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.
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 ...
.... or THIS!
.... or THIS!
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.
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
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.
Yes, Troy. We certainly do!
Dolly Toy Co.
"Deluxe Snow Houses No. 250"
Last of the POSTWAR DOLLIES
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.
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!
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 -
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.
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.
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
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
"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
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 -
"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
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.
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
"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)
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."
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.
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.
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
Early Large "Lakkie" Church
Barb Kuz submitted this from Canada.
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.
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.
- And the rear view. This piece is good sized - 8 1/2" tall by 5 1/2" wide and 3 1/2"
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.
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.
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.
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)
The dimensions are: - 6 1/2" X 3 1/4" X 4" tall.
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”.
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
Church of the Big Shoulders
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.
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?
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.
"Coconut" and tree bark
Here's another lovely big "coconut" from the Barb Kuz collection. The very unique
detail here is the fence.
It appears to be faced with thin sheets of some sort of
tree bark, and that is something none of us has seen before.
6 1/2" by 4" by 5 1/4" high.
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.
The ERZGEBIRGE MINIATURES
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 -
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.
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.
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!
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.
Here is a full boxed set of 9 pieces!
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.
- 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.
Take a quick trip to Belgium - the "MerryThe." Christmas collections! This will be fascinating
for all collectors, but for American Christmas light collectors especially.
We are presented with another exceptional piece from
the superb Barb Kuz Collection.
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
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
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
Thank you so much again, Barb, and be assured that all our prayers and best wishes
are with you.
UPDATE! 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.
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
Is this not something? Imagine the time and talent that went into this perhaps 50-cent
Note we have that strange, flat-bark type of fence again.
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.
The "HOLY GRAIL"
-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
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.
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 ...
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!