Santa Claus has changed in appearance throughout the centuries.
At first he was St. Nicolas, a tall, thin man with a beard. In 1823 the famous poem “The Night Before Christmas” was published. It describes a jolly little man who was small enough to slide down a chimney.
Early Santa figures usually walked with a bag full of toys, but by the 1850s he was riding in a sleigh. Reindeer pulled the sleigh in snowy countries, flying through the air or running on wooded trails.
The legend of Santa Claus bringing toys at Christmas is now worldwide, so Santa’s sleigh has been changed to suit different cultures and weather.
A child in a tropical climate probably wouldn’t recognize a sleigh or reindeer.
Vintage pictures, figures, candy containers and even ornaments can be found with Santa riding more modern vehicles. Horses replaced reindeer. Airplanes, trains, cars and even airships replaced sleigh and reindeer. Toys are carried in a bag or box. There are even candy containers shaped like a baby elephant with a large Santa riding on his back.
Some containers, known as “nodders,” depict an elephant with a head that bobs up and down. They are favorites of Christmas collectors.
The nodders, most made in Germany in the 1930s, sell for about $700.
Q: I have a tapered jar with printing on the bottom that has to be read from the inside out. It says “No. 72, Pat. in U.S., Dec. 22, 1903, July 17, 1906, M 29.” It’s 4 inches high, 2 1/2 inches wide at the top and 2 inches wide at the bottom. The top is grooved, as though it was meant to screw into something.
A: Your jar was part of an old Arcade wall-mounted coffee grinder. There were three parts to the grinder. A different glass jar at the top held the coffee beans, and the middle part ground them. The ground coffee emptied into your jar, which screwed into the bottom of the grinder. We found the answer by checking the patent numbers.
Q: My husband has a colorful menu for the 1941 Christmas dinner for U.S. Marines and Navy seamen stationed on Wake Island. What is it worth, and how should we sell it?
A: Christmas dinner never took place on Wake Island in 1941 because Japanese forces captured the island on Dec. 23. Americans who survived the December battles for the Pacific island, a U.S. territory, were taken prisoner. At least one other copy of your menu has been sold online. You could offer it through an auction that sells historic Americana and military memorabilia. Several auction houses in the country specialize in that field. Many are listed in the directory link under “Free Resources” on our website, Kovels.com.
Tip: Some people say you should shine the chrome on your 1940s toaster with club soda or lemon juice.