Bisque ceramic Snow Babies will melt your heart!
Perhaps you are wondering why I would want to give you tips about finding and collecting a Christmas item in the late summer. It is wiser to collect and search for snow babies anytime but the yuletide. My last score was on a very hot day in May at an estate sale when nobody else was thinking Christmas. Aging collectors are downsizing their beloved possessions in order to move to a smaller home and to be fully in charge of passing them on to another collector. So go to estate sales and living estate sales and even flea markets and keep your eyes open for these little darlings.
I believe the ceramic bisque snow babies were preceded by an edible confection called Zuckerpuppen or sugar dolls, which were made as far back as the early 19th century to adorn cakes, the christmas tree and even as holiday decor. A confectioner commissioned Hertwig and company to create an inedible and enduring version in ceramic around the late 1800s. There is some speculation of who created and when these first ceramic figures came into being. The first snow babies were larger figures with the most amazing painted and modeled faces complete with dimples. Their eyebrows were brown and the eyes have extra finely detailed features. Even the nostrils had little red dots. Shoes were black, brown or no color at all, if color is used it was generally pastel and the poses were inactive. If there was a ski pole as part of the figure, it would be only one which would look large and heavy. These first snow babies were featured in the 1911 December Issue of The Ladies’ Home Journal in the USA. They may or may not have a Germany stamp on them. The start of WWI brought this first version of snow babies to an end.
The second generation of snow babies were produced in Germany between the Great Wars. These items were smaller and in more active poses. Bright colors of red, blue and yellow were used on these on shoes and even props. The eyes are little more than black dots and they were more roughly painted. They were often cold painted which means touching or cleaning their faces can remove some of the paint. With the onset of WWII the production of this group of snow babies ceased.
After WWII you can find made in Japan snow babies. These were stamped with Japan on their base and may have been inspired by earlier German figures.
In 1987 Department 56 put out their line of Snow Babies which are delightful, larger, more active and even year round collectibles. These can be bought new or used at flea markets and yard sales if you are lucky.
There are books that you can purchase or borrow through your library to learn more about the antique snow babies. I have the Snow Babies book by Mary Morrison. Like almost any thing that is collectible in vintage and antiques, it pays to do some reading and research to increase your knowledge.