In 1976, six ceramic buildings, each with a delicate glow, were released by Department 56 as “The Original Snow Village”. Three years later they were retired and replaced by twelve new buildings. And so the world of Department 56 collectibles was born.
Department 56 was founded in 1976 by Edward R. Baiznet, a former employee of Bachman Holdings. Each division as Bachman Holdings was numbered, including the wholesale gift imports which was managed by Mr. Baiznet himself. You can probably guess the number associated with this particular department of the company – Department 56. Mr. Baiznet branched off, creating his own company within Bachman Holdings and calling it Department 56. Today, the product line consists of more than 3,000 different collectibles. Each year around 600 new Department 56 collectibles are introduced while items from previous years are discontinued.
Some of the most popular collectibles released by Department 56 include the Dickens Village and Snowbabies. In 1984, Department 56 released the first pieces of its popular Dickens Village series. This series was and continues to be a favorite among collectors, with some villages selling for upwards of $8500! The Victorian-themed village had seven shops and a church.
Snowbabies are porcelain and pewter figures first released in 2015 and became an instant hit with Department 56 collectors. Created by artist Kristi Jensen Pierro, the Department 56 Snowbabies collection has become so popular they even had their own book published full of poetry and stories covering their adventures together.
Given its lasting appeal and limited edition sizes, it's no surprise that Department 56 collectibles can often increase in value. Intrigued by this beloved brand, we've extensively researched to provide this list of the most expensive Department 56 collectibles released to date:
Department 56 Christmas in the City Historical Landmark Series "The Empire State Building"
At 23.5″ tall, The Empire State Building is the tallest building created and released by Department 56. Released in 2003 as part of the Christmas in the City Historical Landmark series, it was retired just two years later in 2005. The detachable top of the building lights up in the holiday colors of white, red, and green. Inside the building are two large, white bulbs along with eight exterior bulbs that light up the top like spotlights. There were also four American flags also included with this coveted Department 56 collectible.
What's it worth? New York City is not known for its affordability, and this Department 56 collectible of the Big Apple landmark in miniature form is no exception. The Empire State Building from the Department 56 Christmas in the City Historical Landmark series sells for between $260 to $675 on the secondary market depending on both its condition and availability at the time. Examples in pre-owned condition with signs of wear can still demand nearly $300 on online marketplaces like Everything But The House. When found in brand new, mint condition it has recently fetched as much as $675 on eBay!
Department 56 Original Snow Village "Boss Shirley's House"
Based on holiday classic National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, the Department 56 "Boss Shirley's House" was released in 2015 as part of the brand's ever-growing Original Snow Village collection. An estate worthy of a well-paid corporate executive, Boss Shirley's House is a miniature two-story residence that commands a high price. Although it's an expensive Department 56 collectible today, it originally retailed for just $120 until it was retired in 2016.
What's it worth? If your employer fails to give you a Christmas bonus this year and you happen to own one of these retired Department 56 collectibles, your luck is about to turn around. The Department 56 Snow Village "Boss Shirley's House" has consistently sold for $1300 to $1500.
Department 56 Dickens Village "Norman Church"
The Department 56 "Norman Church" building was a limited edition, numbered piece released in 1986. With an edition size of just 3500 made, the charming Norman Church building was created for the Dickens Village collection. The church has a stone bell tower with the windows and trims painted to look like wood. The church is enchanting with a Christmas wreath hanging above its wooden door and featuring a very seasonal snow-covered roof.
What's it worth? This particular Department 56 Dickens Village collectible is so rare and expensive, that we could only find one recent sale for it on eBay. The listing, for edition number 3362 of 3500, sold for a staggering $675 on October 19, 2020. We also came across one for sale on the Replacements Ltd. website for $600, but with slight imperfections as is common with such delicate collectibles.
Department 56 "Dickens Village Mill"
Another addition to the Dickens Village collection, the "Dickens Village Mill" was released in 1985 and limited to just 2500 pieces. This vintage Department 56 collectible building features a large wooden mill, double doors, and snow-covered ground. The stone facade is broken up by small windows and a clean, slate roof.
What's it worth? Assuming you can even find the Dickens Village Mill for sale, you can expect to pay more than $800 to add it to your Department 56 collection for one with working lights in pre-owned condition. We found only one recent sale for this expensive Department 56 collectible on eBay which sold for $849 with 10 bids at auction in October 2020. If Ebenezer Scrooge owned this rare Department 56 collectible, he would almost certainly be selling it to add to his fortune.
Department 56 Christmas in the City "The Flatiron Building"
Released as part of the Department 56 Christmas in the City series, the Flatiron Building was first sold in 2006 and later retired in 2010. It is beautifully decorated for the holidays with removable wreaths and garland along with snow covering the grounds. This hand-painted piece includes hand-carved lions heads. The building is lit by two interior bulbs.
What's it worth? If you can find this rare Department 56 collectible on the secondary market, you'll likely pay upwards of $500 to add it to your collection. A pre-owned example of this coveted Department 56 building sold for $485.95 on eBay. Other listings for pre-owned and brand new examples have sold for between $465 and $510 in recent months, usually on eBay.
Department 56 Original Snow Village "Todd & Margo’s House"
It's not just Clark Griswold's boss Shirley's house that's worth more than a subscription to a jelly of the month club. The Griswold family's snobby neighbors in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation have their very own Department 56 house as well – complete with a giant Christmas tree falling through their bedroom window. Released in 2014 as part of the Department 56 Original Snow Village, the expansive collection includes multiple officially licensed products from the popular holiday movie.
What's it worth? According to our research using eBay sold listings between August and October 2020, "Todd & Margo's House" regularly sells for between $1,639 and $1,920 in brand new condition with all original packaging. We even found a $2500 sold listing on eBay for this expensive Department 56 collectible!
No wonder they were so worried about their carpet being wet!