT - a classic in wonderful condition.
It's owner calls it a castle, but I think not. It's a really nice, big house...8
1/8" by 5 3/8" by 5 3/4", a somewhat unorthodox base size. Twin trees. Santa
figure. Large. You can't find these at Wal-Mart ...not even F.A.O.
Early 1930's ( as are all of the above.)
Two examples of the very charming medium sized porch and balcony houses. These
are most often found as GREENSPOTS, but do appear in several other
finishes, too, - including the scattered glass bead finish. The artistry and
detail of these is not found after The WAR.
Transitional PRINTIE: This is a very interesting piece, if not
spectacular. A "missing link." The PRINTIES are among the very
earliest forms of the village house in it's transition from the candy
box. I think I could very safely put this in the 1929-1931 period. For
one thing, few Printies are this big. Not many appear on box
bases, though it's not unknown. What's really "1930" about this is the rafia
fence. This is very early '30s, if not 1930 on the nose. If one studies the
Japanese houses, one finds that they use the same basic components in many combinations
and under many finishes for many years. I have found this same printie actually
"painted over" with stucco, and later the same die cut being used without the
lithography. You also find combinations of style between loggies and
haciendas and just about every style that came along. The Japanese were
whizzes at using up old stocks - wasting nothing. Thus, you will find almost
unclassifiable pieces that seem like species that have interbred - real "mongrels!"
The reason can only be economics and intelligence. If you could buy this thing
for a dime at Woolworth's, just imagine what they had to be able to make them
Note the gloss-top roof and solid wood chimney. There is mica on the roof, as
with many Early Period houses. It is curious that many people call all village
houses "mica," but mica was used very little by the Japanese - and only in the
Large GREENSPOT clock house, or tower.
Large GREENSPOT building with clock tower. This is one of three
houses with the "Merry Christmas Clock" window. It is the largest: 7 5/8"
by 4 3/4" By 9 1/4" high. The Building is full coconut in red over the
white sand greenspot base. The top view shows that the tower is removable
for shipping and storage purposes only, and is not a "surprise" box as in the
"Christmas Penitentiary" shown above. The tree is not original.
(Antoinette Stockenberg Collection)
page | house
of the month | 2000
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Note: This archive was set up at Ted's request in early 2012, and, except for critical updates and
announcements, will remain exactly as Ted left it in October, 2012.
The archive is kept online with the help of volunteers from: