Scroll down this page to

"About Our Village"

for what's on this website.

"The Village Collector"




July 24, 2022




Bill & Kathy Channell


"MICKEY"  -  Who's Really The One In Charge


The Jocose Story of Bill & Kathy’s

Odyssey to The Village Collector” 

began in 1991, without a computer, or even thinking about whatever the internet was. We wanted to celebrate the first Christmas in our new home with lots of decorations. That’s when we discovered the little, ceramic lit villages. Shopping, to choose which buildings should represent our first holiday in our own home, we stumbled upon the porcelain villages of Department 56. Eureka - our choice was made.


Department 56, affectionately known as D56, had two series: the ceramic Snow Village, and the porcelain Heritage Village. The smaller porcelain buildings caught our attention with the detail, charm and warmth, that evoked that old-fashioned Christmas feel that we wanted.


Heritage was unique in that it was made up of many sub-categories. In 1984, twelve years after the introduction of Snow Village, Heritage started with the Dickens Village. In subsequent years, D56 unveiled the New England Village, Alpine Village, Christmas in the City, North Pole and Disney - also under the Heritage Village banner. By 1991, when we began looking, D56 was in full bloom, and it was the “Golden Age” of village collecting.


While Dickens was our main focus, we carefully chose buildings from each of the other villages to give us a perfect (for us) eclectic, but harmonious display. Unlike most collectors, we don’t use the D56 people. Our preference is to keep the main focus on the buildings, by populating our village with figures of the same approximate scale. Otherwise, almost all the attention is on the accessories and the buildings just become a backdrop. (At least from our perspective.)


Deeper and deeper, as the all-to-familiar story goes, we became entrapped in the porcelain addiction. We were adding a couple of buildings each year, planning trips around D56 shopping or events, and even starting a club with other addicts (The 56 Club) in New Hampshire. For over 20 years we've endured this passion, that is only understood by those that share it.


That's a LOT of set-ups and tear-downs. Retirement enticed this senior citizen to contemplate a year ‘round village - not changing with the seasons, but permanently in winter, our favorite village season. No more tear downs, packing, storing, unpacking, etc. In 2010, plans began for our “Ultimate Village.” However, when you least expect it, life happens, and all the beautiful, white-wrapped styrofoam boxes, were stacked away on lonely shelves in a dark, spare bedroom, never to see another holiday. (or so they thought)


Fast forward to 2015. With recovery progressing, and having been instructed to find a “hobby,” I entered my styrofoam jungle and resurrected the dreams for my most grandiose display ever. I finished the plans about January. So much for that year.


In the summer of 2016, health and age requirements dictated that a few well-chosen, small displays would replace the huge undertaking that was once planned. As I emerged back into my favorite pastime, the shock of the state-of-the-world of villaging was quite a set back. Favorite dealers were no longer in business, clubs I knew had dissolved, people I knew had moved away or passed away. Gatherings, shows and conventions have shrunk from many a month to one or two a year. Even the NCC is a ghost of its former self. (To their credit, the NCC is fighting back and looking well.)


The loss of publications hit me the hardest. There was a point where I received well over a dozen. Now, all that’s left is Village D-Lights and company catalogs. (Fortunately they are still good quality publications trying to fill the void.) Finding web sites that are current, is a daunting task.  Nothing dies on the internet. It is so frustrating to waste time, only to find out the last entry was 5 or 10 years ago. There is a lot on social media, but it’s just not the same to me.


As the saying goes, “better to light a single candle than curse the darkness.” Since we couldn’t find a site we liked, eventually we proved that brain cells DO die, and had the epiphany “we can make our OWN website.” After all, three-year-olds can do it. OK, I did say brain cells had died. Stumbling along for a bit, we managed to get a couple of pages on-line for our official start on May 20, 2017. We’re here now, and with a little help we’ll be around for the long haul.


We pledge our efforts to make a family friendly site, with fun for grand-kids to grand parents. We strive to provide “Inspiration, Information, and Fun.” This is a safe, non-commercial site. We get no funding for any of this. Even our “Links” page is unique. The links are not sponsors but people, clubs, and companies that we trust.


We will do our best to give you reasons to constantly check here to see what’s new, have some fun, trust what you find, watch some videos, see what’s going on with collecting around the world, and especially enjoy the tremendous talents of David Spears, Jim Peters, Brian Vaill, Thea Heyink, Phil & Sue Adkins, Peppe Apuleo, Alan Rogers, and Greg Cassidy. We can’t thank them enough for sharing our vision that “villaging” is the greatest, and is alive and well. Please contact us, and let us all know how we’re doing, offer suggestions, and help spread the word.


Thanks to all of you, it seems to be working. In these first five years, with no budget, no advertising, and only the help of great villagers spreading the word, we've grown so much.   Thank you so very, very much.   Remember -


“It Takes a Village to Make a Village






David & Linda Spears

 My name is David Spears. Bill and Kathy invited me to contribute words to their The Village Collector web site. I’m flattered to be asked and will be more than happy to do so on a regular basis.


I, and my lovely wife Linda, live in Duluth, MN. Creating new display ideas is our primary interest in working with villages. We are longtime members of our local Village North Collectors Club.


We have been making displays, and learning, for twenty years. During that time our village has grown from fourteen to over one hundred and eighty ‘lit houses.’ Most are from Department 56 – a few from Lemax, Coca Cola, you get the idea. 


We do our own backgrounds, foregrounds, trees, water, waterfalls, tunnels, mountains and other smaller items. I wrote a regular column, ‘Just so you know!’ for Village D-Lights from 2004 to 2016. My words have been on the MN 56 Clubs web site even longer than that. 

We conducted seminars at the Minnesota Gatherings in 2002 and 2008, Green Bay 2006, Chicago 2012, Connecticut 2013 and California in 2015. 


I was our clubs representative to the National Council of 56 Clubs and later the NCC Region VI Representative for four years. I am also a moderator of a Dept. 56 Group on Yahoo. 

Our other common interests include flower gardening, photography and country dancing. Linda also enjoys designing and making greeting cards. 


Input from others is necessary for a column like this to exist. Please feel free to share questions, comments and/or opinions. 






Jim Peters

 A little about me – I’m not a collector. I’m a displayer. I buy and sell buildings, structures and accessories constantly, with the goal of creating a different large Christmas village each year. That’s the fun part for me. I’ll use any manufacturer’s structures, figurines and accessories, if it fits into my vision, or imagining for a vignette, within each village display. Sometimes I have to build what I want, but I’m in no way crafty. Most villagers are far better at crafting landscapes and building accessories than I am. I use the camera to hide my deficiencies.

I’m a late bloomer to Christmas villages. I’m married to the “Crazy Christmas Tree Lady,” as her daughters call her. We’re up to 25 decorated trees, 118 Santas, and 49 snowpeople as the centerpieces of a fully decorated house each season. By 2017 I was making village movies that didn’t make me cringe at my errors while watching it.

Bill Channell, our webmaster of The Village Collector, generously asked me to contribute and to start a Column here, about how to make really good village videos. I’m humbled and honored to contribute. So here I am. My goal at in this forum is to grow the group of villagers who can make outstanding videos to entertain the thousands of viewers out there looking for ideas and inspiration.





Brian & Elizabeth Vaill

By introduction, we are Elizabeth and Brian Vaill. I have collected Department 56 Villages since 1984, and Elizabeth joined in after we were married in 2012. I started with Dickens Village that is displayed year-round on shelves in our living room. Another village, Seasons Bay, is also displayed in our home on shelving in our office. The bigger part of our Department 56 story is the integration of D56 collecting with O-Gauge trains. As soon as Christmas in the City was issued in 1987, I saw an immediate fit between model railroading and this Series. I have built several layouts that have incorporated Christmas in the City with O-Gauge trains.

When the Polar Express Movie hit the theaters in 2004, and Lionel Trains made a corresponding PE Train set, there instantly became another excellent fit for another D56 Village, the North Pole Series and model trains. The fact is no other movie has had such an impact on model railroading and perhaps the D56 villages.

It would be fair to say that today we are prominent promoters of the use of D56 products and model railroading. Our layout is comprised of two sections, one devoted to New York City and the other is our interpretation of the North Pole and the Polar Express Story. The Christmas in the City Series is used extensively to create our version of New York City at Christmastime. The center piece is a large version of the Grand Central Terminal. We have 5th Avenue, home of the Empire State Building, of course 34th Street, and 42nd Street where the GCT is located. Our roads are filled with taxicabs and vehicles just like what you would find in NYC at rush hour. In the evening, the City is breathtaking with all the lighting.

We both love the Polar Express story as it brings hope that no matter what your age, if you BELIEVE, wonderful things can happen. Our rendition of the North Pole takes you on a journey where the PE Train comes through the mountains, passes Ice Lake, goes through the Clock Tower Building and then enters the Center of the North Pole where the trains are greeted by over 700 elf figures. The North Pole Series is used extensively for this part of our layout.

Our work in connection with Department 56 and O-Gauge Trains has been nationally recognized in publications and videos. I have written several articles about this subject and have done frequent guest speaking engagements.

​We both find that the hobby is constantly changing and growing with new products and new ideas. As an example, this year D56 introduced the Woolworth Building that required renovations to fit into the layout. This keeps the interest in collecting Department 56 fresh and challenging.





Thea Heyink

Hi, my name is Thea Heyink, and I'm a Canadian of Dutch descent. I first became interested in Christmas Villages as a child some 65 years ago, when, with my family, I had the rare privilege of visiting a Canadian family home that displayed, in my child's eyes, a fantastic Village display that "knocked my socks off"! My parents told me I spent the entire two hour visit examining every inch of that village, and apparently I talked of nothing else for months. As a teen I had a part-time job in a department store and used my wages to purchase three pieces for my mother to display on her sideboard every Christmas. That was 55 years ago. 


When I married in 1971, we were too poor to spend a lot of money on frivolities such as Christmas decorations, so my fetish for Village building began about ten years and several children later. I recall my husband and I decided to invest in a camcorder for Christmas one year, and he asked me to go to Sears department store for a doorcrasher special. That meant I had to be in line about an hour before the store opened in frigid weather. 


We got that first camcorder, and as well, I lucked out by getting another doorcrasher special, a set of four tiny ceramic houses and a number of poorly painted figurines. That was my start. Over the subsequent forty years, I bought and sold many brands and types of Village buildings, trying to hit on the style I really liked, and finally decided on the Victorian era. Then in the early 2000s I discovered train modellers stores and the products made by Woodland Scenics©. My creative urges knew no bounds! 


The Villages I built in those years, still living in a home with plenty of space, attracted a lot of attention. I would get families and school classes asking to come and view, and entranced many hearts, which was such a delight for me, especially after my children grew up, moved away, and I was suddenly widowed. It took a few years to start building again, and I soon realized that building Christmas Villages was balm for my soul.


Since those years, I've had to adjust, as my life circumstances changed. I first downsized to a condo, and then an apartment. Which meant I had less and less space. I now build my villages on three floating shelves in my livingroom, a challenge every year to give depth and perspective to narrow shelves. I'm always plotting and scheming how to add more space to the shelves. 


Last year, in 2020, with covid restrictions in place, a good 1/2 of the residents of my senior-living apartment building came through, and several people came more than once. One woman came through three times with several of her grandchildren. I hope by letting children view the villages I can inspire them to become collectors as well. That it becomes a moving experience for them, as it did for me all those years ago.




Peppe Apuleo

My name is Peppe Apuleo. I live in Italy near Naples, in a city called Capua. Bill and Kathy (webmaster) invited me to help write some columns on their website “The Village Collector”. I am flattered, and more than happy to do this regularly.


My goal on “” is to grow the group of villagers who can make great videos to entertain collectors and viewers. Creating new exhibition ideas is my main interest in working with Christmas villages. Almost all the buildings that are part of my collection are Lemax (from 1991 to today) and I also have a few Department 56 pieces. I constantly buy buildings, structures and accessories, with the aim of creating a different Christmas village every year.


The contribution of other collector friends is necessary for the existence of an article like this. Feel free to share any questions, comments and/or opinions.



Peppe Apuleo








Currently, the Village Collector is now almost 30 pages, and we're still growing. By constantly upgrading and expanding our community, we hope you'll visit us as often as you log on to the internet. We offer you over a few hundred hours of Inspiration, Information and Fun. To make it easier for you to keep up to date, we'll let you know at the top of each page when any changes have been made to that page. Here's what you'll find as you go exploring - You can even click on each ribbon to be magically whisked to each described page.



This is where we greet everyone with an overview of what Lit House Collecting is all about. The opening graphic of Inspiration, Information & Fun is what we try to offer our community. Notice that "Inspiration" is first and larger. At the bottom of the page is where our visitor information is collected. We display that so you can follow, along with us, our progress in reaching collectors all over the world.



This is where we share who we are and what we're about, and extend our heart-felt welcome to you. The second half of this page (About Our Village) is to put the rest of the site in perspective, and hopefully, help enhance your experience here. But, of course you already know that - you're here already.



This is the "Go-To" page to find out "What's Happening" on the website. Has the "Coach is Here" shout gone out yet, are the new videos in, has David, Larry, Jim or Brian posted something new? New special features, or games, site updates, or "Who Knows What"  . . .  find out here.  Or of course, you can just lazily wander through the site, and take in hours of villaging. Enjoy.


Let's get to hear from our community.  This is the place to share your opinions, expertise, knowledge, or just entertain us. Whatever villaging thoughts you'd like to share. And . . . what better place to meet friends than the local cafe. Especially at our own Village Collectors' Cafe. Check out the  graphics, and see who's here. It's a great community, it's world-wide, and we all love villaging. It's your community also, drop on in, and visit often.


This is my fun page. Thoughts about my collection, the website, and "Things That Make You Go . . . Hmmm".  It's my version of "Inspiration, Information and Fun".  The Epping Coach can arrive at any time. Of course there are lots of hazards on the Dickens-era roadways, so it's not always exactly on any schedule, but when the cry goes out "COACH IS HERE" . . . the party begins. Who knows who, or what, it will bring.


A serious and/or fun look at "something" I'd like to share with you. Something from my village, someone else's village, things for your village, something new, bulletin-board-type items, or just "Something" that I hope will provide "Inspiration, Information & Fun" and share a little village passion in an entertaining way.



This is now the home of David Spears' popular "Just so you know! . . ." articles. For his legion of fans, this is all that needs to be said. If you are new to his writings and musings, it won't take you long to realize what the rest of us appreciate, and rapidly become a fan also. Every collector will finish every visit by saying, "Well, now I know!"



OK, you've finished your village, NOW WHAT? Have you ever wondered how to show your village by video or photos? Enter the mind of Jim Peters and realize the many ways to improve your perception of remote "Villaging" and share your creativity in the best possible way. And of course, after you've captured your endeavors, don't forget to share your efforts with us. A neat side benefit to Jim's columns is that you'll find the information useful in so many other applications. 


A view of Villaging from Europe, where things are all the same, and things are all different. Here's a chance to broaden your world-wide villaging knowledge, from the comfort of your home. Fun is fun and you'll enjoy Peppe Apuleo's style. A new slant on Inspiration. Information & Fun. Yes, the buildings DO light up in Europe.  :)


Have you ever had the desire to create a building from Scratch? Or do you enjoy seeing what true craftsmanship can create? You can do both on Alan Rogers' page "Scratchbuilt". Here's your opportunity to be amazed AND also learn things. Think how knowledgeable you'll be at the next gathering, conversing with your friends. Plus, imagine a house tour where you show your village and say, "I made that!" 


The place to come, to see how it's done. Want to add something to your village, that you made yourself? Want to make your entire village? Do you like D.I.Y. projects? This is the place to check it all out. Follow along with Thea Heyink to see what's involved, and maybe try a few projects of your own. Or, grab a bucket of popcorn and your favorite beverage and be amazed at the magical art you'll see Thea create. Definitely a "don't miss" destination for a little Inspiration, Information & Fun!


My Favorite Page!  Lit house collectors are awesome, and this page proves it. This is the incredible celebration of our entire  community. A chance to experience the enthusiasm that embraces our pastime, and more importantly, see how far it extends around the entire world. 

Photos might be "worth a thousand words" as the saying goes. And we agree. But remember - videos are thousands of photos.

We're sure you'll notice that the monthly videos here, show varying levels of video, audio and display expertise. The villages shown can vary from just a couple of buildings to hundreds. Famous brands to homemade (the ultimate total creation). However, what comes through ALL of these videos, is the passion, care, and effort that went into each village. Plus, when they're finished, these collectors are excited enough to make a video, and want to share it. We Want To Help!   Share your village with us . . . and we'll share it with the world.

This page can offer unlimited "Inspiration, Information and Fun" - Don't miss these monthly samples of TVC-TV! They're only up for a month, so if you snooze, you lose.

All the Nominees for our popular Village Video Hall of Fame come from this page. These ambassadors will also help us grow our village community. If you're also into "Villaging" then you're already part of our community.  Just think  . . .  have you ever heard someone talking to another villager and say, "Want to see my Village?" and then get "no" for an answer? Of course not, we all want to see it. Share YOUR village.

"It Takes a Village to Make a Village"TM



Whether you just want a quick look, or want to slowly study details, it's hard to beat a Village Photograph. Here's where you can take your time, get some "Inspiration, Information & Fun," perhaps meet fellow Villagers, or share your passion with the rest of us. Participate and the community improves. Surprisingly, so will you.  SHARE . . . And enjoy!



Trains can add a lot to a village. This is where you can see how to get the most enjoyment and creativity out of adding your own rail line to reach your train stations and wisk your villagers to far off lands - or only as far as the next village. Size, scale, era, or lego vs polar express, serious accuracy or just a giant Santa on a North Pole Express. All levels of choice, style, ambition and ability will be covered here.



Celebrating the fun that comes with sharing your passion, and joy, with other like-minded individuals, is a neat part of Village Collecting. This page is dedicated to the clubs that are active and welcome new members. Watch for a new club near you to be added. Expand your horizons and discover the fun when you share time with like-minded villagers.



See what villagers are saying about this website. Do you agree? Let us know. Maybe see a comment about a section or item you missed. I'm always impressed when others take the time and effort to share their thoughts. (and extremely grateful). 



This page is for the whole family. It includes an ever-changing plethora of fun items for grand kids to grand parents. Cartoons and games for family time or just a quiet chuckle. We firmly believe collecting has to have fun as well as amazement. Here's your "pause for the cause."  Our most popular section, among our younger villagers, is the "COLORING TIME" - a "Virtual Coloring Book" for EVERY age and ability, that changes with the seasons. Do you remember when a box of crayons only had eight colors? Bring back that fun again.


In our "Village Videos Stars of the Month" section, we celebrate all villagers and their passion. However, sometimes we come across a video that makes us go "WOW!" A video that makes you want to watch every minute, probably more than once. In an effort to recognize these works of Video/Village Art, we nominate them to our Hall of Fame. We'll then have YOU decide the Best of the Best. When someone asks you what villaging is about, this page is the perfect example to get the conversation going.


Ahhh - my favorite season. Here at The Village Collector we try to embrace the spirit of Christmas all year long. Explore this page whenever you need an attitude adjustment or just want a Christmas fix. There's a lot to uncover on this small page. Have fun, Merry Christmas . . . and to all a good night.



Here's where you'll find the "Village Connection". Fun forums offer a place to discuss anything villaging. I hang out there quite a bit, and am always looking to discuss whatever you want. Ask a question or offer an opinion.  What's on your mind?

But, if it's information and resources you seek, the best part of the village connection is in the links. However, you'll notice this is not your typical links page. This is very unique. No sponsors, no paid links, and no outdated links. These are our choices that we'd like to share with the community. If you know of any other quality links that you'd like to share, please let us know. We hope to make this page the "Go-To" reference place for villagers to find what's new, trustworthy dealers, and other awesome resources to enhance your villaging experience.


Our tag line, "It Takes a Village to Make a Village"TM shows how important you are to this community. To make our village better, we need your input. Thoughts, ideas, likes & dislikes, suggestions and/or just general sharing of information, is what we rely on to improve our efforts here. There are "Contact Us" buttons at the bottom of every page, plus other "contact" points throughout the site. All this to reinforce how much we want you to help shape our community.

So, there it is - our effort to make a FREE website for the community.  Get inspired, share information, and, most importantly - Have Fun. Be sure to bookmark us -

and please,  let your friends know we're here.

It's not a business, it's a passion!