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 2009 snow scene snowy scene
*House of the Month*
- 2009 -


Christmas holly bad graphic


of the

I know, I know - you "Coconut Snobs" will probably be disappointed, but here's the humble postwar Dolly Toy Co. set that eclipses them all. When Troy Walters sent me these pictures about a month ago, I knew they had to have a show.
Christmas village set box
It's the same old lovely Dutch-Delft blue and white box cover that Dolly used on every set for over 25 years. You knew that when you opened it you'd get 8 of the 10 or 12 same old Dolly house designs they stuck with forever. Sometimes you'd get duplicates. Ho-hum. It could be the plain white, the colored foil, some kind of sparkle texture. Whatever. But, if you're like Troy and me you'd never be expecting ...
Dolly Toy Co. Christmas village houses
Christmas putz houses
.... or THIS!
snow village putz houses
.... or THIS!
Christmas village mica houses
I've always said the best thing about the Dollies was their charming doors and windows. We had a plain white Wartime set under the tree when I was little, and those doors and windows are still Christmas to me. Just look at that cathedral roseate! Only the Dollies had that. This is the one area wherein the Japanese could not compare.
Putz village house set in box
Here they all are - nestled in their utter pristinity. I'll let Troy take it from here . ..

"I chatted with you a few years ago (fellow ebayer).
I am still collecting the putz houses. Anyway, I pulled a boxed set out of storage and it was a delight to see. I don't prefer this style but am happy to have a complete box set that is in MINT MINT condition.
It's made by Dolly Toy co. but is not the typical foil ones you see. It is heavily mica covering a very thick cardboard. My grandmother had one exactly like one of the houses (which I own today) but my mom does not recall a complete set when she was growing up.
Apparently, the set sold for $2.98 new as written in wax pencil. The set is remarkable, no broken windows and the 'gates' were not bent as many were when they were first brought home. Enclosed are a number of photos, they really don't do them justice, the mica sparkles and the white is 'hospital white'. Hope you enjoy the photos.
- Troy"

Yes, Troy. We certainly do!
Christmas holly graphic


Dolly Toy Co.
"Deluxe Snow Houses No. 250"

The last of the Dolly Toy Co. houses were the same old houses that had been the mainstay since WW II, but came on styrofoam bases starting around 1951 or '52 - about the time that styrofoam came on the market and set the craft-fanatics crazy. I had found a set of 8 on such bases in the same old blue and white "Snow Village" box they'd been using for every set for 20 years. The houses were covered in the same old colored tinfoil and a bit of sparkle as had so many on the old cardboard foundations. Christmas village boxed house

Then one Christmas my brother gave me this: an individually boxed house he'd found in an antique store. I had never seen a Dolly in its own box, nor one so heavily glittered before. I assumed that "No. 250" was just that model, and if other boxed Dollies were found they'd have different numbers, but no!

Dolly Toy Co. Xmas houses

Tom Hull sent me a series of pictures last month after seeing the Troy Walters set. Heavily glittered dollies with their individual boxes - all boxes saying "Deluxe Snow Houses No. 250 -Mfg. by the Dolly Toy Co. Tipp City, Ohio"Admittedly, that's the same house as the one above in a different color, but look at this next one -

vintage Christmas village house

An entirely different model in the same box. So, it became evident that "No. 250" was not a particular model, but rather an especially heavily glittered series that made them "Deluxe."

Tom says this box is also labled "No. 250."

He had various others of the "Deluxe" series without their boxes.
Christmas putz house
Snow village house
Christmas village houses
Just how many there were is undetermined. Probably 8 different, but each could occur in any of the colors. The bases are 6 3/4" by 3 3/4" by 3/4" thick.
We're pretty sure these were the last of the "Dollies."

I have no firm year for when Dolly Toy quit making their little houses, but I don't think that they made it into the '60s. I have no firm year for when they started, either, but their rather fine and very different PreWar houses seem to start appearing around 1938. So for now, let's call it 1938 to 1958 - an even 20 years. I don't think that further information will show that this is too far from the "mark." During those 20 years their little houses were ubiquitous in the American Christmas, and they're remembered fondly as what so many of us now-sophisticated "coconut snobs" had underneath our childhood trees.

Dolly Toy was still in business until Dec.31,2008 - making mainly childrens' nursery furniture and wall decorations. They just closed their doors. I once met a fellow who'd been a kid in Tipp City (near Columbus) and visited the little factory briefly on a Saturday around the end of WW II. He said he saw several WW II troop gliders, there, with hundreds of the little plain white houses drying on their wings. That would seem a strange thing for them to be involved in, but it makes more sense when you realize they began in business as the "Dolly Folding Kite Co." in Dayton in 1923.

(For more on the Dolly Toy houses, see -)
Dolly Toy Obit

* WW II *

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Robby's Royal Roost

I spotted this in the first of the putz pictures Robby Lucke sent for Putzes 2008 last December, and asked him to take some additional pictures.
vintage Christmas candy box castle house
It's a magnificent pre 1928 Candy-Box in the style of the castle, and is the largest, most elaborate candy-box castle I've ever seen. How does he come up with these things?
Xmas candy box castle
"In case you did not receive the dimensions, here they are along with some comments. The castle is comprised of four seperate parts. there is a larger raked right handed block. on top of that and inside of a balcony is a rectangle tower with a hipped roof. to the left of that is a small square tower with a witches hat cap. that is the tallest part of the structure. in front and kind of offset from the small tower is an entrance block with a shed roof on it. All of these are not square with the world, giving the entire building a rather whimsical look. If you were to look at the bottom of the large right block, it resembles more a triangle than a square or rectangle.
The height of the right block to the top of the hip roofed tower is 6 inches. the top of the small witches cap tower is 61/4 inches. the largest block of the castle is about 41/2 by 3. Most areas have been raked in a most delightful way. That base with its trees and garden makes the castle look even more regal than it does. With the base or not, this is one delightful building. I have seen many that are more colorful (this one is several shades of gray over a sand base with a wash of white in places) but I have never seen any more interesting or quaint.
By the way, the cypress or whatever is crawling up the front wall that looks like a tree or vines, is original to the building."

- robby
Christmas candy castle
I was temporarily aghast when I saw he had put this eleborate landscaped base on it - because these candy-boxes rarely had a base of any kind, but Robby assures me he didn't glue it down. It's just a display thing, a "frame" to set it off. Very nice job, but - whew!
Putz castle
"One more thought on the castle. One of the things I do each summer is drive people in a red bus up to the famous Prince Of Wales hotel in Waterton, named after the king who abdicated having to give up "the woman he loved". I see his picture in the hotel every time i go in and being a royalist at heart, i think that probably the Duke and Dutchess of Windsor lived in exile in France in a castle just like that. In fact if i look closely , I can imagine the Duke in his kilt and tweeds coming out of the door with the dogs, puffing on a cigarette and you see what an imagination i have. That is why i set that castle in grounds, to give them a little room to roam. Crazy? Probably, but it is fun!"

FOOTNOTE: I had a question about the Candy Boxes:
"Did they come filled with candy?"
Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn't. Confectioners would buy them wholesale in gross lots and make up little ready-to-go Holiday presents to sell, but you could also buy them empty and make up your own. They were used as ready-made gift wrappings for small things,
- even engagement rings! I've heard evidence that some families collected them and made a custom of using them sort of as Advent calendars, refilling them daily as little surprise presents through the Season to keep the kiddies all hyped-up and going absolutely nuts. All in all - they were a charming delight, and it's just too bad the custom fell by the wayside of Christmas history.
Christmas trees


Early "Gloss-Top"

This is an exceptional early house that i would date about 1930, and which forshadows many of the best-loved features of later "coconuts" and "Green-spots," especially that porch and "dog house." Robby Lucke also contributed this specimen.
vintage Chrismas village house
"As to the yellow transistional, it is a house that i captured on ebay a few months ago. It has a sort of yellow sandy finish with a bright black roof under the snow, like a laquer of some kind. There is a dog house that is white with a red roof. Sides of the base are a sort of salmon and the yard itself is a sort of dirty blue gray.
This house might just be an early model for the coconut you featured as the Dec HOM in that it has a front gable and a side gable and porch with steps, although this one only has one entrance door and looks to be smaller than the dechom." - (Robby)
vintage Xmas village house vintage Christmas putz house

Xmas house
And finally - the rear view. The continued yellow on the back of the "dog house" confirms that it is no "tack-on" and is original...painted white in front later.

"Dimensions are base 3 3/4" by 6." Bottom of base to top of tallest gable is 5 1/2". It has two wood fence posts and a rafia fence. Good luck. hope this helps." - (Robby)

I think this is my personal favorite period with the old houses. About 1929 to 1931 or so when so many odd things came out. You could tell they were experimenting, "getting their legs," so to speak. The shiney roofs under the "snow" are characteristice, and hence the category "Gloss-Tops."
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Early Large
Self-lighted Church

I found this at an estate auction last month. I normally don't go in for these big churches with the built-in candlebra bulb, so prolific in the late '50s, early '60s, but this one caught my eye for several reasons.
big Christmas village church big Christmas village church

I'm pretty sure it's one of the very earliest of these churches. I'd place this one in possibly the mid-to-late late forties because of the balconies and complex roof. The cardstock is heavy - of the same gauge as the houses of the time. Those later big stand-alone churches tended to be made of very light and flimsier stuff. I had to reassemble the wall plug, and it has screws to hold the wires to the tabs and a nut and bolt to hold the two halves togther. Later ones tended to be solid molded.
big Christmas village church big Christmas village church

The main clinchers, however, are the doors and windows. Definitely '40s types. It uses the the semi-translucent RYr and RYp types and THREE of the PWD-4 type paper doors, albeit two of them as "stained glass" windows on the ends.

The base is 7 1/2" X 4 3/4". The height is 11 1/4".

All in all, I think it's an unusual enough example of this genre to make it worthy of inclusion.
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Early Large
"Lakkie" Church

Barb Kuz submitted this from Canada.
old toy Christmas church
It's one of those elaborate "lakkies" we think were sold for train louts because they look very much like the gloss-enameled sheet metal accessories for trains of those times, but would have been far far cheaper. Also, there were two styles of putz - green and white. These would have looked better in the green summer scenes and layouts.
big Christmas village church big Christmas village church

This one is missing its base. Barb intends to construct a new one some day. One of things that is so fetching about these is the embossed textures you find on the roofs. This was a charming feature of especially the early German tin buildings that went with their extraordinarily charming early trains.
old toy Christmas church
- And the rear view. This piece is good sized - 8 1/2" tall by 5 1/2" wide and 3 1/2" deep.
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Janet Watt sent this to Tom Hull in rough shape and Tom performed his magic on it. While not the most spectacular of houses, the fence alone makes it worth of inclusion. Tom wrote such a good story on it, I'll just let him tell it.

"Hi!(to Janet)
I ran across the letter you wrote me when you sent the neat little ?Penthouse? house and you requested photos when I finished it. I finished it long ago but don?t know whether I sent you pictures or not so I took some new ones. If you recall I got three out of a lot of 7 houses that must have been part of a set and this style was one I didn?t get and you took pity on me and sent it to me. I STILL have it on display with its cousins where I see them every day.
old toy Christmas house
The most striking thing about this house is the fence. It is a piece of corrugated cardboard with a rib in the middle and the corrugation is on BOTH sides of the fence.
old toy Christmas house

It forms sort of a tee pee in cross section. The little balcony fence beside the ?Penthouse? has a gold foil covering with sort of an abstract pattern on it.. The ?tree? is of lycopodium which is not as common as the luffa sponge ?trees?. The black spots on the house are actually tarnished, genuine silver plated glitter ? this would likely put it in the late 1930?s. There are traces of pink coconut on the pink roofs. I LOVE the lavender colored base. Not a common color with these houses.

Just a close up with some of the details.

(Owing to the snowy bottom edging, it seems to me about an inch of this fence may be missing on the left. What do you think, Tom? -Ted)

old toy Christmas house
The dimensions are: - 6 1/2" X 3 1/4" X 4" tall.
old toy Christmas house
Here are the a couple of the others. Notice the gold foil fence on the red coconut house. The house in the middle has a printies fence with an elaborate corrugated cardboard balcony as well as a lycopodium ?tree?.
old toy Christmas house
And the church was also with this group. It has a HEAVY stucco finish with over painting on the highlights. This had a damaged (broken) roof and so it was necessary for me to repaint part of it. All the others except the church had some coconut on them. The three I got from the same seller share identical import marks which are somewhat distinctive. It consists of just JAPAN in large block letters within a rectangle. The one of yours just has the word JAPAN without the rectangle no doubt a different year or some such. Thanks again for this neat house. It goes well with its cousins!"
- Tom Hull

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Church of the Big Shoulders

Christmas village church

From the Barb Kuz Collection again - a goodly-sized church whose basic design we have seen in many variations: with steeple as a church - without steeple as a house - various colors and finishes. This one is the complete deal.

Christmas putz church
An usual bisque figure for this church. If it was supposed to have one, one would have expected "The Padre." I'm sure this is not original, but I don't really mind, do you?

Christmas village church Christmas village church

Barb has put together a fabulous collection way up there in Canada, somehow - and always in breathtaking condition.

UPDATE: the dimensions are 6" X 3 1/2" X 10 1/2" high.

Just after this installment came out there was considerable controversy about the steeple. Is it original or added later in a well-done job? Barb obtained it just this way, and so was not the "culprit," but for one thing - the roof of the steeple doesn't match the other roofs and my most experienced collectors haven't seen this church with that large of a steeple configuration. So there is some room for authenticity questions, but it still looks fine to me.
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"Coconut" and tree bark

coconut Christmas house
Here's another lovely big "coconut" from the Barb Kuz collection. The very unique detail here is the fence.
coconut Christmas house
It appears to be faced with thin sheets of some sort of tree bark, and that is something none of us has seen before.
coconut Christmas house
6 1/2" by 4" by 5 1/4" high.
coconut Christmas house
coconut Christmas house
The hand-painted little girl with her doll and polka dots would put this at 1934 or earlier. She also occurs in other colors and without the dots. It's a composition figure. From about 1935 on the figures are bisque and tend to be less detailed in their paint schemes.
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A Question Settled !

Just "out of the blue," Melanie Black of Ontario, Canada made me a gift of this pristine, perfect little set and settled once and for all just what these tiny pre-1928 / pre-Japanese village houses are. They're -
German Christmas village set
This is the same 12-piece set pictured at the beginning of the"EARLY PERIOD -1920s" section in that 1927 catalog ad for 29 cts. Heretofore, only scattered individual pieces had been found (and continue to turn up here and there)- but never the entire boxed set as we see it here. There are no light holes and the houses are in detailed lithography, depicting the details and traditional German country village life around all four sides. Indeed, the houses themselves are hardly larger than the Christmas light bulbs of the era, and the fact that it is a set of 12 instead of eight relates it more closely to boxed ornaments, which tended to come in dozens. There are no hanger loops, however.
It could be used on or under the tree.
German Christmas village set
German Christmas village set
Unfortunately, we haven't the complete lables. These were varnished sticker types used to seal the box and, naturally, had to be sliced to get it open. It appears that about 50% of each has since been lost, but there is just enough information left to ascertain some key things. We know that it came from the German village of Erzgebirge, still reknowned for its Christmas industry. The German word "kunst" means "art" or "master craftsmanship" or very special skills depending on the context. "Holzs .." I assume is what is left of "holzsiche," or "wooden." There is one tiny piece of wood in the set - the peak of the church steeple. The rest is heavy paper. "...HE VOLKS ...n dem H..." is something about "the people in their houses." "..herz des Erzgebi .." is "heart of Erzgebirge." Perhaps the little set was meant to represent the town of Erzgebirge, itself, and its people who make such lovely Christmas things.
I have no idea what "...GLAND.." or " ..D MAX" means.
German Christmas village set
Five of the pieces sport these odd, modernistic patterns on the bottom. The rest are plain. I imagine this would vary from set to set. Curious!
German Christmas village set
And, finally, the little box itself - crisp as if it just came home from the store.
At just 9 1/2" by 5 3/4" by 1 1/2", it's not much larger than the bases of some of our
larger Japanese houses.

So, I think we all owe Melanie a great vote of thanks for sharing this with us and putting to rest questions long-posed about this tiny, charming little series.
See also -

Another version of what appears to be an "Erzgebirge Set" has come to us from Belgium, where our contributor bought it at a flea market in Brussels.
German Christmas village set
Here is a full boxed set of 9 pieces!
German Christmas village set
Though some of the colors are different, the style of the artwork is exactly the same as the set of twelve, especially on the church. (Note the tombstones in the churchyard) But these have string hangers - and she tells me the church steeple is 3 1/2" tall. My church steeple is 3.25" high and that difference could be accounted for by variations in the wooden capital peak. Variations do exist. The one in my set is lathe-turned and resembles a tiny parcheezi piece. I have another with a straight-sided cone. Her church dimensions are roughly 2.5" by 1 3/8" by 3 1/2". The church in the 12 piece set is 2 3/4" by 1 3/8" by 3 1/4". These variances could be accounted for by hand construction of inexpensive notion items. Her set box is box is smaller than the 12-piece setbox: 5 1/2" by 7 7/8" by 1 3/8", so I conclude the pieces are of the same size generally. The differences are insignificant.
German Christmas village set
- and surprise of surprises: these are surprise boxes!Candy boxes! You can even see some grease spots on this one, proving it was used as such, once held a chocolate or some roasted nuts. "MerryThe." wrote assuming that mine were, too, but no - they are not. The houses in the 12-piece set set were never made to come apart. She said she had bought her set 20 years ago from a girl who said it was her grandmother's and wanted to know if I thought that were true. I think it probably is true...unless they are still making these somewhere in Europe, but I seriously doubt that.

Unfortunately, "MerryThe." reports that there were no lables or identification markings of any kind, but I am about as sure as one can be, in these things, that it's another variation of -
The Erzgebirge Villages.

Thank you, "MerryThe." I don't believe we've seen this variation in the States.

"MerryThe." Website near Antwerp
Take a quick trip to Belgium - the "MerryThe." Christmas collections! This will be fascinating for all collectors, but for American Christmas light collectors especially.
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We are presented with another exceptional piece from the superb Barb Kuz Collection.
Japanese Christmas village house
This is one of my favorite examples of the superb Japanese artistry in which the use of small or "slit" windows gives the illusion of a house of great size. Primarily a fine "coconut," the piece exhibits so many intriguing architectural features. The rounded porch capital, the various balconies and roof dormers, quadruple "chimneys, the "dog house." Dual trees and that choice rounded slit fence put it solidly in the "most desirable" category. But most unusual to me is that enormous door, which is one found often on the earlier candy boxes. This is the only case I've seen of it used in a light-up house.

Again, one of Barb's pieces sports dual figures on the lawn. I am inclined to accept the Santa as the original, but have a close look at that little car. It's not the solid bisque type found on some of the later "haciendas," but rather is hollow and actually has "glass" in its windows! It's not a Cracker-Jack prize type "penny-toy," I don't think - the wheels dont turn - and I am further mystified by the apparent adhesion of some of the "coconut" from the base encroaching up onto them. I had first thought it might be die-cast. The wheels didn't always turn on some of those tiny diescast toys, but in the 4th picture you can see some of the yellow paint has chipped off the front wheel - revealing cardboard. This little thing was hand-made!
Japanese Christmas village house
Japanese Christmas village house
Japanese Christmas village house
Japanese Christmas village house
I don't have the exact dimensions. I have written Barb, but she is quite ill, at this time and is in the midst of a horrendous medical ordeal. An educated guess, however, would put it in the "medium large" category, roughly 7" by 4 3/4" by 5+".

Thank you so much again, Barb, and be assured that all our prayers
and best wishes are with you.

Barb Healy has kindly provided the dimensions from a specimen in her collection. I underestimated. It's big! - 8 5/8" by 5 1/2" and 7 1/4" tall from the bottom of the base up.
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Another from Barb Kuz. This is one of those very very rare ones with intricately hand painted stone work. We know of only three types that have this.
Japanese Christmas house
Is this not something? Imagine the time and talent that went into this perhaps 50-cent item.
Japanese Christmas house
Japanese Christmas house
Note we have that strange, flat-bark type of fence again.
Japanese Christmas house
Japanese Christmas house
And in addition, dual figures and dual trees. I would imagine it's at least as large as the November addition. It's got to be fairly early, I would think - perhaps 1932-33.
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-has been found!

Well, it certainly has been a year of rounding out the knowledge! First the whole Dolly Toy Company story, then the Erzgebirge miniatures. For all this time we have sought to know the name of the company and the city that the Japanese houses came from and by sheer luck and perseverance the name has turned up at last!- thanks to Rob Schoeberlein who found this lable on the bottom of one of his old Christmas houses:
Kanematsu Co. Ltd., Kobe 
It's the "Holy Grail" we have all been looking for all these years! There appears to be an initial missing on a fragment long gone, but we have the main name and the location! Kobe! I shudder to recall a History Channel documentary I saw on the atomic bombing of Japan. Kobe was on the list. What determined which of about 10 cities fell victim to the bombs was the weather. Had Kobe not been under a solid overcast on either of those fateful days, we might well have had no postwar dimestore houses from Japan to carry forth the memory and tradition into the PostWar Generation.
Kanematsu Christmas house
And this is the modest prewar Christmas house that carried the secret all these years. We've seen many secondary names of wholesalers and importers attached to these houses over the years, but never before the true source. So that's it, folks! All the wonderful little Japanese houses came from Kobe in Japan! I wonder if Kanematsu, Ltd. is still in business? And, if so, what are they making now? The answer is yes, and - globally- they seem to be into everything except little cardboard Christmas houses ...

F.Y.I. -

There is nothing in any of the informations proffered that says anything about notion Christmas items, is there? F. Kanematsu appears to deal globally - then and now - in raw materials and highly technical things. Rob Shoeberlein, who works for the Maryland State Archives, has also sent me a cover photo of, and a page from "The Japan Trading Guidance- 1920." It is simply a directory of Japanese Companies wishing to export all kinds of things wherein is listed an "S." Kanematsu - also of Kobe. Just a cryptic couple of lines:
"Kanematsu Shoten: 3-chrome. Kaipan-dori." - whatever that means.
So, the search is far from over. We've really just found
the tip of a new "iceberg."

Well, another year has passed ....
And I don't see how HOUSE of the MONTH - 2010 can possibly top the discoveries of this year - but I hope your New Year is full of wonderous ones!

Merry Christmas animation

......"Papa" Ted

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