I have some “Original Snow Village” pieces by Department 56. At Christmas, I set them out on a display stand in the dining area of the modular home and call it my Christmas tree. At the farmhouse, where we have a tree, I set a Christmas house and barn on the piano. I never meant to extend the “house hunt” to Halloween, but some years back I happened to find a haunted barn at half price and on a whim I bought it. That occasioned the addition of some smaller, less expensive, unlit accessories, and I display those at the farm. This year I decided my display really needed the balance of another lit piece, perhaps a haunted house. Mike was agreeable. Ever practical, he wanted to know how much it would cost. I admitted I really didn’t know, not having priced them for a number of years, but I set off for the local Hallmark / drugstore where I knew I could find them. It was Saturday (Oct. 8), the annual Hallmark open house.
There they were – all the Halloween houses looking properly ghoulish. But the prices were out of sight! When I started collecting, the houses were $40, while larger, more elaborate pieces were $65 to $85. Today the houses are $120 with some of the older, retired houses in the $85 range. Well, it’s the principle of the thing. I’m just not going to pay that much – and I decided I would politely tell the store employees how I felt about it. What did I have to lose?
“I came today,” I announced to the manager, a sales person, and anyone eavesdropping, “to buy a Dept. 56 Halloween house.” Their eyes lit up in expectation, and I hated to dash their hopes. “But,” I went on, “I can’t see paying the price. I realize these prices are set by the company, but I just won’t pay that.” The manager agreed there wasn’t much the store could do. The associate said she was glad she could enjoy the displays at the store because she wasn’t going to buy them.
“We do have some damaged pieces that we would offer for less, but of course, you wouldn’t want those,” said the manager.
“Try me!” I exclaimed. “I would love to see them because they readily become damaged anyway.” (After all, that’s one reason I refuse to pay today’s exorbitant prices. They chip easily and I know as collectibles they don’t hold their value. Does anything?)
The manager seemed delighted to show me the “scratch and dent” pieces and disappeared into the basement. She was gone a long time. I enjoyed looking around and munching some of their “open house” goodies.
Finally the manager was back with four boxed items. I chose a tree house (unlit) that was missing something – we couldn’t see what – for $9.99 – and also “Spinning Pumpkins,” a rotating display now at $15.00. “It lights but it won’t rotate,” the manager called, as she left the area, leaving the associate to test the piece. When she plugged it in, it worked perfectly. “We won’t tell her,” she whispered, but we agreed that it might be temperamental once it warmed up -- and indeed it is.
“And,” said the manager, returning again, “since we’re having a party today, I will offer you 20% off any regularly priced Halloween house you would like.” I figured there wouldn’t be a better offer anytime soon, so I bought “Halloween Victorian House” priced at $85. As I suspected, it appeared in 2005 and was retired in 2007, which accounts for its lower pricing. KW