Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The,, Elk...OK, Carireindeerbou of Wagner!

The Wagner crafts workshop liked deer. Oh, my, did they like deer! The craftsmen and craftswomen produced deer in all the Wagner sizes from tiny one-inch critters that could fit inside a glass Christmas bulb to robust animals standing about 8 inches tall. They crafted standing deer, lying deer, running deer, and grazing deer.

Though they're often marketed as reindeer on eBay, most of these deer look more like your average white-tail. Many are peppered with white spots, and so would seem more likely to be fawns (though some species, such as sika deer, are spotted as adults, too).

Some Wagner deer clearly have a beefier look to them, with bigger antlers and thicker barrels; they appear to be elk (also called "wapiti" in North America). These animals can pass for reindeer in a pinch, particularly the gray and white variations.

I assume the latter are an example of the workshop's reuse of a mold with different flocking to produce a new species, just as the same mold was used to produce tigers, leopards, black panthers, and one version of the lioness.

But none of these Wagner deer are actually classic Christmas reindeer; they don't have the bulky bodies, big feet, or the rococo antlers of a reindeer or caribou.

What with Germany's treasure trove of Christmas lore and tradition, it does seem odd that Wagner didn't produce a really, truly reindeer for the American market.

Still, the Wagner deer are happy to pinch-hit for their Arctic cousins--and since most illustrated versions of the Santa story feature giant white-tail fawns as the "eight tiny reindeer," they won't look out of place in your Christmas village scene or on the mantelpiece hauling a sleigh.

And even though this red-nosed variant is decidedly not Rangifer tarandus, he reveals that Wagner did have the American market in mind because they went to great lengths to produce "the most famous reindeer of all"!


  1. I love these little animals. When we lived near Kansas City, I made it a goal to go to Hall's department store the day after Christmas to buy some of these Wagner animals. They had them for several years. They were rather expensive so I waited till after Christmas. They are certainly worth more now! We had a little tree we used to hang only them on. I need to post them on my blog sometime.

  2. When you do, please share! It's always fun to see others' collections. My mom used to buy these animals for me when I was a child--she found them in one small store in a village on Long Island, which always had a herd of them in a basket on a table. With four kids in the house, I don't know how my mom managed to remember which ones I had and always surprised me with new species in my Christmas stockings and Easter baskets. *sigh* Now you can find them only online. I used to love just happening upon them in random stores. Merry Christmas!

  3. Hi! I just found your blog today and put a link to it on my blog. I also just posted pictures of my Wagner collection on my blog. I always loved them but never tried to find out about them until today. Thanks for taking time to create this blog and write about the history of the company. Very interesting.

  4. Hi! And thanks...I'm glad you like the site. It's really fun to write about and research my favorite toys from my childhood. Must go take a look at your collection!