Dept 56 Village: Design Tips

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I've become an avid fan of the Dept 56 village collections.  I have a nice collection of buildings and pieces for the Dickens Village which I make into a realistic looking diorama.  My wife has a North Pole collection with the complete set of "SANTA" buildings from 2005.  She also has two buildings from the Christmas in the City collection. Anyway, each year my diorama gets bigger and more complex.  In 2006 we bought a house that has a great room with a fireplace on the south wall.  This wall is huge and on either side of the fireplace are cubby holes for stereo equipment.  Below these are cubby holes with windows.  This is where my diorama will be set up from now on.   Check out the galleries to see the pictures from each years setup. I have a lot of ideas for setting up my villages so I thought I'd better make some notes on what I planned and what I really did.  The fun of doing this is in the design and building of the diaorama, which means the structure the village sits on, the layout of buildings, plants, walls and trails and so forth.

  • 2006 Design Overview
  • Creating hidden display lighting
  • Howto accurately position grains of sand, snow or other small particles
  • Buy the foam insulation board used for walls from Home Depot or Lowes.  It's a lot cheaper (and you can get much larger pieces) than getting foam board from Michael's or other craft stores.
  • Lighting:  I currently use a lot of Lemax spot lights (Dept 56 no longer makes these) but the 4 light sets shut off when they get hot (after about an hour) while the two light sets seem to be okay.  However, in 2008 I had great luck using a string of 30 LED lights I purchased from a hobby store.  The lights were very small and I could simply align them down a thin channel in the styrofoam base, placing grass mats, trees, roads and figures around them.  Next year, I'll probably use nothing but these LED lights (if I can find more small sets – like 15 count – of them).

Most of the tricks and ideas I had while creating my village displays are now included as captions on the photos in the galleries.  You'll need to browse the galleries to get to the captions.  Use the PicLens option.  It displays the captions in the upper right, making it easier to read them without having to scroll on large photos. Galleries The galleries include (at present) photos that are rotated.  My apologies for that.  I'll try to fix that at some point in the future.

My Collection

Other sites with useful tips:

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Reader's Comments

  1. Dept 56 galleries for 2008 | Michael J. Hammel - The Graphics Muse | December 29th, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    […] Dept 56 Village: Design Tips […]

  2. Getting my fix of hands on projects | Michael J. Hammel - The Graphics Muse | January 6th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    […] Dept 56 Village: Design Tips […]

  3. Betty | September 18th, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Do you know anyone who would love my entire collection of Dickens Village? I have over 150 houses and accessories. All but the 3 biggies. Also have Christmas in the City All Saints Corner Church, Little Italy Ristorante, Snow Village Greenhouse, Parmount Theater, Cumberland, Pinewood cabin, Craftman Cottage.  My Dickens included all houses for 1984 until 2000. We are downsizing and moving to Condo.
    Sorry if this is not suitable.

  4. mjhammel | September 18th, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    I don’t know of anyone personally who might be willing to buy the whole set. I can’t buy it – we’re cutting back this year because I’m basically out of space for more stuff.

    My wife does business with a collectibles store here in Colorado Springs that might take them on consignment. They’re called Hightower Collectibles:
    Their web site needs a little work but they’re very nice folks and have been in business for a long time – I buy most of my Dickens stuff from them. You might contact them and see if they’d put the collection on sale for you. There is a phone number on their web site, and an email address for “Randy” if you scroll down a bit.

    Tell them Brinda (Vindicated Vinyl) Hammel’s husband sent you.

    I’ll leave your question posted here and if someone wants to contact you they can do it through my web site. Good luck!

  5. John and Chris | October 2nd, 2012 at 4:54 am

    We have 30 plus pieces and many accessoies.  How do I get rid of them if I wanted.

  6. mjhammel | October 2nd, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Most people seem to use eBay to sell their Dept. 56 pieces. If you don’t want to go that route, try to find a collectibels store in your area and see if they’ll sell them for you on consignment. You can try the store we visit here in Colorado Springs. See my previous comment here.

    I can’t buy them from you, unfortunately. I’ve run out of space to display my collection!

  7. Dianne Ramsey | November 9th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Do you know anyone that would like to purchase my Dept 56 Dickens village-Village Mill, I have had
    this piece since the start of my collection in 1984.  I also have other limited edition pieces-St Marks Cathedral (2)  of them, Green Gate, Ruth Marion and more early pieces.
    Any tips?

  8. Cherry Allaway | November 29th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    If you haven't found a buyer for your villages, Betty and John,  I am interested.  Please contact me.  Thank you.

  9. liz tinnin | December 30th, 2012 at 11:33 am

    We just inherited quite a bit and don't know how to store them properly any ideas? The boxes are small on their ouwn but bulky when you box them togerther.

  10. mjhammel | December 30th, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    We keep all the original Department 56 boxes and put the figurines and houses back in them at the end of the season. Then the Department 56 boxes are packed together in large plastic storage boxes. I’m not sure how many big plastic boxes we have but I’d guess its something like 6 or maybe 8. Keeping them in the plastic boxes allows them to be stored with little moisutre getting to the original Deptartment 56 boxes. The trick is to find big enough plastic boxes to hold lots of Dept56 stuff, but not so large that they get unreasonably heavy to move around. Then its just a matter of arranging the Dept56 boxes in the plastic boxes, which never seems to happen the same way twice of course.

    Good luck!

  11. liz tinnin | December 30th, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Thank you so much.  I live in mid west GA can I put them in the attic? It can get pretty hot.

  12. mjhammel | December 30th, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    We lived in Houston for about 5 years and stored them in an attic in the garage. This isn’t the ideal place for them, but they should survive at least a few years up there as long as you store the Dept56 boxes inside the larger plastic storage boxes with sealed tops. Heat may damage some of the electrical components but I don’t think (in my opinion, but I’m no expert) the houses or figurines will be affected. Moisture in the attic will affect the Dept56 boxes, eventually making them look old and worn. Note that the styrofoam in the original Dept56 boxes can act as an insulator from some of the heat.

    An alternative solution would be to wrap each Dept56 box in plastic wrap first, to seal out moisture. But that’s only if you’re truly a collector. If you’re just an average fan, like me, wrapping in plastic is overkill.

  13. liz tinnin | December 30th, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    thank you so much

  14. Joe Coppola | May 23rd, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    300 + pieces of NEV and NP with accessories and trees.  Looking for buyer of entire lot.  All boxed and in good condition.  All before 1995.  Reasonable expectation knowing current market status.

  15. Anna | February 6th, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Due to downsizing in OH, I must sell my beloved Dept 56 Dickens Village collection – with 150 buildings and 150 figurines/accessories. Complete inventory available simply by inquiring to this post. I'd love to see the whole collection go to a loving home … to continue annual display. 

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