The Giant, Menacing Department Store Santa
Dana H. had a bit of a scare in the loft of an old carriage house on a gloomy day, a property she and her husband were thinking of buying. The sun breaking through a window cast a shadow of a large man standing behind her. Spinning about, it turned out to be the last man to be afraid of: Santa Claus.
According to the owner of the house, her grandfather picked up the Santa at the town dump in the 1950s. One arm had broken off, which her grandfather fixed. It had been used as a porch display for a couple of years and then was stashed in the carriage house. Dana didn’t buy the property, but she bought the Santa. She contacted us at WorthPoint to get an answer about his possible origins and value, her inquiry was forwarded to me:
“I bought this large Santa figure from a property my husband and I were looking at. I was looking around the loft of the carriage house, which wasn’t very well lit until the sun came out. The Santa was by the window and all I could see is this shadow of a man standing behind me. It scared me half to death.
We ended up buying the Santa for $300. He is quite large—he measures more than 5 feet tall. What he’s made of I don’t know, but he’s not overly heavy for the size. There are no markings on him. Could you give me an idea where he might have come from and what he’s worth?”
This 5-foot-tall Santa was found in an attic and purchased for $300. It was no lump of coal for the buyers.
Here’s my response:
With a story like that, I’d find it hard to sell Santa. What a great tale to pass along to the kids in the future.
Based on your images and the information from the owner, this large Santa was most likely a toy-store prop or was part of a department store Santa photo booth from the 1940s.
Santa likely was discarded when his arm was broken or a newer display replaced him.
Most display pieces like this are molded out of some sort of composite material or papier-mâché, often hollow to keep the weight down. Later examples are made from plastic or fiberglass.
Without a label or name tag, it’s impossible to determine a maker, but Santas of this size and vintage ?are relatively rare, whether they are marked or not. In the current market a comparable one at auction would sell ?in the $1,500-to-$2,000 range.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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