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.

Snowy Christmas Scene animation Snowy Christmas Scene animation

*House of the Month*
- 2008 -

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Robby Lucke scored this one on ebay last December, and it's a big one in the original box again showing that these big ones came individually packaged and not in sets. It's 9" wide.
Antique Christmas Village Putz House

The frontal close-up. Antique Christmas Village Putz House

Backing off a little to show the box.

Antique Christmas Village Putz House
Here's a close-up on the front bay and the flag. Robby says not to take that 13-states flag seriously. The original flagpole is broken and it's doubtful the Japanese would ever have used the "Betsy Ross" Original Colonies version of Old Glory.

Antique Christmas Village Putz House

Out of the box, here. The hand holding it gives some idea of the size.

Antique Christmas Village Putz Houses Antique Christmas Village Putz Housess

Antique Dolly Toy Co. Christmas Village Putz House Antique Christmas Village Putz House

The ends and other aspects.

Antique Christmas Village Putz Houses

Flag or no flag,a remarkably fine-condition piece with the mullioned windows totally intact. Congratulations, Robby in Montana!
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"Huge Medieval Cathedral"

This thing is enormous!
Antique Christmas Village Putz Cathedral Antique Christmas Village Putz Cathedral

In the somber rough-textured gray associated with the medieval castles, and appropriate to the mood of February, this one stands fully 18" high. Not sure of other dimesions, because these are pictures from eBay and are all I have on it at the moment.
Antique Christmas Village Putz Castle

The base is missing, and until a complete one shows up we'll just be speculating as to what it was. Note how many pieces it breaks down into to be fit into a reasonably sized box. For a dimestore notion, there's a lot engineering here.

Antique Christmas Village Putz castle

Rear view shows some minor damage, but it also shows that this was a house to be illuminated and not a candy box.
All in all, an amazing large and detailed piece.

Another has been found -

This one turned up on eBay, October, 2008 in the original box. There is no base. Apparently, things this size came without them so they could be packaged. So now, we know!
Antique Christmas Village Putz House Box Lable
Sorry about the focus. She got the light right after many tries, but as you can see -

"It was difficult to get a clear picture of the label, but I tried. Here is a description, the label is yellow with "CONTENTS" printed at the top. The numbers "316/414" are on the next line and below the numbers is "AY-WON TOY AND NOVELTY CORPORATION NEW YORK". To the left of all this verbiage is an oval with a 1 in the background and a capital "A" on top of the one and with the legs of the "A" extending outside the oval and the word "TOYS" under the number 1, but still within the oval. The word "Trade" is under "TOYS", along with a second word, but it does not look like "Name", not sure what it is." (Probably "Mark," as in "trademark" -PT) "Outside the borders of the label are the words "MADE IN JAPAN"." ( Above description written by the owner of this piece.)

"Ay-Won Toy and Novelty -etc." Hmmm -
If you think about it, "Ay-Won" would be pronounced like our "A-1" and, indeed, the trademark logo bears this out. So, this company name has been chosen to ring positive with American values, and yet communicate that they are dealing in "A-1" quality Asian goods. It's just so corny it could also be a caucasian firm making clear that they are importing Asian goods and of what kind. So cryptic! But, anyway, it's something, however small, in our unrequited quest to unearth the source of these Christmas houses. It's got to be the same outfit. The windows are the same. The construction style is the same. The "Padre" on the steps the same as on the other Japanese houses. At least we can get a fair idea of that logo which is one I've never seen before. Perhaps records of this company could still be found in New York.
Perhaps they even still exist!
Antique Christmas Village Putz House

I rest my case.

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"The Bald Padre"

Antique Christmas Village Putz House
Here's a new figure...the Bald Padre. He's quite detailed - Hand painted with sliver cross and beard. Much more so than the standard "Padre" with black hood, which was fairtly common in the 1930s and appeared again briefly around 1955. This one seems to occur only on one type of church, and one other building which is the same "church" without the steeple, both from same mid-'50s ressurgence I have called "The Last Hurrah." (See the POSTWAR scetion.)
Antique Christmas Village Putz House
This is the church, one of that group I call the "COTTON-TOPPERS." As with many of this group, it's quite large, standing 18" with the steeple.
Antique Christmas Village Putz House Antique Christmas Village Putz House

Antique Christmas Village Putz House Antique Christmas Village Putz House

Two copies of this building that never had a steeple, but is basically "churchy" looking.

Antique Christmas Village Putz House
A grouping of "COTTON-TOPPERS" ca. 1955 showing this church complete and one missing the steeple. You can see that the two above were made as they are, because there is no base and cornice for the steeple. Note, also, that the buildings that are different have Santas. The "Bald Padre" seems to have occured on one basic building structure only.

All-in-all a very fitting Lenten offering, I would think.

Thanks to Tom Hull for this most unique contribution.
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"Black Coconut"

As far as is yet known, there is only style of house that is black, and this is it - a medium base raked style with oversized porch that came in one of the commoner assortments of 8 sold widely around 1934-35. It is found in both rough black or dark charcoal stucco or actual BLACK COCONUT. Yes, Virgina - there is a black coconut. Not often seen, there are examples of black coconut chinmeys and other features, but this is the only one in which it covers the main body of the house itself. Tom Hull shows two variations, here, and I'll let him take over the telling from here on ...

"I just got in the house on the left today and bought it largely because I noticed it had a foil roof which I haven't noticed before on this not uncommon house. This house almost doesn't vary at all so I decided to get it, and right away I believe you can see some differences. I suspect this is the earliest of this design.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
The house on the left is basically all coconut with the exception of the chimney and porch which is the whitish gravel with some black specks in it, and of course the pink foil. It also has BLACK or at least dark gray coconut. Ted was right on this. All the rest of us had, had experience with is the one on the left with the black gravel and apparently more common.
Notice the difference in the expressions of the mouths of the snowmen. Also the location of the tree is behind the porch with a wire trunk unlike the one on the left which is a fairly large wood trunk (original with replacement loofha.)
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
A close up of the little frowning snowman. I have a theory about this - entirely fanciful and not based on much of anything. But the snowman is sad because he can't go into the house! Were you aware that the Japanese man did not drink in the home? He traditionally (even to this day) did all his drinking outside the house and have often wondered if the so-called "dog houses" weren't in fact little drinking places. I have seen the dog houses with a frowning snowman nearby and wondered if the ol' man were kicked out of the house for being a bit tipsy - all very symbolically of course.
In this example we see pink coconut around the edge of the base which is a departure from the more common type. No doubt carrying the pink foil of the roof into the base. And indeed, it is PINK but the photo is a bit off in color on the left. I believe all this makes a more interesting house.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
Notice the drool of gray paint on the foil. The background of the house on both types is this color of gray and is used on the back. This indicates to us that the roof was done before the sides of the house. Notice the warping on the entry way. It appears to have been wet when this was done during construction and I will NOT attempt to straighten it. Nor remove the paint drool. THIS IS THE WAY THIS ONE WAS FINISHED and we need to keep as many original references as possible on a house, even if unique, and this one is in generally great condition.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
This to show the different size window which is the only one that Ted and Kathi didn't reproduce. Since it is all there the ONLY restoration I will do on this house is to carefully back it with new cellophane. Notice the intensity of the red color after all these years!
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
This photo to show the original "French" door. Also with this photo toned down you can see how splotchy the snowman is. I have NO idea why unless it has a bit of gray paint on it - perhaps the old boy HAD been on a "tear." Ha!" - Tom
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This thing appeared last December on eBay and was bought by one of our crowd. It's really a tough one to pin down and quite interesting because it's a combination of absolutely EVERYTHING!
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
Here we have a LOGGIE with a HACIENDA front portico wall and roof-peak cornice on a Mickey Mouse-style TRAY BASE with a COTTON-TOPPER ROOF and a seeming pre-war hunch-back SANTA out in front with a post-war LUFFA TREE.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
My initial guess was a mid-Fifties Cotton-Topper, but now I think it's from the same year as the Mickey Mouse series. - the tray-base, the cotton roof very rare for the '30s - the HACIENDA features.... and just the general "feel" of it. Mid 1930s. Diane says the windows are all 100% original. I can't believe the condition. Amazing!
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"Exquisite Candy Box"

We're going to be seeing more of the "candy boxes" from now on. They are the immediate ancestors of the houses, afterall. Kathi sent in these photos from her collection. It looks big because of all the details, but it's really a tiny little thing - just packed with charming features ...
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
"Hi Ted,
Here is a candidate for June HOM
This is a small candy box house with a tiny box container in the bottom. The container bottom is where the "Made in Japan" is stamped.Overall size of the house is 4 11/16" wide x 3 5/16" deep x3 3/4" high. The tiny cotton Santa is only 1 3/4" high and is loose, not glued to the side of the house like we see in slightly later candy box houses. Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
The UNUSUAL aspects include the half-round pediment roof on the porch instead of the gable shape; non-aligned porch posts, which means each porch was made separately; unusually deep porch, which aligns with the perimeter fence; double layer of single-ply porch steps; EIGHT stick-on window /door elements; TINY punched openings in the balcony Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
This house has the elements of the very early candy box houses -- stick-on windows and door; tall fence when compared to overall height; deeply pointed fence tops; cotton-top snowed roof; twisted-wire-non-tapered bottle-brush tree; single ply base. Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
Plus it has early versions of elements we see in later candy box houses and the later putz houses -- porch and posts; half-circle steps at the door (in this case the half-circle is actually elongated slightly.)
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
And I add this for Tom -- the "MADE IN" is in smaller letters than the "JAPAN" and the "MADE IN" is stacked above the "JAPAN." Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
I love the diminutive size but interesting "complexity" in this house's detailing compared to the simplified later houses. Also, no "brick litho" paper on this one which is so often seen on the candy box houses.
The sunny yellow color is also rare, and perfect, I think, for June HOM."
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"Firecracker" Candy Box

Kathi sent this in for the "Fourth" because the cylindrical shape sort of reminded her of a firework, and it does have a definite "sky-rockety" look with that pointed peak. Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House

"Hi Ted, I don't know if you have a July HOM picked out yet or not, but I would submit this "2-stage bottle rocket firecracker" of a candy box house for your consideration. This is a tower style candy box house, and one of the tallest I own. It is 11 1/4" high and 3 5/8" wide at its widest point. It has the typical snow covered roof with the fine coat of mica finish. It has two colors of the "brick litho paper", the bottom section being almost black-brown, and the top section being red. The top section is round. The base section is a hexagon.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
The base wainscot detail is corrugated cardboard 1" high, which is unusually tall and probably early. Although the base looks like it might have a "coconut" finish on it, it is instead kind of two-toned "spatter" painted with a sand texture and mica finish.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
The balcony is sand finish with larger 5/16"+ holes in the railing. The white sand finish also has the fine coat of mica on it. The cotton Santa is glued in place. The doors are the tall ones, stick-on, that you usually see on the larger early houses. The doors are 1 3/4"+ high I would guess the year to be 1927 or 1928, but I would defer to a period catalog to be sure.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
There is NO stamp on the bottom or anywhere else, yet I am sure it is all original. Maybe the original box carried the "Made in Japan" stamp. This is without a doubt made in Japan. The tree has suffered through the years and was originally the twisted wire "paper chenille" bottle brush type tree, but almost all the paper has broken off. I hope this darling and treasured "Firecracker house" sparks some interest from your fans out there. I too love the "cocos" but these whimsical candy box houses have a quality all to themselves." --Kathi"
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Pink Church Candy Box

This handsome pre-1928 candy boy was submitted by Barb Healy.
Vestiges of a chenille Santa still cling to one end - or is that supposed to be some sort of a tree?

Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House

"Hi Ted, here are the dimensions: 6.5" high at steeple, 3.5" high at the roof of the main house, and the base is 5.5" wide by 2.25" deep. This was gotten on-line in a collection of about 8 houses, including several other candy boxes.

Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House

Although we didn't go after the lot for this particular house, it quickly became a favorite once seen in person. I especially love the steps and the detail above the door."

Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House

Probably a 5-cent "notion" in it's day - now a priceless relic of a richer Christmas we no longer have. What a darling custom!
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Very Rare "Compo"

Tom Hull recently acquired this very very unusual "COMPO." (Gypsum plaster mixed with fiber.) It's 6.5" wide, only 1.75" deep and 3.5" high.

Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
It's tough to figure just what this was meant to be. It reminds me of an old U.S. Cavalry fort barracks from a John Ford movie, being a log type construct. Perhaps it was part of a soldier set. Who can say? It doesn't ring too much of Christmas. Those windows are obviously home made. One characteristic of COMPO windows is that they had a strong tendency to fall out, and it's kind of rare to find one with all its original windows. They were clear cellophane of various colors with paper frames - also of various colors -glued onto the outside.

Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
Here's the back - and there's the light hole ... just as for the Christmas train layout styles.
A very odd piece, indeed!

Several sitefans e-mailed me about the first picture and wondered why the trees were all leaning to the right. Well, I dunno - except Tom's in Kansas, and they're mostly Republicans out there ...
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Big BIG house!

This true anomaly showed up on eBay a little while back. I don't know who among us actually acquired it, but whomever did has a singular rarity on their hands.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
Described as being 10 1/2 inches wide, that puts it near the elusive "Giants" class. I can't say if that "garage door" is original, but it seems to have aged the same as the rest of it. The two remaining paper mullioned windows seem original, and definitely Japanese and of a type we've often seen before.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House

The Chimney is long gone and the cotton-topper snow quite dirty, but it seems quite sound in other respects.

Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
I had thought that perhaps it was one of the elusive "Giants" with the base cut down, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The textured finish of the truly bizarre rhomboidal flat-card base covers the edges and the rubber stamp is clearly there. It "takes the cake" as the largest Japanese "flat-card" I've ever seen. This is usually the hallmark of the very smallest ones.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
A look at the back, just for the record. The bricks in the background wall make a good reference as to just how big this thing really is.

Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
It obviously had porch-pillars at one time. The round type.

Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
The earthy, autumnal colors and the fact that this is so bizarre as to be
a little "spooky" seemed to make it just the perfect
Halloween piece for October.
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Barb's Big "C.B." Bonanza!!

Barbara Healy scored this entire little collection of candy boxes in one ebay lot, recently, and I chose to do them all at once because it's a terrific way to clarify the distinction between the two families of the candy-boxes: the pre-1930s Pre-Village House CB's and the later Box-Based CB's of the early Thirties.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House Typical of the PVH-CB's, this "chicken tower" has no base. A little box fits inside the foundation where a candy or small gift could be sequestered. These seem to have been quite popular for quite some time, making an "Easter Egg Hunt" of it for kids and adults alike, and wouldn't that be fun? This one may well have been for Easter with the chenille peep adorning it. Although most often found in a Christmas theme, it's also known that people used these for a number of purposes and other holiday occasions as well, adorning not only trees and mantels, but also cakes and baskets and on elborate present wrappings.

This one is 1.5" X 1.5" at the base, and is 6.5" high.

Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
This, now, is the one example of the later "BB-CBs," the box-base type resembling the illuminated Christmas Village types that came with this eBay auction, but it demonstrates the distinction perfectly. There seems to have been a single year, perhaps two, in the early part of the '30s, when the illuminated, box-based village types had just emerged that these occurred. The same style houses can sometimes be found in both the candy-box and illuminated type. It's often that these are found with ragged holes cut in them so that lights could be installed, people having bought the wrong type by mistake.

This one is of average dimensions - 5 5/8" wide by 3 7/8" deep and 4 3/4" high.

Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
Here's a little darling, typical of the Christmas type, just 2.75" by 1.75" by 3.75" high.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House

Two other views of it. You can see how they work. It's amazing in what good condition the chenille Santa is. Most often they have oxidized and crumbled into dust over 80-90 years. The chenille figures are typical of the PVH-CBs. The based houses have hard composition
or bisque figures.

Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House

Now, this is different! It's not a house and it's German! But it's a candy box all the same, and proves the Germans had this idea as well. I would even guess they had it first, and this invention goes WAY back with them. The bird and stump are plaster, formed over the round cardboard box form. It is 2" by 1.5" by 3 1/8" high. Isn't it just so nice and clean, considering the age?

Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
And, finally, just a nice little white PVH-CB. I love that double roof! And another astounding fine chenille Santa! My, oh my! Barb isn't sure whether the chimney was meant to come off and neither am I. It probably wasn't. I see no purpose in that. But overall, it's just in great clean shape as are all these pieces. They must have been left forgotten in some dark, safe place for decades to be in such condition. I wouldn't try to glue it on, Barb. Just leave it as it is.
It's 2 1/4" by 2 7/8" by 4" high. A middling good-sized one.

Barb got another piece in with this lot, but it's a little different
and I am saving it for something later. Stand by!

In the meantime, thank you SO MUCH, Barb, for giving us this little
"Mystery Tour" of candy-boxes -
and CONGRATULATIONS on such a find! Wow!
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A Christmas Coconut
From Antoinette's Mantel

"Hey, Ted,
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
You haven't featured a good old-fashioned coconut lately, so I thought I'd send on this lovely Tudor style cottage in its very unusual rust color. It's a good-sized one:
7 1/4" wide x 5 5/8" high x 4 1/2" deep.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
I love this house for a bunch of reasons: the asymmetric, steep roofline; the deep, curved pediment over the main entry; the second entry adjacent and perpendicular to the main one;
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
the way both doors feed onto the long porch with slotted balusters and steep side stairs. The raffia fence, still an unfaded green, is attached to a solid fence behind it -- fairly uncommon. The raked perspective is the final charming touch.
Antique Collectible Christmas Village Putz House
Just look at all the details in that close-up! Oh, don't you wish they still made 'em like this?"
- Antoinette

My own take on this is that if I had had this house under my tree as a kid, I'd have focused upon and speculated endlessly about that fascinating porch, those crazy double doors. It would not have occured to me that the design could have been impossible and wrong, that the residents would have had perennially bandaged heads from banging into that roof pediment or had to stoop double to get in and out. Perhaps dwarfs or midget elves lived there - or the house was extraordinarily huge. I would have day-dreamed about it in those long afternoons at school, then rushed home to closely scrutinize it again and see if I could figure out what was so unapparent to me. No Christmas item under my tree could be wrong. The failure had to be in me
- a mystery that I could not yet see.
- PT
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A Christmas Extra!

The "Toad" House

Antique Collectible Christmas Village 
Putz House

This is rather a continuation of the November installment. Barb Healy had gotten one of these in with her candy-box bonanza, but it was incomplete - missing the smokestack. So, I dug mine out and sent her this picture so she could see what it should be.

I, myself, have come across two of these over the years. The first, like hers, was missing the 4" stack. It was a candy-box with no flat-card base. This one came along 20 years later. It has the flat-card base as you can see, and appears as if it should be a candy-box, but won't lift off the base. I've gone over it in bright light with a magnifying glass looking for tell-tale signs of gluing, but cannot see any evidence of this at all. It appears that these may have come in two variations.

I named it the "Toad House" because it was a rather drab and unprepossessing thing that reminded me of a toad! - first thing that popped into my mind.

I've always speculated on what it was supposed to represent, supposed to be. Then, driving up and down Route #28 on my way back and forth from Downtown Pittsburgh, I began to notice this odd old derelict building in the township of Sharpsburg, on the Allegheny River about 4 miles up from Downtown.
Old Power plant Old Power Plant

I believe it's an old coal-burning power plant of the type they used to generate power for the local township and sometimes to run the trollies. There used to be a lot of these before the trollies disappeared and we had the largescale electrical grids of today - in every town - and they made for a grimy daily life of ash and soot that everybody simply accepted and took for granted. For years I've had in mind to take some pictures, but there is just no place to pull over up on that stretch of #28. I apologize for the darkness. Down in the town where I found it, there is no good place to stand and take pictures, and the digital camera took the light value of the sky at the expense of the subject itself. It appears as if they are slowly tearing it down. A shame. It must have been magnificent in it's day - an Art Deco in glazed yellow brick and colored tile piece if there ever was one. The pride of Sharpsburg ca.1920. A very modern and futuristic thing. I've been told we had one exactly like it in Tarentum, but it's a parking lot beside the water plant, now.

Attesting to the ubiquity of the these little local power plants prior to WW II, Lionel reflected them in electric train accessories -
Old Power Plant Old Power Plant

This is the Lionel #436 "Power Plant." There was also a smaller #435 and the humongous #840. which was of about the same size and opulence as a great tin wedding cake. Catalogued all through the 1920s and '30s, they were actually transformer "cozies." They fit down over various of Lionel's old prewar "MultiVolt" transformers and concealed them. You lifted off the skylight to work the speed control. They thus actually became the power plant of your railroad! The gigantic #840 held two of the big Type "K"-s - one of which I still use to light up my current putz. The catalog picture is from the Lionel 1929.

So, i don't know. Maybe I'm strething it to equate the "Toad House" with these, but it works for me. With that big brick factory smokestack, it's hard think what else it could be.

Another "Toad House," complete with a fine robust chenille Santa can be seen on the third photo down on the lower left in the Carl and Emily Rice putz in PUTZES 2006.
Christmas Holly bar graphic

Well, that's about it for 2008. We got through it somehow. My prayers are with you all for the best in 2009. It's looking pretty scary, but times change and somehow we get through.
We'll do it, never fear.
"God bless us, every one ...."

Merry Christmas animation

......"Papa" Ted


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