by Dr. Lori Verderame
Based on the holiday markets and villages erected throughout Europe, specifically in Germany, in order to provide shoppers an opportunity to buy specialty foods and gifts for the holidays, small wooden block villages which are widely collectible grew in popularity. Holiday fairs were the impetus for the miniature village-scapes. The decorative and collectible miniature houses and shops were used to decorate table tops where Christmas trees stood.
History and Materials
Miniature Christmas villages have been collected since the 1800s, shortly after Prince Albert introduced the tradition of the Christmas tree to the world and to his wife, Queen Victoria’s subjects. The miniature buildings were made from many different materials including but not limited to flocked cardboard, papier macher, plastic, lithographic tin, etc. Some of the miniature village buildings did double duty as tableaus accompanying toy trains and their set ups. Other miniature village stores, churches, and houses seconded as candy containers and were reused to decorate the area beneath the Christmas tree when the candy was gone. Some antique candy containers in the form of complete village buildings command $200 to $600 retail at holiday time depending on several factors. Full tableaus have sold at specialty auctions to collectors for upwards of $2,500 if you can identify your piece and a complete village in miniature from the Victorian period in excellent condition commanded nearly $15,000. Are you sure you don’t have a similar village?
Makers of these collectible villages, in the 20th Century, produced entire villages consisting of eight complete buildings. They decided on eight as the number for their buildings because there were eight lights on a circa 1920s string of lights. Each building in the eight piece set would host an individual light, like a tea light on an electrical cord, giving the impression that each little building was occupied. Eight buildings worked out well as it simulated a typical village with a church, dry goods store, post office, police/fire station, town hall, and a few homes in diverse architectural styles.
By the early 1900s, many of these collectible mini villages were made of printed cardboard or plastic. Some makers of these holiday villages were Built Rite Toys, McLoughlin Bros., Bliss Company, Bachmann Bros., etc. During the Great Depression, Sears & Roebuck sold these collectible villages for 69 cents per building. Prices climb for collectible villages in miniature from November 1 to January 1 as that is the height of the season for holiday themed collectors. Contemporary villages are made by Dept. 56 and Lemax Villages, among others.
What to Look For
Plastic village buildings in miniature often have clear or colored pieces of mylar over the cut out windows to simulate glass or stained glass. If you have your mylar “glass” intact, that will impact value.
Full village sets with all of the intended buildings in good condition are worth more money than single buildings.
Condition is key when collecting miniature holiday villages in cardboard, plastic, lithographic tin, or any other material.
Get an online appraisal of your Miniature Holiday Village from Dr. Lori