Saturday, December 25, 2010

What Was In Tracy's Stocking?

Stocking stuffers are one of my very favorite Christmas traditions. The sight of a Christmas stocking bulging with mysterious small objects just makes my heart go pitter-patter. As miniature collectors know, very great things indeed can come in small packages, and this year Santa outdid himself.

My stocking held a couple of vintage 1940s MinToy dollhouse miniatures in their original packaging (a set of kitchen knives and a box of silverware); old dollhouse cakes; a 1920s-'30s Austrian-made celluloid dolly in a peanut; part of an antique miniature German teaset; a 1920s-'30s Old Maid card game; and a huge assortment of 1920s and '30s joke boxes. If you were reading the blog back on last April Fool's Day, you'll know that I have a passion for vintage pranks and jokes. I'm going to wait until this April to post the joke boxes properly, but here's everything else:

MinToy was a Chicago based manufacturer of dollhouse miniatures in the 1940s-'50s. Their motto was "The Big House of Little Things," and they made very nice things indeed. This carded set of kitchen utensils measures  4 1/2 inches, while the itty bitty box of silverware is just 2 1/8  inches.

Little dollies in peanut shaped molded cardboard containers were a mini-fad in the 1920s and '30s. This Austrian-made version features a celluloid doll with her original glass baby bottle. The peanut is 4 inches long.

This partial German dolly's tea set just delighted me. I love the colorful stripes, reminiscent of a circus tent. Circa the early 1900s-'20s, the teacups are 1 inch in diameter.

This Old Maid card game dates from the 1920s-'30s. It features fantastic caricature art: click on the photo to see the cards in more detail.

Lastly, a lot of wonderful old dollhouse cakes, dating between 1920-1960. Why all these dollhouse cakes? Because my biggest gift this year was an 1890s German dollhouse pastry shop or confectioner's. It needs a complete restoration, and then these cakes will fill its empty to follow once it's all done!

Bliss Dollhouse

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year was this Bliss dollhouse from the early 1900s. The American made lithographed house is 11 1/2 inches tall, with the front opening to reveal two rooms inside, each with their original floor and wall papers. The two pillars, balcony, and "gutter" were originally lithographed too, but these papers have not survived. There's a lot of architectural interest to this little house, with its terracotta tiled roof, half-timbered construction, and oval leaded glass windows.

A little china head doll lives cozily inside:

Upstairs, two tiny Frozen Charlottes nap in their little bed. I love the floor paper in this room:

Downstairs, a tea has been laid on the little table:

Vintage American Dollhouse Grocery Shop

For Christmas this year, I received a couple of old dollhouse shops, the circa 1900 German example described earlier, and this, a 1950s American model of the "modern" grocery store. Measuring a full two feet wide, it's made of wood and fibreboard, and came filled with many of its original products along with its cash register, check out counter, meat counter, and striped awning.

This overhead view gives an idea of the store's layout:

Through the window, the checkout and dairy cooler are visible:

The meat counter features hanging hams, made of flat fiberboard with printed detail:

Most of the products are made of wood, wrapped with paper labels. I'm especially intrigued by the "Snappy Brand Cheese" in a can: whatever was this like?!

Antique German Convertible Rocking Horse

This Christmas I received one of my most long-sought antique toys: a "convertible" German platform rocking horse circa the early 1900s. The horse, made of a wool or brennessel type material over a carved wooden frame, stands 28 inches high, and still has his original saddle, bridle, and reins, along with his real hair mane and tail. The horse is mounted on a wheeled platform, which was then attached to a rocker base. It could be ridden as a rocker, or removed from the base and pushed about on its wheels.

The original saddle has lovely detailing, in very Christmasy colors:

 Here's a close-up view of the carving on the horse's head:

And here's a close-up of the platform base, with its great old cast iron wheels:

Don't you just want to take him for a ride?

Antique German Dollhouse General Store

One of my most spectacular Christmas gifts this year was this antique German dollhouse shop, a general store circa 1900, measuring 18 inches wide. It has its original counter, tin cash register, drawers with tin labels (written in English for the American and British markets), floor paper, wallpaper border, and many old products and accessories.

 The shop came with an assortment of antique German-made cakes and pies, including a very appropriate Christmas pudding trimmed with holly:

It was also loaded with lots of old miniature packages; a sampling is shown below. Who wouldn't like a box of Nirvana? I didn't know we could buy such a metaphysical concept, and so neatly packaged too. (Oh, one of my German friends has just informed me this was likely a coffee brand...)

The tin cash register is a wonderful piece. Looks like the shopkeeper is getting ready to ring up a basket of eggs:

Another great old piece is this tiny bird cage, made of pressed and painted tin, with an itty-bitty bird inside:

The shop also came with a wonderful old mop, useful for cleaning up spills from the dry goods drawers...

...and a tin scoop and pan:

My old Clark & Coats Company paper doll seems to fit perfectly behind the counter of this warm and cozy shop:

Antique American Teddy Bear

One of this year's Christmas presents was this little antique American teddy bear, ten inches tall, all-original, circa 1920. I love his lopsided grin. Here he is with his new friend, a miniature French dolly:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Teddy Bear Christmas

Recently, I found this tiny, 5 inch tall vintage aluminum Christmas tree, dating from the early 1960s. Maybe it was intended for a funky, modernist dollhouse. It's now the perfect size for my little Peng Peng polar bear.

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Almost Here!

For those who have been tormented by my Christmas peek posts, the wait is almost over: only 5 days to go, and all will be revealed!

Merry Almost-Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Santa Welcomes You To Toyland

Here's a peek at an antique toy exhibit I just put in at my library for Christmas.
(Sorry the pics are not the best: it was hard to get good images through the glass and around the awkward angles...)

Mounties and sailors and bears...oh my!

An aeronautically themed corner.

Dollies and tea sets have always been great Christmas gift ideas.

I spy a Steiff kitty, Little Orphan Annie, Mickey Mouse, 
and a ray gun...
...and a soldier, a sailor, ninepins, and a dolly.

The Lone Ranger keeps watch over a china head lady doll 
who appears to have fainted.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Antique German Santa Postcards

Ooooh: look what I found today while poking around at the local antique mall: two gorgeous German Christmas postcards, circa the early 1900s, featuring their rather stern and forbidding-looking version of Santa:

How different these are from our modern Santa! These guys are tall, skinny, their coats are blue, and they appear to be most definitely un-jolly. If you're wondering what's up with the sticks, well, according to my German friends, these Santas typically came bearing not only toys, but switches to beat the bad children with! (As if Santa wasn't already scary enough to most little kids...)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Antique German Santa Christmas Ornament

The famous psychiatrist Eric Berne once said, "Human life is mainly a process of filling time until the arrival of death or Santa Claus." That's perhaps a bleak and rather reductionist outlook, but I have to admit, I do spend a lot of time looking forward to Santa's arrival each year.

As a fan of the big guy in red, my holiday collections include a large assortment of Santa themed Christmas ornaments. In fact, my tree is decorated solely with Santa pieces, mostly in blown glass. I think I just like the tidiness and symmetry of a single decorating theme; but I suppose it's possible my Santa tree represents some subconscious "sucking up" to the great gift-giver himself. After all, what could be more flattering to him than an entire Christmas tree covered with representations of himself? Maybe my Santa tree inspires him to leave me extra presents.

Anyway, here's one of my favorite Santa ornaments, made in Germany circa the 1920s. The clear glass ball houses a teeny tiny Germanic Father Christmas, along with a couple of itty bitty bottle brush trees and some fake snow. It's like a little Christmasy world in there...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Antique Children's Christmas Book

Christmas books for children comprised a very popular publishing niche in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. One of the loveliest I've ever found is this, Christmas Joys for Girls and Boys, printed in Bavaria by Ernest Nister Condon, and released in America by E.P. Dutton and Company, New York, around 1908.

(click on the images to see them in greater detail)

The large format picture book, 12 by 10 inches, was printed on an "Untearable" material which was unfortunately not "Unchewable", as little mousies have nibbled away at its edges (see upper right corner...)

Thankfully the illustrations remain undamaged. The gorgeous, richly colored full page spreads depict classic scenes of Christmas, with a profusion of toys.

A beautiful dapple grey rocking horse and his teddy bear rider can be seen on the left side of this image:

In the next illustration, children conduct their Christmas shopping by sled. Check out their haul of wonderful toys!

On page three, happy children have just unloaded their stockings. The blond girl on the left has received a beautiful doll:

The center of the book features a two page spread of a children's holiday "Fancy Dress Party." I think they're playing the old game of "Blind Man's Bluff". My favorite costumer is the boy in the middle, dressed as a teddy bear:

"Presents for the Poor" highlights a little rich girl's Christmas charity efforts. Note the vintage limousine and chauffeur visible through the open doorway:

Page seven features "The Christmas Basket," a cornucopia of antique toy treasures to make the collector's heart flutter. I spy several dollies, a tin litho automobile and steamship, a train, and a platform horse!

"The Christmas Tree" is loaded with toy presents, and on the floor sits a beautiful bear-on-wheels:

The book ends with an image of Christmas crackers being pulled at a sumptuous holiday dinner: