SnowBabySP's Place
The International Snowbabies!



Surprise!


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The "Missing" Grand Old Flags!

By Steve Peckel (a.k.a. SnowBabySP@aol.com)
(Article Appearing in Village Pride! 12/99 Issue)


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Can you identify these flags?
Click Here To See How You Did!



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Perseverance pays its own reward, and I knew there's truth to this old saw. Nevertheless by late 1997, I'd given up hope of finding a set of international "It's A Grand Old Flag" Snowbabies said to exist for sale in remote corners of Europe. Occasionally I'd continue to get email with bits of information yielding hope anew they might be out there waiting for the insanely diligent collector to search down and acquire. Yet, even before the design retired in December, 1998, I'd simply given up my search.

Shame on me for sure as its "the hunt" that very often is the most satisfying aspect of collecting. But I was not at all alone. Indeed, most collectors I know had tired of rumors about these pieces and abandoned the quest as well. Perhaps, like me, they'd settled into the notion that a "complete" set is simply the US and Canadian versions. Or maybe, like me, they'd grown skeptical, possibly even indignantly jealous, about periodic claims of new versions found. The US and Canada pieces had been so ridiculously easy to find. The word had long been out of D56's failure to solidify plans with European collectibles giants, Enesco and Goebel, for an international distribution of Snowbabies. The "missing" flags just couldn't exist. Right?


Wrong! They do indeed exist!

Click The Images To View Larger Scans

A small cache of the eight flags turned up late this summer thanks to the diligent "hunt" of a very good Snowbabies friend, Genny from Nevada. She'd found a collectibles shop in Germany selling "It's A Grand Old Flag" Snowbabies with flags of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Japan. Together with her US and Canada pieces, Genny had become the first I know to complete a set of the eight countries early reports said would be released. I was stunned and no longer the skeptic; Genny is a longtime, seasoned collector not likely to be lulled or duped into a fraud when it comes to her collection. I immediately set about the business of learning all I could of these pieces and, of course, getting a set for my own collection (yes ... I'm addicted).

Genny's "find" was generously made widely known to the online SB community. Some collectors rushed to purchase a set as the supply, by all accounts I've heard, is quite short. Interestingly, some collectors remained skeptical about authenticity and did not purchase. One collector I know, fearing a shut out on the find, purchased with much suspicion only to become thoroughly convinced on delivery that the purchase was a wise one. And throughout all the excitement, D56 has remained conspicuously silent (perhaps enjoying the unexpected attention to their popular Snowbabies line of collectibles).

So are these pieces the real deal? Well ... let's examine the evidence. As far as the pieces are concerned, the flags are the only distinguishing feature between those bought abroad, the US version bought at my local dealer, and the Canadian version bought at a dealer Michael Winters recommended to me long ago. The flag poles, too, are identical, and each piece came with a separate Snowbabies flag as an additional accessory for the piece. This is all consistent with the reports that were circulating at the time plans for distribution abroad were pending.

The boxes are identical to the US and Canada versions except in two respects. On the front of each, located under the "Snowbabies" trademark and title "It's A Grand Old Flag", there appears a clear plastic, oval shaped sticker with the words "Snowbabies by Department 56" in gold, followed by a gold line almost the entire width of the sticker, and then the words "Exclusively distributed by Goebel". On the back, placed over the ordinary bar code sticker, is a much larger bar code sticker that bears a black and white picture of the piece inside the box and the following: "Eine Berueh A Grand Old 66-967-47-2 10.0cm/4 inch". This too is consistent with the occasional reports of found pieces over the years. The boxes bear signs of having been long stored away in a warehouse where they were probably mishandled and abused. Other collectors have reported the same box problems though the pieces themselves are fine. One would expect this in the case of inventory tied up in failed distribution plans.

A copy of a letter on D56 letterhead, dated July 1, 1998, was included with purchases which states that the pieces "may be sold with the German or other national flags as provided by Department 56, Inc." The letter is signed by a Department 56 Inc. Executive Vice President and included to allay concerns about the authenticity of these pieces. In a sort of fascinating twist to the story, the letter has scared off the remaining skeptics out there. Unfortunately, the letter is not specific about exactly what national flags were "provided by Department 56, Inc." However, the letter does provide clear comfort that a German flag "and others" were in the batch. In my view, the lack of specificity in the letter is probably due to the fact that the author created it as simple business correspondence rather than as an intended public disclosure document.

Finally, let's think about the players in this matter. Department 56 and Goebel (the Hummel company) are large, widely respected collectibles companies with excellent reputations among collectors. They are not the sort of companies to launch, or permit third parties to launch, farfetched schemes to defraud their collector base. Likewise, its reasonable to expect that at least some of each flagged piece were produced to permit D56 and Goebel to do the necessary "show and tell" thing when they were trying to line up retailers globally. Will we ever know for sure? I doubt it. D56 has a long history of not discussing production runs. There's little reason to believe this corporate trait will change any time soon.

So are there more of these little gems in the rough out there? Your guess is just as good as mine. But my friend Genny has taught me a very valuable lesson; never give up "the hunt". And to you Genny ... thank you for that very good advise!


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A Big Thanks to SnowBaby Genny!



Images of the "Grand Old Flag" pieces
courtesy of SnowBaby Genny from Nevada!




Frequently Asked Questions


  • How Many Sets Exist?

    To my knowledge, nobody but Department 56 knows that answer. Typically, D56 does not reveal production numbers. My best guess is that it is a very, very small number of "Grand Old Flags" from each nation ... about as many as one might need to do some "show and tell" when trying to launch international distribution plans. But that is only a guess :)

  • Are These Pieces "Official"?

    That depends on your perspective I guess. Will you find them separately identified in the Snowbabies History Lists? No. But that is just as easily explained by the fact that the same D56 number (68822) is used on the boxes to identify all the "Grand Old Flags". There is no question that D56 and Canadian collectors regard their versions as "official", but you won't find the Canadian flag version listed separately in the History Lists or even a picture of it dsiplayed in the Snowbabies catalog. In my view, these pieces are indeed "official" and every bit a part of the collection as the Canadian and US versions.

  • Are There Other Flags Out There?

    I personally doubt it, but I guess anything is possible. At the time the distribution plans were pending, there was a slow succession of unconfirmed reports of 2 countries, then 4 countries, then 8 countries and even 12. Some folks even speculated that there would eventually be one for every free market economy on the globe that D56 could tap into with international distributors. To my knowledge, D56 was never really completely and publicly forthcoming about the entire international distribution plan. My recollection is that the most "official" looking reports at the time were that there were 8 countries in the plan which would be distributed by D56 in US and Canada, Enesco in Great Britain and Japan, and Goebel in the rest of Europe. When news of the flags slowly faded away in time without much fanfare, the great mystery of the "missing" flags was born in the serious SB collector community.

  • Where Can I Get A Set?

    If you are interested in the latest information I have on these pieces, send me an email here. And if you happen to locate some or have some for sale, be sure to pass that information on as well. I get alot of email on these pieces so any help you can offer other serious snowbabies collectors seeking them is always appreciated :)


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