A Tisket, A Tasket ... a Piglet in My Basket!
by Steve Peckel (aka SnowBabySP@aol.com)
Spring is upon us, and its time once again to take up outdoor chores that render Planet Earth a splendid, reborn landscape of color, texture and fragrance. Spring is also time to go see the wonderful Snowbunnies introductions, and 1998 Easter Annuals, which have made the way to our favorite dealers. A host of bisque figurines, accessories, musicals, hinged boxes, a new globe, and a large and small piglet are the current offerings, and, as we have come to expect of Department 56, the new pieces are quite irresistible.
This year's large and small Easter Annuals are piglets (I can't bring myself to refer to them as "pigs"). The Easter series came of interest to collectors due, in large part, to similarities of this white bisque, snowed giftware line with the characteristic nubbies and pastel painted accenting of Snowbabies and Snowbunnies. While sticking with the barnyard animal theme of the series to date, Department 56 has chosen to depart from the full "nubbied" body design of the earlier pieces. The distinctive snow particles, or nubbies as they are often referred to, appear on the 1998 piglets but only in a ring at the shoulder portion of the torso; the balance of the design is smooth and unsnowed. Nevertheless, these piglets are adorable and still display well with Snowbunnies or Snowbabies collections. If you are undecided whether you like the "no nubbies" look, do remember the Easter pieces are annuals that will soon be available only on the secondary market should Department 56 stick with its practice of producing them only in the year of introduction.
New in Snowbunnies are some really delightful figurine pieces. "A Tisket, A Tasket Basket" is just as it sounds; a basket full of beautifully arranged Snowbunnies and friends topped by a little blue robin perched on the basket handle. This piece is proving to be quite popular, and several retailers are reporting mid-March sell outs of their early arrivals. A second introduction features a Snowbunny in bird's beak mask seated before a newly hatched chick and is most appropriately titled "Are You My Momma?". "Bunny Express" depicts a Snowbunny riding a tricyle with a cart full of Easter eggs in tow. A two piece set of Snowbunnies amidst four pastel blue robins is entitled "Little Birdies Go Tweet" while another new introduction called "You're Cute As A Bug's Ear!" has a Snowbunny peering through a magnifier at what must be a caterpillar of sorts (oh horrors if its really a worm!). April showers seems to be the theme of "Rain, Rain, Go Away!"; two little Snowbunnies cuddled together under an umbrella with a gaggle of bemused geese watching over them. And rounding out the figurine selections is the 1998 Exclusive, "Double Yolk"; a Snowbunny and goose sharing quarters as Easter egg hatchlings.
Very reminiscent of last year's Mother's Day Snowbabies introduction is "Bis 4 Bunny Musical"; a bespeckled Snowbunny seated upon a stack of books reading to a little bunny. Like its Snowbabies counterpart, the Snowbunny's head moves from side-to-side when the music box is wound and playing. A bumble bee costume clad Snowbunny standing atop a music box is called "Bee My Baby Bunny". Another music box and the only new water globe are adaptions of earlier figurines of identical title; "You Make Me Laugh!" and "Is There Room For Me?", respectively. More colorful accessory pieces called "Flowering Spring Trees" (3 types), "Flowering Spring Topiaries" (3 types) and "Pink Picket Wood Fence" are also introduced for more effective display building. Finally, the enormously popular Snowbabies hinged box idea has made its way into the 1998 Snowbunnies introductions. "Abracadabra" features a Snowbunny in an overturned top hat; "Piggy Back" is a Snowbunny riding prone atop a tortoise; and "Tweet, Tweet, Tweet" is a Snowbunny in a basket upon which sits a little blue robin.
Suggested retail prices of the new introductions range from $7.50 for the picket fence to $45.00 for one of the music boxes, and obtaining the entire selection will set you back very close to $500.00 after sales tax. For that much money, you best be thinking of ways to fully enjoy your displays. I've decided to use alot of real flowers this year. Because Easter is so early, I'll be thinking daffodils, crocus, and forsythia from my yard along with a selection of complimentary color from my local florist. As I tend to my gardening I'm going to include some extra plantings. The cuttings will extend Snowbunny display season as spring matures into early summer. And while I'm thinking of floral arrangements, can anybody tell me why there isn't a Snowbunnies vase and a Snowbunnies flower pot in the collection?
Are you listening Department 56?