Links to some
restored examples.

Heinrich C. Preis, West German Craftsman

September 2021

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 About Heinrich C. Preis

Heinrich C. Preis made or distributed Christmas-related handcrafted items in West Germany. Since there is currently nothing about this maker on the Web, I'll share what I know. Unfortunately, this is very little.

The idea has been suggested elsewhere that Preis may have only been a distributer of the items bearing his labels. I can't prove or disprove this. It seems reasonable that the items he signed were made by him. Since they have things in common with the unsigned items, I believe those were made by Preis as well. It's possible that some of the smaller ornaments, labeled on the outside of the packages, could have been imported but so far, there's no evidence to support this.

My best guess is that Preis began making craft items sometime in the 1980s. The range of his work included nutcrackers, incense smokers and Christmas pyramids. My first exposure to them were the green and red Nutcrackers on this page. At the time I acquired them, I couldn't identify the maker. It was only after comparing decoration styles, paint pigment and even attempts to cover up imperfections, on known Preis work, that I concluded Preis had made them.

There is also a detail I haven't seen in other maker's work. Where artificial fur is used, Preis folded a small portion of the beard fur over. This hid the fabric backing, when viewed from the front at least. It also gave more of an appearance of the fur growing out of the jaw. From the sides, you can see where the material is doubled.

Preis didn't indicate the identity of his early work in any way. He used at least three different rectangular labels on his later work. Apparently he worked and/or sold items from at least three locations in Rhineland-Palatinate Germany. These were; Drehenthalerhof, Schweisweiler (late '90s) and Dannenfels.

Two of his nutcrackers that I've seen, closely mimic HoDreWa nutcrackers but are more crudely finished. Another resembles a Christian Ulbricht nutcracker. Still another attempts to emulate a VERO Blue King but is all wood with hand carved eyebrows and mustache.

SignaturesPreis' later work was often signed and dated with a Sharpie-type marker under the base. The most recent date I've found is 2005. He also used a Sharpie to add lettering and decoration to some of his work. A nutcracker by Preis that I have is accented with a metallic gold Sharpie.

Upon examining these items, the thing that will occur to you instantly, is that this is not factory work. Not only are these items scarce but many show signs of having been completed, then reworked before leaving the shop.

I have one nutcracker which had the height of its boots repainted. You can see the lower line of the previous height under the paint. Another had a split in the wood filled with a glued rag and painted over. Two others had some rough end grain under the head and body, spackeled over with something like joint compound and painted over. With time, this has deteriorated and started to flake off. Another I've seen has an extra piece added to the lower jaw which apparently didn't close completely after attaching the lever. This makes the lower teeth appear very long.

As far as I'm concerned, these touch-ups add character to these items and I value them more than the individual models of German factory nutcrackers, identically manufactured in the tens of thousands in a run. Any of these that were noticeably defective during manufacture were simply discarded. In an efficient production situation, it wasn't worth the time to try to correct them.

The Heinrich C. Preis craft items pictured below were currently available in online auctions as I wrote this. A search may turn up more examples as time progresses. Gotta' love the smoking nurse.


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