Friday, July 12, 2024

“Villaging”, in its broadest sense as celebrated here on TVC, is the collecting, displaying, working with, investing in, or just thinking about . . . miniature buildings. Especially lit ones.





You can be sitting on the beach with your favorite beverage, thinking about past, present, or future village ideas, plans, or just mental pictures of associated things, and . . . you’re “villaging”. There are as many ways to “village” as there are people interested. (Shameless plug time: hopefully, no matter which aspect, or multiple aspects you enjoy, you’ll find Inspiration, Information & Fun here and return often.)



1928 Christmas Tree Village

There have been miniature buildings used as Christmas decorations and toys at least since the 1800s, and probably for hundreds of years before that. I keep waiting to hear some archeologist exclaim, “Today, in ancient King Whatzizname’s tomb, a miniature village was found. We haven’t been able to figure out yet where the lights were plugged in, but we’re still exploring.”


The popularity in the United States started to take off after World War II, and little village scenes were brought out annually, becoming synonymous with Christmas. As familiarity grew over the next couple of decades, miniature buildings started being sold at more and more locations, by more and more companies. In the midst of all this, a company called Bachman introduced the Department 56 brand. With only a few buildings released during each year, and then the later introduction of “retiring” older ones, the simple, little lit buildings became one of the hottest collectibles. Hundreds (yes, hundreds) of clubs sprung up around the country, thousands of dealers started displaying “what’s new” in more and more elaborate displays, and “villaging” as we know it today, was born. Life was good! 



There was SO much available that it was often described as, “collecting is just hoarding with focus”. Finally, there was just way too much available to acquire everything, so areas of interest kept getting narrower and narrower. The explosion of available “village people” brought about another new look . . . scenes using the buildings not as the main focus, but just a backdrop to the people.

Amidst changing ownership, seemingly a gazillion times, Department 56 evolved from a collectible to a commodity. Yes, there are many still collecting “D56” (myself included)  but now villages are mostly sold as holiday decorations. There aren’t many clubs left, and stores with great displays are rare to find.



The advent of the internet was another major factor in changing village “collecting” to village “acquiring”. No longer were vacations and “field trips” joyfully spent searching, store to store, for that special retired or limited edition building, while studying amazing displays for ideas. Now it’s just “click” and track the overnight delivery, then stick it a tub marked “Christmas Stuff”, and wait for the “off” season to be over.





Today, there’s no need to wait by your mailbox for one of the dozens of magazines and newsletters to find out the latest news and rumors. Now, many use instant facebook for that. Other brands appeared, offering more choices in styles, quality, price points, details and eras. Then, Lemax entered the field, and their selections and marketing helped to speed up the focus change from collecting to displaying. As Lemax became easily available worldwide, the “Porcelain Passion” spread everywhere. With so much product becoming available, and prices from “buck-a-building” to hundreds or more, it became harder to consider villaging as an investment opportunity. The tremendous yearly increase in value of almost every building, became more of an unpredictable roller coaster ride, and wound up hit-or-miss at best. So many factors became introduced, that villaging, as an investment, was relegated to the luck-of-the-draw.




Lots of personal choices multiplied, and the pastime became extremely diversified, as individuals could pick-and-choose multiple avenues for their passion. It became more defined around holidays, and villagers began having longer (and more) off seasons. That’s where villaging is today, and at The Village Collector we celebrate it all. Mix and match styles, brands, themes, time frames, costs, uses, or whatever. No longer is there a “right” way or “wrong” way to participate. Choose YOUR way, visit here for some fun, and please . . . don’t forget to tell your friends.