Freaky Santa Claus Antiques and Collectibles

  • 01 of 04

    Gruff Belsnickles

    Rare Belsnickle Holding a Basket, c. early 1900s
    Rare Belsnickle Holding a Basket, c. early 1900s. - Photo courtesy of Morphy Auctions

    Most people see Santa Claus as a rosy cheeked, white-bearded, lovable old guy rocking a red and white suit. Not all depictions of Santa are so nice when it comes to antiques and collectibles though. They can be humorous at best, and downright creepy at their worst.

    Take the belsnickle, as an example. The origin of the name Belsnickle comes from the Pennsylvania Dutch Santa named Pelze Nichol. The name sounded more like “Pelsnickle” as Americans tried to pronounce it, and eventually it evolved...MORE into Belsnickle. Compared to the jolly figure we recognize as Santa today, he’s a total grump.

    These Santa representations almost always have a less-than-happy look, but some seem downright sinister with a soulless gaze and frowning facial posture. They’re usually of German origin and modeled of papier-mâché. Many were made around the turn of the 20th century, but like the Santa lanterns shown in the next slide in this series, originals are hard to locate and quite pricey today. Oversized examples and those with elaborate costumes (like the one shown here holding a basket) can sell in the thousands at auction.

    With even simpler original Belsnickles selling for several hundred apiece, it’s wise to research what you’re buying before investing in these. Reproductions are widely available and they’re still being made today. One thing to keep in mind, if a Belsnickle is made of wood or resin or any other heavy material other than papier-mâché, it’s not an original. 

    See more belsnickle examples:

    Belsnickle with Christmas Tree 

    Pink Belsnickle

    Green Belsnickle

    Continue to slide two to see a creepy Santa head lantern. 

    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04

    Creepy Santa Head Lanterns

    Santa Head Lantern, c. 1900
    Santa Head Lantern, c. 1900. - Photo courtesy of Morphy Auctions

    The Santa head lantern shown here, along with other similar examples, wasn't meant to make the freak show when they were new. They sure do a good job of that now though. Many of these were manufactured in Germany in the early 1900s, but because they’re crafted of papier-mâché not all that many survived. Combining paper and candles isn’t a really great match to promote longevity, after all. And if they weren’t stored properly, the paper inserts within the eyes and mouth are notorious for...MORE deteriorating, which greatly diminishes the value. 

    Even though they look a bit deranged, they sell in the hundreds, if not thousands, depending on the rarity and how well they’ve withstood the test of time. This example, which is actually in amazing condition, would likely net a price on the high side of the spectrum if it were sold at auction today. Many collectors of Christmas memorabilia would relish adding it to a collection in spite of its creepy smile and zombie-like gaze.

    See more Santa head lanterns:

    Father Christmas Lantern

    Continue to slide three to get acquainted with Santa's evil sidekick named Krampus.

    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    St. Nicholas with Krampus

    Santa Postcards with Krampus, c. early 1900s
    Santa Postcards with Krampus, c. early 1900s. - Photo courtesy of Morphy Auctions

    The collectible early 1900s postcards shown here are nice, nice, and then you have not so nice literally dragging up the rear.

    The first two cards are pretty traditional depictions of Santa bringing toys to a girl and boy. Although it’s not clear what that little naked guy pushing on the girl’s head is supposed to signify, the most noteworthy thing you’ll find is that Santa is wearing a pink suit with brown trim on the first card and a purple suit on the second card. Collectors look for unusually...MORE dressed examples departing from the traditional red and white when they’re hunting Santa greeting postcards.  

    Then you get to card three in the photo and see that St. Nicholas has a friend. This is an interpretation of Krampus, and all things considered he just looks a just bit demonic compared to his usual depiction. As German legend has it, Krampus was the antithesis companion of St. Nick. Instead of rewarding kids for being good, Krampus carted them off in chains and ate them. He usually looks much more sinister with a devil’s head on a goat’s body and a very long menacing tongue. Yeah, that should work better than parents threatening a stocking full of coal and switches. 

    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04

    Creepy Santa Claus Antiques and Collectibles

    Read more about some creep, freaky Santa Claus antiques and collectibles:

    What are Belsnickles?

    Creepy Santa Head Lanterns

    St. Nicholas with Krampus