It is widely believed that collectible snowmen were first catapulted into the public eye in the early 1950s, well into the post-war period in America. Today, many folks have taken snowman collecting to a new level.
Arguably, the most famous snowman of all time is Frosty the Snowman. This snowman was actually first introduced as a song before becoming the pop culture icon that we all know and love. The wintry themed novelty song was produced by Steve Rollins and Jack Nelson and recorded by cowboy crooner, Gene Autry, in 1950. Trying to capture the success of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, a recording that sold 2 million copies, Autry recorded the quintessential snowman’s theme song.
Related cartoons and children’s books about Frosty the Snowman soon followed. In 1954, the UPA studios made Frosty the Snowman the central character of a 3-minute animated short film. By 1969, the animation company of Rankin/Bass produced a half hour TV special featuring Frosty the Snowman and the unmistakable voices of Jimmy Durante and Jackie Vernon. The rest of this snowman celebrity story is corncob pipe history.
Snow artistry has taken on many forms when it comes to winter collectibles including the ever-popular snow globe. Snow globes, snow domes, or as the German’s call them, schneekugeln were first introduced in France during the early 1800s as a successor to the hand-blown glass paperweight.
At the 1889 International Exposition in Paris, the snow globe got worldwide attention as a souvenir. This world’s fair snow globe featured a model of the newly built Eiffel Tower designed by Gustave Eiffel.
Initially, snow globes consisted of a heavy lead glass dome that was placed over a ceramic tableau. Central European artisans blew glass globes to protect religious relics and clockwork movements started to export their glassware to the growing snow globe industry. The globes were filled with water and then sealed. Shaking the globe made the snow inside move within the globe from all directions as if demonstrating a windy blizzard.
The snow inside the snow globe was created with bone chips, porcelain pieces, or non-soluble soap flakes. More recently, the snow inside a typical snow globe is produced from tiny pieces of white plastic and enhanced with distilled water and glycerin to make the water denser and snow appear to realistically move within the globe atmosphere.
In the 1940s, snow globes were produced as advertising paperweights and as travel souvenirs and keepsakes of vacations.
In the Victorian era, the British called the collectibles “snowstorms” as they gained popularity from circa 1890 to 1901. Despite their European beginnings, snow globes were mass-produced in the U.S. thanks to Pittsburgh native, Joseph Garajha. The first mass-production patent for snow globes featured Garajha’s new base which allowed the globe to be screwed into it like a light bulb.
Today, snow globes are traded and collected worldwide. The specialty annual snow globes featuring products and characters from companies like Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Disney are big gifts with collectors. These collectible themed snow globes find themselves on holiday shopping lists worldwide and some range in value from $500 to $5,000 at auction.
Byers Choice Ltd. carolers, a Bucks County, Pennsylvania mainstay and international favorite, are popular collectibles featuring moveable figurines on solid bases with hand painted clay heads demonstrating a singing caroler. Each caroler is hand made by a skilled artisan at the Byers Choice Ltd. workshop in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, and visitors can watch them being produced on the shop floor during a self-guided tour of Byers Choice Ltd.
They are produced and marketed by theme — carolers by the sea, Charles Dickens’ characters, American patriots, etc. — and are collected throughout the year.
Whether your winter is filled with days building your own Frosty on the front lawn or sipping hot cocoa by the fire, snowy season collectibles are fine additions to your home.