Here you'll find some of the
answers to your
questions about antiques and collectibles:
Have a antiques or
collectibles question? Send
it to me.
Santa―All Dressed Up and Everywhere
For most of my adult life, I’ve been
discovering and purchasing unique Santa dolls with the image printed on
fabric and stuffed. I know virtually nothing about these dolls. I
started collecting them because I liked them—they were fun. What can you
tell me about my dolls?
people are more familiar with a variety of Santa toys and decorations,
including many made of plastic from the mid-20th century on. But the
origins of these dolls go back a lot further.
The British call him Father Christmas. The French Pere Noel. The Germans
Kris Kringle. The Dutch Sinterklaas. To Americans, he’s Santa Claus.
Pictures and drawings depicted him as a tall, stately, thin man wearing
bishop’s robes, with a broad-rimmed hat, and big breeches. He smoked a
long pipe and rode a white horse or rode in a wagon.
original 17th-century British Father Christmas, wore a dark beard, and
his clothing was green, not red. Early representations of Father
Christmas saw him dressed in green, representing the green shoots of
spring in the depths of winter. Scandinavian myths contributed to
Santa’s reindeer-pulled sleigh. His elves have a Germanic and distinctly
Father Christmas’s first name, “Father,” originated in pre-Christian
times. Historians believe it evolved from ‘Woden’, or the better known
“Odin,” the chief god of North European and Scandinavian mythology.
Americans prefer to refer to him as Santa Claus, and this name derives
from the 3rd century saint, Nicholas. He was a charitable bishop from
Myra in Turkey. He delivered his first gifts of bags of gold coins
anonymously to a man so that a he could afford to have his daughters
married. Some accounts say he left a gold coin in each of the daughters’
stockings and in others that he dropped his gifts down the man’s chimney
because the door was locked.
But the Santa known by American children appeared on December 24, 1822
in New York City. That was the day that Clememt Moore penned the Night
His poem inspired artists to draw the character of Santa Claus based on
Moore’s descriptions. His poem first appeared in book form in 1848,
illustrated by T.C. Boyd. Over the years, many other artists have
created their own interpretations of Santa Claus. The most famous are
the ones done by Thomas Nast which appeared in Harper’s Weekly from 1863
with many things designed for children, the idea of Santa Claus grew and
grew. Soon American companies began producing Santa toys, including
Santa Claus dolls. Edward Peck designed one of the oldest dolls,
produced by the New York Stationary Envelope Company. Made from 1884 to
1886, this lithographed cloth doll may have been the first commercially
made type of doll in the United States.
Peck’s Santa was a forerunner of the Santa later made by Celia and
Charity Smith for the Arnold Print Works, one of the country’s largest
producers of printed cloth dolls.
dolls have included both stuffed immovables and animated characters.
Many of the stuffed Santas that exist today are the kind that mothers
cut and stuffed at home. Because these dolls rarely had marks, it’s
difficult to date them. The other thing to consider is that many of
these cut and sew at home are replicas of toys from the past.
Antique cloth Santas are nearly impossible to find because they’ve
already been purchased and are part of collections. But collectors are
still interested in Santas of any material made from 1900 on. Cloth
Santas of the 1940s and 1950s have grown in popularity with collectors,
with the Coca-Cola Santas selling for the highest prices if they’re
still holding their bottles of Coca-Cola. Next in line is the Pepsi
The Santas from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s are the least valuable.
While prices vary, the differences are because Christmas and Santa
collectors often pay more for a Santa than a doll collector.
Back to Readers Ask Archives