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*
- 2007 -
"THE FAIR SET"
This whole set of spectacular "coconuts" went up on eBay last December. These are
the choicest types that collectors covet most, and we have found the individual
pieces here and there, but now we know the set they came from. They are
medium large: - 6 5/8" wide by 3 3/4" deep bases. It's in this series
that we find the spectacular double trees - offset to one
Take particular notice of the yellow house above. Antoinette was
delighted to obtain this fine specimen from that auction of the
"Tenth Avenue Angel" house,
from the 1948 Margaret O'brien movie of that title. There was an intense
controversy over this one last year. Check out the background on it here:
This is the bottom price sticker from the "Tenth Avenue" house. Since the style of
thesedates them to 1933-34, and the set was coming from Chicago, there was initially
some thoughtit might have come from the Chicago World's Fair of those years, but that's
very doubtful. Antoinette grew up in Chicago and remembers a grand downtown department
store named "The Fair" that she loved as a child. World fairs are summertime things and
besides - everything sold at them would have been stamped with a souvenier logo... just
to prove you were there.
It does show me one thing, though -those printed roll-stickers were not just a postwar
phenomenon. The price for the 8 would have come to $3.92 - a lot for
1933 when you consider small apartments rented for $4 a week and many had trouble coming
up with that much in The Depression. It also shows that the better houses were found in
the big department and dimestores, rather than the mail order catalogs, as I had long suspected.
"The Fair" department store was one of my favorite downtown
stores growing up. My uncle's sister worked in their makeup
department, and she was the most glamorous thing I'd ever seen:
impeccably made up herself (I guess she would have to be) and very
chic in black. I used to kind of sneak up to her counter and peek
at her, astonished that there could be a woman like that in my family,
so very opposite my own warm and outgoing but utterly unglamorous
mother. The Fair was eventually taken over (and their beautiful
marquee taken down) by Montgomery Ward.
By the way, The Fair Department Store was on State Street,
that great street. God, how I miss downtown Chicago! My house
was a ten-minute hop by El, and I blitzed every toy department, every
museum, took a course at the Art Institute -- and I was an
unchaperoned 10 year old. I just bummed around. I think back
on that and am amazed. What a different, structured, fearful
age this is!"
And here is the set box:
It's in remarkable condition, considering how flimsy these boxes were. The top
was missing, but there's never anything printed on them anyway. All we have is that
enigmatic item number label on one end. Going by the base sizes, it would be roughly
14"wide, 24" long and 4" deep.
It's a certainty that even larger sets existed, because we find the houses on 7 1/2
and even 9-inch wide bases - but this one will certainly do for now!
Sadly, this set - which had remained together for fully three quarters of a century,
and which may well have been the one survival of it's kind - did not remain intact. The
seller insensitively broke it up and sold it piecemeal. Collectors dived on it,of course,
but none could keep it whole. To collectors this kind of "set-busting" is all too
familiar and is to a small degree like the breaking up of families in the old slave trade.
At least we have the pictures, thanks to Antoinette, but to the seller - shame upon you!
You have done a bad and irreparable thing. And a stupid one! Judging by past whole
boxed sets we've seen sold on eBay (and none as fine as this) you would have realized
three or four times as much as you got for the separated pieces.
Tom picked up this spectacularly clean and complete church recently at a real bargain.
It's nice on its own, but more than that it's one of three known variations with the
so-called "moorish gables," or rounded roofs. First seen on HOUSE OF THE MONTH 2000 -
"Well, this turned out better than I had hoped. The coconut on the church is absolutely
pristine and generally in like new condition. The only evidence of age is fading in the
cellophane windows (but complete and unbroken.) And the price of $28 is almost the
best part of it. I haven't been this excited about a house in a long time. The
photographs just can't do it justice. Besides which I just LOVE the Moorish influence
on the front of the building. The color scheme couldn't be more right and the Moorish
element is carried over to the end part of the church with the roof line as well as the
little half round window. Even the tree has pretty fair color to it. The ONLY things
awry were the tree was loose and the steeple cross had been shoved down to far slightly
rupturing the very tip of the steeple, and a slight tear in the hole in the back. All
put right in a matter of a few minutes with a touch of glue. Enjoy the three pictures.
I wish you could see it in person." Tom Hull.
Here is the Sept., 2000 house for convenient comparison:
The more I look the more I think they are the same house. Either the Sept.,2000
house was missing the steeple peak, or they came both ways. Either way, it's a worthwhile
"I disagree that the 2000 HOM is the same as my church but indeed a variation
to get the most mileage from a single design. For one thing my church has no balcony.
Secondly the fence entrance is off center with a clear path to the tower windoor and
Kathi's is more centered. Most importantly the wide space between the front windows
begs to have it filled up. The base is 6 3/4" X 4 3/8" . The height to the top of the
roof (including base depth,) is 4 3/4". Perhaps Kathi can confirm these figures." - Tom
Well, we all agree that the Feb. HOM (and Kathi's version
posted on an earlier HOM) is an outstanding piece.
I'm going to muddy the waters with more information. I won a
version of this house recently that shares elements with both
Tom's AND Kathi's. The fence on mine is identical to Tom's. The
path leads to the tower, which has orange windows -- like Tom's.
The rest of the mullioned windows are pale green -- like Kathi's.
There is no steeple on mine, and the top of the tower is solid
red coco -- like Kathi's. The windows of the main body are spaced farther
apart -- like Kathi's. There is no corrugated trim around the base of
the house -- like Tom's.
My opinion? The placement of the windows can be sloppy,
depending on who was punching them out. The balcony on Kathi's
house may have been added, though she doesn't remember for sure.
And paper mullioned windows seem to come in a variety of colors,
including the combination of colors on mine.
Whatever the case, it's a thrill to own this piece and you can decide for yourself.
Add a tower peak to mine, and it's Tom's church! Frankly, I think I'll
display it either way, depending. (I have towers I can share.)"
Tom scored a third type of Japanese cardboard castle
last December. Previously, only two other types were known to me. (See the first entry,
"House of the Month, -2000) I'm jealous! This is the best of them all.
Dec.15,'06:-"I just got this in today and am so thrilled with it. It is INDEED genuine
and old. It has an oval import stamp on the base and other than a few pieces missing (all very
replaceable and in progress as of this writing.) Kathi THANK YOU so much for
encouraging me to bid on it as it is a delightful addition to the putz. It is of
course unlit, as are all of these toy castles, but it should be! This was purchased
with a couple of other little houses and from the odor of them apparently stored for
many years in the same musty basement. It reminds me of my grandmothers distinctively
MUSTY basement. Enjoy the pictures." - Tom
"CLOSE UPS!SENTRY BOX AND ENTRANCE - THE DRAWBRIDGE AND FENCE." - Tom
Just look at this thing! All those fascinating microsms - nooks and crannies.
a thing to inspire a kid's imagination!
Had I walked into the old Ben Franklin's and
seen this, I'd have run straight home
and broke the piggy-bank to get it.
Progress well underway, here, as Tom replaces missing cardboard parts.
A blue rubber band holds the tower peak in shape while the glue dries.
And here they are.
8 3/4" X 6 1/2"
to top of steeple (not
including the flag) is 9"
to top of building is 7"
And here is the final outcome with pennant added to the high tower, - and a curious "dragon"
that seems to come around just once a year.
Here are the other two castles from April 2K for comparison. I am still on the fence as to
whether these were meant for Christmas. No lighting. No snow. I am still waiting for a toy
collector to come forth with a picture of one of these surrounded by composition knights and
horses as the center piece
of a medieval playset.
Tom's Blue Loggie
Can you believe it? There are actually some people out there
who don't like "Loggies," - but I'm not one of them! So, for April - this exquiste prewar
example from the Tom Hull Collection. Tom lives on a farm near a tiny town in north central
Kansas, and by how it's quite probable that Tom's Christmas Town is considerably larger
The outstanding quality of the brickwork detail of this chimney and the hand-painted color
accents all over the building rival anything I've ever seen before. Imagine putting this on
yourself, and you begin to get an appreciation of the amount of time that went into the
creation of the piece.
Tom says that the brickwork is actually raised as if by some sort of silkscreen process. That
is something he's seen only once before on a small piece. I have never seen it at all!
This is a postwar of almost identical houseplan. It does show some hand-painting, but nothing
to compare with the 1930s version. I kind of hate the angry, almost Halloweeny, color scheme.
Not bad for a postwar loggie, (which i usually don't care for)though.
Side-by-side comparison of the "doghouse" end of the two pieces. Just about the same, though
Tom says the postwar is about 1/2" larger in a couple of dimensions. The inset porch and post
are different, too.
The month of April marks the anniversary of "Papa Ted's Place,
herewith entering our 8th year! So, I thought I'd throw in this little "extra." It's an odd piece
that I've had around for years. Kinda faded and shabby. Sorry! It would have been much brighter
in it's day.
Though found in with Christmas houses, I'm sure this was an Easter thing. It may even have
been the top of a candy-box for Easter, as the base is open underneath - 3 3/4" by 2 7/8" by
4 1/2" high. It's definitely Japanese -with luffah, rafia, spots and lighthole? - looks like
late 1920s printie style to me, but could be much earlier. Those chenille
"peeps" would have been a dazzling canary yellow.It might even have been adorable in it's day....
Remember the little chenille ducks and chickens with the wire feet? They were so pretty! Banty
roosters and everything! Nothing even close to them today.....
I found two of these little hinged boxes full of colorful chenille pheasants in a surplus
place over 30 years ago. They have paper-wrapped wire feet and everything just the same as
the Easter "fuzzy chicks" I loved so much as a kid. I paid $3 a box. One i gave to my then
10-year old daughter who took them out of the box and put them on Christmas wreaths and so on.
and those are gone, of course. But this box I kept carefully in a bureau drawer for all
these years in the dark, and so they've faded not at all. These were made in Hong Kong, but
are every bit as brilliant as the Easter birds I so well remember. I wanted you to see ...
This house came up for auction on eBay last Feb., and went for $230 final bid. .. a steal
in the opinion of many of us for a piece of this size and character. Thanks to Dianne Gray
for sending in these shots. She won the item, but not caring for the color pink,
especially at Christmas (I agree,) - sold it to Leslie Jordan of Colorado, where it
It's quite a large house,- 9"w. X 5 1/2"d. X 6 3/4"h.- and almost seems
postwar in it's lighter coloration and corrugated roof. However, the fence, olive-
colored base and coconut trim are pretty conclusive in dating it to around 1932-'33.
I love the double bays, the full-width second-story veranda and the sweeping front
entry stairs. You don't get those kinds of features post-War. The half-moon
perforations of the fence are new to me, and the overall condition remarkable!
The flock-mullioned windows are completely intact. Amazing!
- Thank you, Dianne!
Big Chimney House
Antoinette has provided this lovely medium-large coconut in soft green June colors for us.
A main feature here is that enormous chimnney in proportion to the rest. Those folks
must be able to roast an ox in that fireplace ..
The complex features of the body are fetching, too.
Here's a front-on shot as well as a shot from the right of
The Chimney House. It has lots of elements I like: multiple
gables and pediments, pleasing colors, the wonderful little
"drape" behind the entry door, and of course that grand chimney.
It was missing its figure, but I matched up the outline of the
remaining footprints with a girl-with-doll figure I had. She
seems very much at home here.
The dimensions are: 7 1/2" wide x 5" deep x 5 1/8" high (to
top of chimney)
A good match for the soft and green month of June ...."
Haciendas Do It Again!
I think we'll never see the final wierdness from the Hacienda Family, but
this one is especially so, and especially appropriate for July!
A SWIMMING POOL, yet!
At least that's what it appears to be. Or a fish pond. Did they have any Japanese Southern
Baptists? A baptismal, perhaps? Your guess is as good as mine, but leave it to Tom Hull
to turn up one as strange as this! It's not very large - I'll let Tom describe it:
"The base is 5 ?" X 3" and stands a scoche under 4". However the house part is
only 2" across and 1 inch deep". Kathi was the first to tell me that this was a pool,
insisted really. She cited the "Cabana" wall and the fact that in her area the first
pools were raised and often had a cabana wall. Hard to disagree with that. Neat
little piece and I suspect the very late thirties as the cellophane door is original
as is the window. The tree is a replacement but it follows the same "footprint"
(tiny) of whatever was there so I made in like those tall trees you see in California
- evergreens but in the general outline of a poplar.(Cedars of Lebanon, I believe.)
Don't know whether any of this is pertinent and I like what you wrote. Though
Kathi might appreciate seeing her input in print."
- and Kathi!
Here's an interesting 2nd period candy box submitted by Barbara Healy who
couldn't figure out, at first, why someone would cut a light hole in the bottom of a
house that had no illuminated windows.
We finally determined that someone had glued down a candy box to it's base
"The house measures 6" x 3 5/8" x 5 1/2" to top of chimney. As we discussed previously,
there is no hole in the back for a light, no door opening and no windows, leading you
to believe it is a candy box. 25 cents is clearly penciled on the bottom, as well as
the Made in Japan stamp. Someone cut a hole in the bottom and you can see up to
another base, presumably the compartment box. It has a wonderful Santa in a fuzzy
outfit and a cotton beard, some kind of composition face. Five small loofa shrubs
in the yard." -Barb
Not a huge. spectacular piece but very unusual I think. I may have to ammend this to
3rd Period because it's coconut. I've only ever seen these in the sandy
sort of stucco found on the Glossy-Tops. Very late in the candy box era, I would
I'm embarrased. We're looking at two sets of pictures, here.
The newer darker-looking photos came recently from Antoinette. The lighter ones were
sent to me months ago, and I have lost the e-mail and the name.(Please get in touch?)
Two specimens of the same red gambrel house, yet different just in the way hand-made
things will always be different - like snowflakes - one to the next.
The "balconey" on Antoinette's is very pronounced and crooked.
The "balconey" on the other house is hardly visible - more like a trim detail - and tilts the other
I have shown this house before as the different-colored twin to the March 2004 HOM, but
several folks have wanted a closer look. Antoinette wanted especially to capture the
look of truly pristine "coconut."
"Ted, here are four photos of the red gambrel house that I took in
natural light so that folks can see just how fuzzy a "full" coconut is.
This house packs a lot of architectural detail into a fairly small size:
6 13/16w x 4 7/8h x 4 1/8d. It's in original, excellent shape, but
what I like most about it is its loopy, haphazard charm. Look at
that crooked little "balcony" on the second floor! True hand-crafting;
not a computer in sight. One of my favorites.
This time, it's really twins! Identicals - but different as twins always are.
Kathi, who is an architect and really notices special structural things would like to
add the following:
"There are two special things about the Sept 2007 HOM that haven't been
mentioned. The first is the gambrel roof form in THREE LOCATIONS - the main house,
the perpendicular left side roof over the prominent front wing, AND the dormer window.
This house is unique with that treatment.
The second special thing is the bracket support on the extended roof area that forms
the front porch. In none of these photos do you see the side entrance front door very
well, but above that door is a flatter roof that is an extension of the gambrel roof.
Supporting this roof is a "bracket" that is ALMOST unique to this house. This bracket
is seen in perhaps a half dozen houses. It is a rare detail.
I think it is worth noting these things in your HOM description. One of the March
2004 HOM photos highlights the side front door and bracket very well. You might want to install a button on this HOM to get directly to the March 2004 HOM.
I call this red house the "Grandma" house, because I inherited mine from my Grandma. I actually got four wonderful houses from her, but this one was always my favorite. I call the March 2004 house my "Grandpa" house, because it is the identical house, but with gable rather than gambrel roof shapes, green instead of red, and it is, as you point out in your text, the mirror image of this red house.
Also, both of these full-coco houses are very early in the thirties because the
chimney is so much higher than the roof ridge. In later houses, the chimney was
shortened for easier boxing and shipping.
The original four photos you received are not my house. Mine has an original snowman
in front instead of the Santa. In fact, I have had three versions of this house, and
all had a snowman, not the Santa, and he was placed in slightly different locations.
Also, all three of my versions of this house have a TINY bottle brush tree, wider than
it is tall, perhaps 1 3/4" high and 2" wide, instead of the loofa tree. The tree locations
vary slightly in my versions of this house, along with the snowmen locations.
It's not possible to install a button that will take you to a specific house in any of the
HOMs, Kathi - just to the year. But thanks for the added details. It's odd about the snowmen
versus the Santas. Have the Santa people found evidence of disturbances around the feet that
might indicate replacement? - PT
The "older" house is considerably less shaggy. It's in very good shape so i can't tell for sure
whether it's age and wear or just that the "coconut sprinkler"-
(Imagine having that
on your resume')
-was feeling less generous that day.
- And finally a shot of the back of the "older" house with it's perfectly intact
back hatch. Antoinette's had one. She says the hardware is still there, but the cardboard disc is long
gone. That places this model pretty early - maybe 1933-34, but no later because they
stopped using these about that time. By 1935, the Haciendas have pretty
much taken over and the Great Age of the Coconuts is in its twilight.
Mickey and Mortimer
First let me apologize for being SO late with this incredibly special
item from the Tom Hull collection.
I've been beset by a host of car and house issues as winter looms and the weather has held, but here we are at last.
Tom paid a pretty penny for this one, but it's absolutely worth it - absolutely unique,
and as you can see - he was up against those fanatic Disneyana collectors to win this
prize - and just in time for Halloween!
Not only have we got the absolute VINTAGE Depression Era cartoon style figures, but rich
Autumn/ Halloween colors. And the vertical elevation of the house is exaggerated beyond
the usual Japanese houses. A very "cartoonish" touch.
I just wanted you to just drink in these exceptional figures with the use of
Perfect for way the earliest Mickey was drawn in the cartoons. This is "SteamBoat
Willie" for sure.
And don'tcha just LOVE that cockeyed lamp post?
Here's a closeup on Mickey's nephew Mortimer in his perennial blue
Dentons." He's holding something. What? A stolen chunk of cheese, no doubt. "Mortimer
Mouse" was first introduced to the world in 1932, so that's a valuable thing to
know in dating this very special piece.
A close-up left-end view of the structure and windows.
Now a top view oblique: We're already speculating on what is missing from the chimney capital.
It hasn't got the footprint of any figures that we know. My own guess is it might have been a pair
of square wooden posts to simulate those terracotta chimney pipes, but until a complete
specimen is found (don't hold your breath ...) that subject will remain open.
This also gives a view on the unique tray-style base. I know of no other other examples of this
in Japanese cardboard houses. It's pretty big, too! - 8 1/4" X 5 1/4" X 5" tall.
Just for the record - views of the back and decidedly preWar marker.
We can only wonder where this comes from (in the philosphical sense.) Of course,
Japan, but the larger question is: was it part of a series? Are there others of its
ilk? Could this be the only one? A special vendor's request? There was no Disneyland then,
of course, so who ordered it and why? Is it even a Christmas house? Probably. The "Cotton-Topper" snow batting on
the roof, the little snow accents here and there. Sure. Figural comic- strip character light
bulbs and ornaments abounded at the time.
Whatever the truth of it - I am truly proud to be able to show something so unique on the website.
All thanks to Tom for realizing the value of this piece and obtaining it for all of us
More Mickey -
- and Minnie!
Sure enough! It's what I call the "Ice-Breaker Syndrome." You've never
heard a word before. Never seen a thing before - and then all at once you do. And
suddenly, you're hearing and seeing it everywhere. And so it happens that shortly after
last month's HOM, two more Mickey/Disney houses came up on eBay.
It's certain, now, that there was a whole set of these, and my guess is there
were eight, all had "tray" bases, and it's obvious that not all of them were
"loggies." I definitely can't accept those church-steeple peaks as
orginal, however. You often get houses with parts "borrowed" from others. I'm sure
that is the case, here. They just don't fit the style and textures - and should at
the very least have cotton batting to match the roofs - and these certainly aren't
It's the same Mortimer and cock-eyed lamp post of the October HOM, but this
house is a very ragged stucco - and we have Minnie!
Closer on the figures: No mistaking those big, clunky yellow shoes and what
passes for a skirt. Scandalously short for Thirties when hemlines were almost to the
ankle - could we then call this a (groan) Minnie skirt? Actually,I
didn't recognize that it was Minnie until site-fans alerted me, the figures being so
similar. Except for these clothing details, it could be Mickey in drag. I am to be
forgiven. At the age when I was into Mickey Mouse, all I knew about distinguishing
girls from boys was that girls wore dresses and and had long hair. Minnie hasn't got
long hair, and that skirt is no longer than Mickey's shorts and is the same color
(except her panties are showing.) Pluswhich - I'm old. I didn't see that.
Check out that barren winter tree behind her. I've never seen that on any other
PLUTO! A bit out of scale, eh? But the 1930's Pluto absolutely. And a
chocolate-brown loggie they call home. Have we now seen all of the figures of this series
or are there more? Perhaps a Donald and a Huey, Dewey, and Louie
out there, somewhere, or was this issue just a bit too early?
A close up on them, here ..Pluto big as a lion!
A fourth Mickey house has been turned up - this shot provided by Pete Oehmen from his
extensive Disney collection. It's smaller than the others ( I haven't got the exact dimensions)
and has but one figure, but there's no doubt it belongs to this group. Significant here is the chimney top showing an intact chimney pipe.
It's a pretty sure bet that the chinmeys of the rest were originally this way.
Mickey Mouse ruled the Thirties.
It's been said he was the first true international film star, an immediate sensation -
instantly understood and embraced by every culture on the planet that could show movies - with
faithful Pluto ever at his side.
"Coralene" refers to the little colored glass beads sprinkled sparsely on the walls,
"coralene" according to Webster meaning "coral-like." This is more often seen on the later "Greenspots," - and with this base
is a very early example for this charming effect...
... like candy "sprinkles."
The fence and base-style date it as early in this full-shot.
Viewed from a higher angle to savor the roof and chimney. Marvelous condition!
In Antoinette's own words:
I was amazed to find coralene beads on this house when I unwrapped it.
Back in August '02, you wrote that the beaded houses had only ever
been found in medium and medium-small sizes. Well, this house
is 7 1/2" wide by 5" deep by 6" tall!
The colorful combination of yellow, blue and red coconut
perfectly sets off the white sand finish with its scattered beads.
The chimney is shorter than the roof ridge -- unusual -- and has a
coco-finished inside cap about 1/8" lower than its top, also unusual.
You can't tell, but the small upper window is mullioned with silver flocking,
while the lower large cathedral windows are flocked in the traditional
After studying the base (paint, snow, fence and the square, capped fenceposts),
I find that the only other house bases on your site that match this design
are on the High School (April '05 HOM) and the Flatiron Building (Dec.
'05 HOM). Could this house have been part of that series? It sure has the
heft for it.)
The door in the portico of the main building is matched by a smaller
version in the little attached building. I'm calling this charming
combination of structures "The Counting House," because we have
setups like this in Newport in which the main residence will feature an
attached, smaller house, long ago used by some sea captain for tallying his
accounts after a voyage.
These photos were taken after I'd arranged my Christmas village on the main
mantel this year. The last photo shows the house at night (and also serves as
Coming Attractions for both mantel putzes, which should be up on my
website in the next few days). I had even more fun this year than last -- and
that's saying something.
As a little Christmas treat - "The Coralene" viewed in one of Antoinette's
Well, that's about it for 2007. My prayers are with you all for the best in 2008!
"God bless us, every one ...."
page | house
of the month | 2000
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