The oldest brand of porcelain Christmas houses.
Department 56 ©, villages and accessories came into being in Minneapolis USA in 1976, after the company Bachman head designer and gift purchaser, Ed Bazinet, gave the green light to import gift items from Europe. It did not take long for Bachman to recognize that this new import division needed its own identity. Ed suggested the name Department 56, because that was already the internal name used for accounting purposes in section 56, and he liked the way it sounded. Ed was on a trade trip with colleagues when they looked outside during a dinner in a restaurant in the village of Stillwater (Minnesota). While the snow covered the village and the street lights sparkled on the freshly fallen snow, they were touched by the charm of this sight, and the whole evening the conversation was all about Christmas memories. Ed managed the traditional cardboard putz houses of his European trade travels and, together with his talented design team, thought that this should not be lost and so the idea for an illuminated Christmas village with buildings and accessories was born. Together they designed a series of six hand-painted houses, executed in Keramiek and in 1977 introduced the Department 56 “Original Snow Village”.
On the bottom of each cottage made by Department 56 is the name of the item, protected by copyright and the year. These dates are usually the year before the actual introduction. For example, the “Original Snow Village” were marked with 1976, although they were not sold before 1977.
At the time of the introduction, the cottages of Department 56 were not intended as collector’s pieces but as Christmas decoration. The idea of a village was enthusiastically received by the consumer and it soon became clear that people were going to collect the houses fanatically. When the series was expanded in the following years, department 56 grew out of his coat and it was time to stand on its own feet. Department 56 became an independent company in 1982 but with close ties with parent company Bachman. In addition to the series “The Original Snowvillage” in ceramics, other series in porcelain were added.
Department 56 is the only brand where both houses and figurines are made of porcelain or ceramics. A single animated item is made or contains plastic. They do not use polystone for their dolls.
In 1984, Department 56 decided to release a new village. This was the “Dickensvillage”, an English village based on the works of Charles Dickens. For the first time, the houses and accessories were made of porcelain, allowing finer details. In the years that followed other villages were added – New England, Alpine, Christmas in the city, and The North Pole. The entire collection of these villages without the “Original Snow Village” became known as the Heritage Collection. Most of the items were made over and over again, but for some items the canvas fell after a few years. It is precisely these retired items that were highly sought after by collectors and the prices of these collectors items were extremely high. The first limited edition, for example, a mill of “Dickensvillage”, initially cost $ 35.00 in 1985. Now they ask $ 5000.00 on the second-hand market. Collectors went to group together with other collectors to discuss their hobby and the villages of Department 56 became part of their lives for some collectors. Paul Bachman therefore started “The Village Gathering” meetings at the Minneapolis Convention Center. From 1989 to 1999, the event attracted thousands of people from across the country. Department 56 became one of the leading gift articles companies in America and Canada with a reputation for producing high quality and trend-setting items.
Ed Bazinet sold D56 in 1992 for $ 270 million to Forstman, Little Co. and remained in managerial positions until his retirement in 1997.
Ed Bazinet sold Department 56 in 1992 for $ 270 million and remained in managerial positions until retirement in 1997.
Ed owned a penthouse of a mere 25 million in New York and was known for a very extreme edition in 2012 … so he bought 20 million of soaps and other useless gifts with his credit card during an exhibition. Later he appeared in a manic depression during this edition, most of the written orders were canceled.Ed Bazinet received in 1996 a Gift for Life honor for his support to HIV / AIDS research, education, prevention and treatment.Ed was good for a small 100 million in 2016. Edward.R Bazinet has become 73. (1944 – 2017)
In 2005, after the acquisition of Lenox Brown-Forman, the company changed its name to Lenox Group Inc. The villages did retain their own brand name. In 2006 it is PeHa B.V. from Sneek (NL) succeeded in obtaining importership for the villages of Department 56 and so they were also available in Europe. Because the market share for Europe was not very large, this was not entirely without problems. For example, the production had to be adjusted quite a bit because of the use of 230 volts instead of the standard American 110 volts.
As a result of the global crisis, Lenox Group Inc. filed a petition for bankruptcy in 2009, and was temporarily taken over by the private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners. The world’s largest supplier of gift items, Enesco B.V. bought department 56 from their later that year. This acquisition unfortunately also meant the early end of the importership of PeHa B.V. Enesco works worldwide with its own agents and not with importers. Unfortunately, Enesco decided at that time not to continue with the European market.
Department 56 through the years;
1976 – The introduction of The Original Snowvillage. six charming, illuminated ceramic cottages. These ceramic buildings depict America through the years from the 1930s to the present.
1979 – D56 introduces 12 new De Original Snowvillage designs and the first accessories are released.
1984 – The introduction of the Dickensvillage series, based on the works of Charles Dickens in Victorian England. Artist Neilan Lund presented the first drawings for a Dickens village to department 56 and was connected to the company as “Master Architect”.
1986 – The New England series and The Alpine village Series are introduced. That same year the Snowbabies figurines are born.
1987 – Department 56 continues to expand with the addition of the Christmas in the city Series, New York City in the early 20th century and also its fifth porcelain village, Little town of Bethlehem.
1990 – The legend of Santa Claus becomes part of the D56 tradition with the addition of The North Pole Series.
1994- Disney park Village series is introduced. This village was a collection of houses from the various Disney parks around the world. Also in 1994 the first building with a licensed brand name was introduced: the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant. Since then, many buildings with famous names such as McDonald’s, Hershey’s, Starbucks, Harley-Davidson, Ford and Lionel have been released.
1996- To the sorrow of many collectors, the entire collection of the Disney parks stopped in May 1996.
1998 – Snow village Halloween was born with the introduction of a haunted house “The Haunted Mansion”. Elfland, an expansion of The North Pole Series, was also introduced as a place where the Elves lived and played after Christmas. Seasons Bay also saw the light for the first time. Cottages in a slightly smaller scale specially designed for every season.
2002- Seasons Bay goes out of the collection after four years.
2004 – Eight illuminated cottages are introduced with wireless lighting. DAL lighting (Display anywhere lightning) makes it possible to place a house where no cable can be added. For example in a bell jar.
2006 – With the 30th anniversary of Snowvillage they have made the item Special Edition Stillwater Collectible & Antiques. A cottage with the first 6 houses from 1976 in the shop window.
2008 – Snow village Halloween celebrates its 10th anniversary.
2009 – The Dickensvillage series celebrates its 25th anniversary with a remake of the original 1984 models “Shops of Dickens”. A series of shops inspired by the drawings and ideas of Neilan Lund. Neilan died on February 16, 2009. Neilan was born in Haywar USA on 25 December 1922. One of the jubilee shops is the “Galerie Neilan Lund”. Conceived as a tribute to Neilan by artist Barbara Lund, Neilan ‘s daughter. Also in 2009 the glittering Winters Frost series was introduced.
2010 – Williamsburg village was introduced, to commemorate the capital of Virginia colony in 1700
2011-Department 56 celebrates its 35th anniversary. Bell towers were introduced in a number of village series.
2013 is an exciting year for the department 56. There is permission to introduce various and highly desirable licensed illuminated buildings in the collections. For example, Christmas in the City series introduces the Chrysler Building. Designed by Village artist Tom Bates. This very detailed “New York” building is destined to become a favorite. With a global audience of more than 190 million a week, “The Simpsons” will celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2014 in grand style. Department 56 will participate in this celebration with the introduction of a colorful ceramic Village series that will include the Simpsons’ house, Springfield Elementary School and the Mercury-E-Mart. Several hand-painted accessory sets from the well-known Simpson round off the scene. In addition, a line of figures will be provided, such as Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa and Maggie.
Also “Christmas Lane” in The Original Snow Village’s “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” gets the over-decorated Griswold House and Neef Eddie’s famous RV this season. A must hit for fans of the 1980s classic Christmas movie.
Department 56 villages have maintained their place as number one in the gold standard of illuminated villages. They are very happy to add “Downton Abbey®” this year.
“Let It Go!” In 2015, with the addition of the immensely popular Disney animated film, “Frozen” two special “Village” pieces started. “Elsa’s Ice Castle” and “Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post”. A number of important accessories were also introduced to complete the line – Olaf, Sven, Kristoff, Oaken and Anna!
Eleven on a Shelf® and Peanuts® led the way in “Classic Brands” in 2015 with additional new introductions and products with the mischievous elves and members of the Peanuts gang. Other strong names included are Harley-Davidson, Coca-Cola®, Disney, Fisher Price ™, the Grinch ™, Hasbro, dairy Queen® and Dr. Seuss ™ in both gifts and Village categories.
Department 56, founded in 1976 celebrated its 40th birthday that year! And now a little bit of tradition, Department 56 celebrates this kind of anniversaries with special editions throughout all series. For example, we already had a series of city towers at 25 years of Dickensvillage, and of course the “still water” at 30 years of Snow Village. This time there will be a series of items where a child will send a letter to Santa and a number of gazebos have been released.
Department 56 this summer with a whole new theme: Margaritaville. Margaritaville is a summer theme, with atmospheres that you could encounter on tropical islands. Unfortunately only available through the USA.
The artists of the department 56 continue to look at trends in the sector and look for new ideas to create the most innovative gift items in the industry.
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Thanks to Department 56 © for the video