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 -

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Vintage Christmas village house Vintage Christmas village house


This huge beauty is sister to the Dec.2K- found in the same place, have been together for 70 years! Who could separate them now?

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 peaks.

Vintage Christmas village house Vintage Christmas village house


Christmas Penitentiary?
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!


Vintage Christmas village houses boxed set MARCH,2001:

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 different then.

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.


Vintage Christmas village windmill houses

....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 of Christmas
Vintage Christmas village house Vintage Christmas village house


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.
Tucson collection.
Vintage Christmas village house

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.
Tucson again.
Vintage Christmas village house

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!
Tucson AGAIN!
(Aren't you jealous? I am!)

Vintage Christmas village putz house

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 "Hollywood Villa."
Vintage Christmas village putz house Vintage Christmas village putz house

It's a huge 9" by 5 1/2" by 7" high!
(tree not included.)

Holy cow!
Where does Tucson find these things???


Vintage Christmas village putz house


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. Schwartz.
Early 1930's ( as are all of the above.)

Vintage Christmas village putz house


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.
Vintage Christmas village putz house


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 for!
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 earliest years.


Vintage Christmas village putz house

br> Large GREENSPOT clock house, or tower.
Vintage Christmas village putz house Vintage Christmas village putz house

Large GREENSPOT building with clock tower. This is one of three known 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.
Ca. 1934-36.
(Antoinette Stockenberg Collection)


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Copyright 2000-2012 Theodore H. Althof,Jr.Except where noted, the contents of this website and all it's pages and submissions therein contained are the intellectual property of Theodore H.Althof,Jr. All rights are reserved. (Background musical selections are,of course, excepted.)

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:

Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site for Christmas music, stories, craft resources and much more.
Visit the OldChristmasTreeLights site for the history of Christmas tree lighting, including Bubble Lights and more.
Visit our collection of resources for collecting, restoring, and making your own cardboard Christmas houses.
Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions.
Check out  a very active, quality craft and collectibles blog (with local news of Croton NY).
Resources for making seasonal villages and model railroads for O, S, and On30 model railroading