Santas on the block

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Lois Kohns poses next to one of her Santas for sale. She is selling her collection of nearly 10,000 Santas in an effort to downsize after the death of her husband earlier this year. (Gazette Photo by Avery Cropp)

Lois Kohns ends an era by selling her collection of Santas

For almost three decades, Richard and Lois Kohns welcomed people into their Stillwater home during the holiday season to see their collection of nearly 10,000 Santas.

Now, people will get the chance to buy much of the Kohns’ collection.

The couple decided that last year was going to be the final year for The House of Santas tour. The event encompassed 21 rooms in their 100-year-old home, lasted about two hours and ended with homemade Santa cookies and coffee or cider in the kitchen. The Kohns started the tour in 1976 after their realtor suggested they join a tour of historic homes that sometimes decorated for the holidays. They joined the effort in the early 1980s.

“When he said decorated, we saw that it was more of a string of lights here and a bell there, so we decided to put our Santas out,” Lois Kohns said. “We were very popular and we had people from Canada and Russia come through. The Russians didn’t speak a lick of English but they were awestruck by it all,”

After Richard Kohns’ death in January, Lois Kohns has since decided to sell her large Santa collection to begin the process of downsizing from her current residence. She started organizing the sale, which will be held in the two large buildings on her property, three months ago. Her neighbors helped her go through the process.

“I’ve gone through and picked the ones that I like and the kids have chosen the ones they want to keep, too,” Lois Kohns said.

The Santa collection, the largest in Minnesota, features Santas from 1890 to today, and was built over 70 years.

“I started collecting Santas since I was five-years-old. I had four brothers and no sisters to play with, so relatives got me Santas as dolls. After that everyone just started giving me Santas every year. And since there were little ones and big ones the larger one would be a mama and the smaller one would be a baby. My kids and my friends just kept giving me Santas for every holiday after that,” Lois Kohns said.

During a walkthrough at the sale sight and the Kohns home, it’s apparent that the Santas were very well-cared for, in pristine condition and completely unique from each other.

“I have many collections, but I wanted to get rid of the largest one first,” Lois Kohns said before opening the door to the sale site.

The Santas vary in size, materials and age as well and some have their original boxes they came in. There’s a story attached to almost every Santa and Lois Kohns doesn’t hesitate to share.

“See this one,” she says, pointing to a large Uncle Sam Santa. “He came to us and he was pretty ruined, we had to do a lot of work to get him back together in one piece. My husband was great at things like that. See, he has teeth. You never see Santas with teeth, so we fixed him up a bit and he looks great now.”

The Santas are well-priced with most of them selling for half of their original value, according to Lois. There’s a couple tables of Santas that will all sell for $1, while other larger Santas and collectible sets will be sold at higher prices.
The sale is Oct. 4-6 at the Kohns home at 1020 Owens St. North. Sale hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 4 and 5 and noon to 5 p.m. Oct. 6.

Lois Kohns agreed that this year would be strange without the Santa tour.

“The kids will always be here, we’ll decorate and have Christmas, but it will be a little different. I’ll miss it, but it’s time and it wouldn’t be the same without my husband here,” she said.

Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com

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