By Jef Rietsma
Collector? Nita Wolf.
Collection? Department 56 Snowbabies.
How did your collection begin? “It was the 1980s and I saw what ended up being my first piece when I was in Frankenmuth. There was just something simple and beautiful about it that just struck me. It was cute; I liked the face. Snowbabies were pretty new back then and I had never seen a piece or even knew about Snowbabies until then. But I enjoy looking at them. Their little faces are so cute.”
The piece Wolf described is called “I’m Making Snowballs” and was manufactured in 1988.
Did you intend to become a collector of Snowbabies? “No. I may have bought a couple more since that first piece, but most of them my kids have bought for me. One year, it was Christmas morning, all the kids were home and I made the comment that I hoped I wouldn’t get any more Snowbabies because I’ve got enough. Wouldn’t you know it? Each of my three kids at the time had bought me one … they all looked at each other and burst out laughing. My one son would usually buy larger pieces, the other son was into sports and would almost always buy something depicting a sports scene. My daughter would always buy the cute pieces, so I can tell just by looking at each one who most likely gave it to me.”
How many pieces do you own? Thirty-three. Most are from between 2003 to 2006. There is one from 2013 and that is probably the last piece … I finally had to tell the kids ‘No more!’ I was running out of room and it just kind of takes the fun out of it when you start having to keep them in boxes and there’s no room left to set them out. So, I have them all out on display throughout the house.”
Do you know anything about the value of your collection? “Well, I didn’t save the boxes they originally came in because I didn’t see any of these as being collectibles. So, not having those original boxes really lowers the value in the eyes of an avid collector. The most expensive one I own that I’ve found on eBay was for sale for about $50. It’s a two-piece horse and carriage.”
What will eventually happen to the collection? “I’ll tell the kids – I only have two now – to pick what they want. I’ll probably ask the grandkids if they have any interest and let them choose. Any that are left? I don’t know, maybe I will sell them. We’re contemplating selling our house and trailering it for a few years, so we’re going to have to start getting rid of things if that’s what we end up doing.”
Aside from that first piece, do you have other favorites? “There are three pieces, they’re bunnies, given separately quite a while ago by my favorite boss. Peggy was my boss when I worked at Upjohn. She’s gone now, so I always think of her when I look at that those pieces.”
Wolf said she is also fond of a piece called “When the Bough Breaks.” The sports-theme pieces are special, too, she said, because they were given by her son, who passed away in December.
Do you wish you still collected Snowbabies? “No. We were in the U.P. a few weeks ago, in Sault Ste. Marie, and I saw a little gift shop advertising Snowbabies. Out of curiosity but with no intention of buying, I went in to have a look and they now look completely different. I was not impressed at all. They look cheap and they have too much color. I realized then how glad I am I stopped getting pieces when I did.
Are you involved with groups or clubs whose members are collectors of Snowbabies? “No. In fact, I don’t of anybody else who collects them.”
Footnotes: Wolf, whose maiden name was Kershner, is a lifelong Vicksburg-area resident and a Vicksburg High School alumna. She is 75 years old.
By Jef Rietsma