Fontanini Fanatics


September - October, 1999

Issue 99-08

Editor: Deb Ehlert



How are we doing?

 This issue was delayed because the first ever Fontanini Convention was held on November 5, 6 & 7, hosted by Gifts & Accents in Overland Park, KS. Several of the FF’s couldn’t attend, so this issue is dedicated to trying to help them "feel" like they were there, or at least telling them all about it. And those of us who were there can maybe relive a bit of the fun.


This newsletter is a communication between Fontanini Fanatics and is not connected to Roman, Inc. or the House of Fontanini. Any views or opinions expressed here, unless specifically stated, are not necessarily those of the editor.

Featured Introductions:

Ken Cribbs:

I am 36 years old, and I live in Atlanta, GA. (Hence I use the name in Ken in GA for those of you familiar with the bulletin board and the chat room.) I’ve lived a rather interesting life, playing various roles from a graduate student to the co-owner of a small, independent movie theater company. The latter seems to be a far cry from the graduate studies in political science I once pursued, but it continues to be my profession. Spiritually, I had sort of a "conversion experience" in graduate school (after nearly dying of a diabetic coma). I have remained an active Episcopalian ever since. I started collecting in 1990, while planning my first Christmas in my own apartment. My family has had a (non-Fontanini) small, inexpensive but sentimentally very valuable set that was acquired while family was stationed with the US Army in Germany in the 1950’s. For as long as I could remember, as the youngest member of the family, it was always my "job" to set up the Nativity scene at Christmas. It was always very special and had a lot of tradition wrapped around it. I remember the Christmas my mother decided to surprise me by getting another shepherd to add to the set (more about that later). It didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the pieces, but it would later inspire my own collecting! As I searched for my own first set, I found these neat, unbreakable figures. This particular store had a lot of un-boxed open stock just sitting on shelves. I was to learn about boxes and story cards later. I started out with the Holy Family, stable animals, sheep and kings. I also got a simple stable. The stable in my display has changed twice since, in my quest for just the right piece. Then there were so many other figures! One familiar looking shepherd immediately caught my eye as being tied to childhood memory. It gained a very quick and treasured spot in my collection. When I found another store with more of "my figures," I finally learned about Fontanini, boxes, story cards, Roman and the Club. I think I must have joined in 1991, with perhaps a lapse or two. Over the years, I have gradually grown into collecting buildings and accessories to go with my set. There now seems to be much more drama and "backdrop" associated with the traditions of the kings traveling from "the East" and Mary and Joseph making their way from Nazareth! It’s still not "officially" Christmas for me until I get home from Midnight Mass and put the Baby Jesus in the Manger. I am a 5" collector, but perhaps not as "hard-core" as some. Still, I must admit that my collection has grown by leaps and bounds since participating in the online community this year. When I packed my display last time, my figure count was approaching 50, give or take a few, plus the Stable, Inn, and Town Gate. I am not sure where I will put new buildings and figures this year, but I am very grateful to all my friends who have helped me find those special pieces which I foolishly passed by when they were first released! I am not out to find every Hard To Find piece, though. My collecting is still mainly driven by my personal aesthetic tastes. I don’t anticipate going after every 5" piece. Some just aren’t for me. My only real "quest" is the 5" Girl with Bread. As for the mystery piece I received as a child, once I found figures with boxes and story cards, I learned that the figure is what we collectors all know as Samuel. There was still something different about it, though. After spending a little time with collectors online, I have figured out that my Mom is the proud (albeit unknowing) owner a "brightly colored European" 5" Samuel. It’s probably even spider-marked. Like all of my own collection, though, the real value to me will always be in the special memories and excitement the Nativity has evoked in me.

Jo Ann Pearcy (Jo from MO):

I live in Brighton, MO. a little, little place about 15 minutes from Springfield, MO. I have two grown children, girl and boy, two grandchildren, boy and girl. Thirteen years ago I lost my husband to cancer. I now date a man who is also a Fontanini collector. I have been a collector of 5" Fontanini for personal use only since early 1970's. I am an accountant for the past thirty-eight years. The past seven, I have been self-employed, which I love. I live on a farm, that is so quiet and serene. I decorate the whole place at Christmas, even put a Christmas wreath on the barn. My favorite time of the year is Christmas. I am so excited to find Fontanini Fanatics, I think it will be lot of fun for me.

Sherry Barker (Sherry from Alabama) :

I started collecting Fontanini 10 years ago. I have collected on and off for the past few years. I was in Rome 3 years ago and bought a few pieces there and that got me started again. My village has really grown. I buy what I like and what "speaks" to me. I just moved here a year ago from Indiana so I'm just starting to find the shops that carry Fontanini. I have a husband of 18 yrs. and 3 children. My 7 yr old loves to help display the "village people" at Christmas. It's like seeing old friends. My interests include collecting Torquay pottery, antiques, reading, gardening, and being a mom. :-)

Jeff Williams (Jeff in Shaker):

I live in Shaker Heights, Ohio. I teach second grade in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and have been collecting Fontanini since 1996 and have over 100 pieces in my 5 inch collection. I was first introduced to Fontanini as a child by my grandmother who, believe it or not, bought pieces for 50 cents from Woolworth's. Many were chipped (they were the painted series), and she lovingly repainted them each Christmas to make a manger scene which was raffled at out local church to raise money. She did this several years in a row until she died of cancer. We had several pieces of the set she was working on just before she died but because we didn't realize their relative worth, they are now gone. And, of course, there was an RGA in the bunch. Oh, what I'd give to get that back! I didn't start collecting again until I saw some Fontanini nativity figures a few years ago that reminded me of my grandmother's set and I've been hooked ever since.

Cheryl Taylor:

I am married and have 2 children, a son who is 14 years old and a daughter who is 12 years old. I have just recently started collecting the Fontanini nativity scenes and figures. I am absolutely in love with everything. They are so inspirational to me. I live in Houston, TX. Thank you so much for keeping me up to date on this wonderful collection.

Virginia Stith (Ginny in MO):

I'm married, have 6 children, 10 grandchildren, including a "Special Angel" who was born with a genetic disorder and will only be with us for a short while - she has lived a longer than the doctors first told us so we do BELIEVE IN THE POWER of PRAYER! Normally the children live 4-5 years and she is almost to 7. There are only 13 known cases in the U.S.

Bob (hubby) has 4 children, 8 grandchildren and 1 great granddaughter. We all try and get together at least twice a year when the two children in Atlanta come in.

I've been collecting since Dec. 1997 when my Christmas bonus was used to purchase the Holy Family. I also joined the Fontanini club that year.

I have part of the German nativity my Great-Grandparents brought from Germany but with that many grandchildren, decided I needed a more durable set and found Fontanini. The stores around here only carry the newer figures though and no buildings so have to order these elsewhere.

To date, I have 98 figures, 48 animals, and the Market Place. The stable was a handmade (by a 87 yr. old neighbor) garage sale find that I added moss, etc. It is made of twigs and very primitive looking. I presently collect the 5" but the other sizes are appealing to me. This year for Christmas, we are starting each of our children's set with the Holy Family, they all want to inherit ours so decided to start theirs, also helps with ideas for birthdays and anniversary gifts.

I work as manager (i.e.: office manager, bookkeeper, computer graphic artist and GOFER) at a local print shop, hoping to retire in a couple of years. Was caught in a downsizing with only 1 1/2 yr. to retire at former job (4 years ago).

Since I joined FF and have met some of you in the chat room, I really enjoy being a member. All you guys and gals are great in helping me find those pieces I need.

Dave & Carolyn Cox, Overland Park, KS:

My wife and I are new to Fontanini, she does the collecting and I try to pay for them. Carolyn has about 25 pieces already, Carolyn is a retired preschool teacher and just received her college degree last year. I am a retired engineer and have woodworking as a hobby. We have 3 children and 6 grandchildren.

The Fontanini convention last weekend was our first and we had a ball. We did not get involved in some of the extra activities, as we only live 1.5 miles from Gifts and Accents in Overland Park, KS. Needless to say, G&A is one of our favorite stores. We were not sure what to expect at the convention, but the food was great, the information from Donna and Debbie was very helpful and the fellowship with other FF's was the best part. Meeting other collectors was helpful in getting tips, as well just being with others the have the same interest makes you want to collect and do more.


Comments from The First Fontanini Convention

Contributed by John & Madalyn McKie:

What a great time!! G&A put on an EXCELLENT convention from start to finish. We never slowed down until we left Sunday. The people of G&A were terrific, the meetings were terrific, the food was terrific, and the Fontanini Fanatics were terrific. I would like to tell a few little stories that probably will not be told by other Fontanini Fanatics. My story starts on Thursday noon when we met Sally and James O’Malley from Florida. This was our first personal meeting with these people and they were everything that we expected, TERRIFIC! We went to lunch, went by Gifts and Accents, and then went Fontanini shopping. Madalyn and I found one figure we needed but bought about 7 or 8 that we wanted, and Sally and James did about the same. That evening, we collected Ken from GA and went to dinner. Ken, much quieter than James and I, was just what we expected TERRIFIC. Friday, Madalyn decided that she had better rest up, so Sally, James, Ken, and I met Doris, Al, and Roger, and we all went shopping. Yes, we got lost in KC, MO, but in the process of getting un-lost, we found a store that was not on our list and Sally found a Retired 5" Miriam. I had to get back to check on Madalyn and so we split up, I went to the Hotel and the rest went shopping some more. That evening we all got together and drifted up to G&A for the reception and check in, great food, people, and time. Madalyn and I left early, so Madalyn could get rested up for the all day affair Saturday. Later that evening, Deb, Bonnie, and Suzia stopped by our room and said to come down to the lobby for the FF get-together. Madalyn had already gone to bed, so I went down and joined the FF Party. While I was talking to Suzia about the figures she had brought me from California, I was told I needed to get Madalyn to join us. I did. Shortly after Madalyn arrived, the FF drawing was started. Madalyn’s name was called and when she opened the package, the room was in shock and in tears. Madalyn received a blue "Retired Gloria Angel" from the 1948 era. The convention was a great success and to all the people at G&A, THANKS!! John and Madalyn of Mississippi

Contributed by Ron Carnicom:

The Fontanini Collector Convention hosted by Gifts and Accents in Overland Park, KS, was a wonderful experience for everyone who attended. Some of the attendees arrived on Thursday and spent Friday hunting down those elusive pieces in area stores. Others arrived on Friday. Some of the FF’s brought some unique pieces and showed them around. One of the most unique was a set of blue-washed set Fontanini figurines from the 1970's.

Many of the FF’s starting gathering in the lobby of the Wyndham Garden Hotel at 4:30 p.m. It was the first time that many had met face to face. Jean Farrar represented Natchez very well by handing out pins and brochures and invited everyone to visit. After talking for a couple of hours, many became itchy to get to Gifts and Accents.

Upon arriving at Gifts and Accents, we were greeted by Susie and directed to the Event Room. Of course, it took forever for some to get there since they had to stop and look at the Fontanini selection. Friday evening was spent just getting acquainted with everyone and with the various people from Gifts and Accents who handle Fontanini. We met J.D. Bittler and his wife, Alberta, who are the store owners. They were very gracious and hospitable. We also met Liz and Jennifer. They provided us with sandwiches, fresh fruit, vegetables and dip, cookies, punch, and pop. Jean brought 2 rum cakes from Sister Donna that no one could pass up.

After a couple of hours at Gifts and Accents, we returned to the hotel and spent the evening in the lobby visiting. There was also a drawing for door prizes which had been given anonymously. The grand prize was an RGA - which was won by Madalyn McKie. She was so surprised and shocked. Everyone was glad that she had won.

Saturday morning it was back to Gifts and Accents. They provided a continental breakfast. After being welcomed again by J.D., Donna Haller, display specialist at Roman, gave us some tips on how to make a display. It was extremely informative with lots of questions asked. After she made is look so easy, everyone was really excited about going home and setting up their own displays.

After a short break, Debbie Carr from Roman showed us slides and explained how Fontanini figurines are produced - from the initial drawing by Roman, to the clay sculpting by Elio Simonetti, to the casting of each figurines, to the painting and patina process. We also had the opportunity to give her suggestions for figurines and buildings we would like to see produced.

A wonderful barbecue lunch was served at noon.

After lunch, everyone again gathered around the Fontanini display making their selection of pieces to have shipped home. From 1:00 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. a private signing was held for convention participants. Stefano Fontanini signed all the pieces that had been purchased during the convention as well as up to 3 that had been brought from home. Since everyone was excited to talk with Stefano and many pieces were purchased at the store, it took the entire time for everyone to get through just once. During the public signing from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. several of the FF’s were able to get additional pieces signed that had been brought from home. Several of the FF’s went through the line several times since only 3 could be signed at a time.

During the public signing Donna also gave some design tips on how to make a wreath using Fontanini figurines. Then Debbie gave us a sneak peak at some of the pieces being produced for next year. She showed us the new 5 piece wine press set that will be available next year. We also had the opportunity to view next year's members only nativity preview piece, Jacob. He is a fisherman complete with pole and fish. We were also able to see the Crucifixion Scene from the new Life of Christ collection. It included Jesus on a cross flanked by a cross on each side. The hill the crosses were on had a place to set the new figurines of Mary and John. We also saw the new crucifixion accessory set. There were many questions asked about other pieces, but Debbie didn't answer. She wants them to be a surprise.

On Saturday evening a banquet was held in the ballroom of the Wyndham Garden Hotel. During the reception hour a magician by the name of Scott Henderson entertained us by doing all kinds of card tricks. He was really very good. The delicious meal of teriyaki chicken and grilled steak, mixed vegetable, rice pilaf, and bread was topped off by a sinfully delicious chocolate cake. Following the meal we played a game called "Greed." J.D. was the host and his wife, Alberta, (whom we nicknamed Vanna for the game) was the hostess. Everyone had been given a ticket with a number on it. Gifts were placed in 3 different boxes as well as a bag so that we could not see what they were. When a person's number was picked, that person could choose 1 of the boxes or the bag to find out what was underneath. The fun part of the game was that they could also choose something that someone had already won - thus the name "greed." Everyone ended up with a gift. Gifts included several Fontanini products - the cactus accessory set, Christmas ornaments, 3 different mangers, etc. Beanie Babies and a computer monitor cover (which Stefano Fontanini ended up with and everyone autographed) were among the other prizes. Everyone at the banquet ended up with a gift.

After the banquet, some of the FF's again sat in the lobby for the evening talking and having a good time.

Sunday morning we once again met at Gifts and Accents. A continental breakfast was again provided. Donna Haller gave some display tips on how to design a Christmas tree using various decorations, including some Fontanini figurines. After that, everyone was given the opportunity to purchase some decorations and then have Donna help them with their tree.

About noon everyone bid farewell and headed for home. Some of the FF’s ended up at another signing at Country Cupboard in Leavenworth, KS. Stefano Fontanini was signing figurines and many of the FF’s got additional figurines signed.

Everyone enjoyed the weekend in Overland Park. The weather was great. The conversation was great. The food was great. The fellowship was great. Meeting people we had only known through the BB or e-mail was great.

Thank you to J.D., Alberta, Susie, Liz, Jennifer, and the rest of the staff for making this a very memorable and fun weekend. Those who attended are already looking forward to another convention next year.

Contributed by Hope Rosen:

What can I say. It was all wonderful, from the first waterless check-in at the hotel, till the last exhausting minutes of shopping frenzy at G&A. Even with the workshops and the signings and the prizes, the best was meeting all the people who have become my friends from the chat room and the BB and countless e-mail messages. The camaraderie was the best!!!

The banquet was great, and the food delicious (chocolate dessert to die for). Playing "Greed" was interesting, especially when certain persons (whom I won't name) take your prize away from you. There are consolations, however, when you get to cross off an item from your wish list, when you take that item away from someone else, and get to keep it (sorry, Ron).

I came home with a whole new store of knowledge, and was ready to get out my Christmas tree and start setting it up when I got home (as soon as I recuperated from the late nights, anyway.) Just let me know in time for next year's convention....I'm half packed already!

Contributed by Cindy Graves:

Wow, - how do I limit it to just a paragraph or two?!

Some impressions from the Convention I’ll cherish always …

Walking into a roomful of people I’d never met and feeling immediately at home, chatting away with old friends … missing those who couldn’t make it … hoping for some real November weather so I could wear my FF sweatshirt … meeting four of the nicest young people, who really know their Fontanini … feeling guilty (but not too!) because I had hot water and a working toilet from the time I checked in … getting my very own Blue Mara from Ken … eating dinner with Stefano (Are all Italian men that charming?) … watching with tears in my eyes as Madalyn opened her RGA … laughing till my sides ached while James tried to unload his Ho-Ho prizes at the banquet … getting that incredible adrenaline rush that comes from shopping in a store with that much Fontanini … believing that I might actually be able to make a wreath or arrangement almost as pretty as Donna’s … dreaming about next year’s Convention and trying to figure out where I'm going to put an olive grove… having the time of my life! I hope there will be many more opportunities to get together.

Contributed by Sally O’Malley:

My husband (James) and I both went to the convention. I started to write about the convention and wondered how I would be able to come up with a couple of paragraphs! Five minutes later, I realized I had a whole PAGE and I hadn't even gotten to Saturday afternoon. I deleted all of that....I think they were all "I guess you had to be there experiences!" What I can tell you is that James and I had the time of our lives. We had SO much fun meeting people and trying to figure out who they were. We made some friendships that I believe will be very strong and lasting! I think you can really start good friendships over the computer, but when you see that face and get that first hug that you have waited so long for, it takes your friendship to a completely different level. THAT was what we got the opportunity to do at this convention!

Gifts and Accents did a FANTASTIC job with the convention. I was blown away having seen them "scrambling" on Thursday (with James, John, Madalyn, Ken, and Roger), and then seeing how well prepared and organized they were the entire rest of the weekend. James and I have been to a lot of banquets, but the one on Saturday night far surpassed them all. I can't remember when I have laughed so much and for so long!!! :o)

Oh, and we bought LOTS of Fontanini all over KS! Or was that MO? John? LOL

Thanks to EVERYONE that helped make this convention possible and SO wonderful!! My husband feels like a real Fontanini Fanatic now, and I thank you all for that!

Contributed by Jean & Dean Rowley:

From a kid's standpoint, the convention sounded like it would be a little boring at first. Just a get-to-together for the Fontanini Fanatics. We were wrong. We had so much fun, we didn't want to fly back home because we didn't want to leave all our new-found friends right away. The first night was just a little quieter since some people were just meeting for the very first time. Others were used to this sort of thing. We met Hillary MacDonald the first night. You couldn't separate us for a pile of Fontanini. It was like having a friend that you never really knew about. The second day was great too. Donna's decorating tips and ideas will be very useful in our house. It was also very interesting to learn the long process of developing a Fontanini piece from Debbie. J.D. and Alberta's store was gorgeous and very very nice. They were wonderful hosts. The full day at the store was just that, full. Hillary and we met Carter Holton and were ready for anything. Stefano was extremely nice and we got pictures of the whole family with him. We got our favorite pieces signed and our squirrel explained. We thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful food we had for lunch. The banquet back at the hotel was absolutely fabulous. We enjoyed how they recognized the young collectors. The game was so much fun. We think everyone ended up a happy camper. We were very excited. That night, we stayed up way too late to talk to everyone. On Sunday morning, hardly rested, we went back to Gifts and Accents for the last time. We spent our gift certificates and made sure to get something for our grandma who is beginning a small collection. We finally said our good-byes, exchanged addresses and e-mails. It was time to go home. We want to thank everyone for being there. It was our first convention and it will be one we will always remember.

By Megan and Tory Rowley in MI

I thought I should send the kid's unedited thoughts on the convention. They seemed to have pretty much captured the atmosphere last weekend. I would like to add a "Thank You" to Ron for playing chauffeur all weekend for our family, and to Cindy for the surprise she slipped under the door for Tory on Saturday. Also a big Thank You to Evelyn for the wonderful Rum cake and to Jean and Elois for bringing it to share with all of us. (I'm afraid it wouldn't have made the trip without a nibble or two if it had been placed in my care) It was a pleasure to meet everyone there. I feel that I have met new friends and am proud to belong to such a wonderful group!

Contributed by Bonnie Vokes:

The high-light of the convention, other than meeting everyone, was Madelyn winning the RGA. I wish you all could have seen the look on her face. It was priceless! That in itself made it worth attending. I don't think there were too many dry eyes.

Stefano was very nice and very tall, 6'5". The owners of Gifts and Accents were friendly, nice and a lot of fun and the workshops were very informative. My roommate, Deb, was great and easy to get along with as was everyone there.

I look forward to seeing you all again and those of you who couldn't make it. It was a great experience.

Contributed by Sharon Lower:

The weekend couldn't come fast enough! I made the 7 hour trip with my daughter, AnneMarie, who is 4 years old. We met with my sister who lives in Leavenworth, and that is always a special treat to get to spend time with her. I was very excited to finally meet some of the people that I had been communicating on the computer with for over 2 years. It was a real treat. I enjoyed meeting Stefano and of course having some pieces signed. It is always hard to decide which pieces to have signed....I have several sets for my children and want some pieces in each of their sets signed! And last, but certainly not least, the owners of Gifts & Accents were very wonderful hosts. The weekend was really great!

A Note from the Editor:

Everybody has pretty much said everything already. But I just have to mention a couple of things. First, after Bonnie V. and I checked into our room, we found out there was no water due to a water main break up the street. That evening, Sharon told us she’d heard that the water was back on. Of course, then she was worried that maybe it really wasn’t and she’d just gotten our hopes up.  J.D. didn’t help when he kept saying, "Sharon said...."  LOL! We got back to our rooms that night and found that we did have water.....but it was cold. I didn’t think too much of it, but Sat. morning Bonnie & I still didn’t have hot water. We were really looking forward to a nice shower before the banquet Sat. night. But we were one of the rooms that still didn’t have not water. (One of the boilers didn’t come back up after the water main break.) The hotel clerks were very apologetic and adjusted our bills because of the inconvenience. (More Fontanini money!!!) I told them that we had come for an adventure, and the water problem only added to it!

We all met in the lobby of the hotel Fri. night after the reception at G&A for "Show & Tell" and the drawing. Hotel personnel offered to provide us with Champaign but, since some of us don’t drink, they brought out pitchers of cola saying that we were a wonderful group! (I already knew that, of course!)

I want to say a special THANK YOU to the FF’s who anonymously donated the prizes for the drawing. I was especially tickled to draw Hillary’s and Megan’s names. Hillary won a teeny nativity (2.5" Holy Family in stable) and Megan won the 4.5" Stefano. Hillary now has her mom, Patty, looking for 2.5" items to add to her collection and Megan was excited to get her very own figure signed by Stefano. The drawing was almost like Christmas. And the highlight for me was seeing Madalyn open her prize. When she realized it was the RGA, I think she stopped breathing! (I know I did!) And I think everyone in the room shed tears of happiness with her.

I also want to especially thank Gifts & Accents for hosting such a wonderful convention. J.D. and everyone did a spectacular job of providing good food and activities that were both informative and entertaining. The weekend ended way too soon and my only regret is that not everyone could be there.

A Soldier’s Poem:

(Editor’s Note: Since we just recently celebrated Veteran’s Day, I wanted to share this poem with everyone.)

'Twas the night before Christmas,
He lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of
Plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney
With presents to give,
And to see just who
In this home did live.
I looked all about,
A strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents,
Not even a tree.
No stocking by mantle,
Just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures
Of far distant lands.
With medals and badges,
Awards of all kinds,
A sober thought
Came through my mind.
For this house was different,
It was dark and dreary,
I found the home of a soldier,
Once I could see clearly.
The soldier lay sleeping,
Silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor
In this one bedroom home.
The face was so gentle,
The room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured
A United States soldier.
Was this the hero
Of whom I'd just read?
Curled up on a poncho,
The floor for a bed?
I realized the families
That I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers
Who were willing to fight.
Soon round the world,
The children would play,
And grownups would celebrate
A bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom
Each month of the year,
Because of the soldiers,
Like the one lying here.
I couldn't help wonder
How many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas eve
In a land far from home.
The very thought
Brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees
And started to cry.
The soldier awakened
And I heard a rough voice,
"Santa don't cry,
This life is my choice;
I fight for freedom,
I don't ask for more,
My life is my god,
my country, my corps."
The soldier rolled over
And drifted to sleep,
I couldn't control it,
I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours,
So silent and still
And we both shivered
From the cold night's chill.
I didn't want to leave
On that cold, dark, night,
This guardian of honor
So willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over,
With a voice soft and pure,
Whispered, "Carry on Santa,
It's Christmas day, all is secure."
One look at my watch,
And I knew he was right.
"Merry Christmas my friend,
and to all a good night."

Author Unknown

(Editor’s Note: Now is the time to think about our service men and women throughout the world this Christmas. Bill Egan has provided us with the 1999 mailing addresses so that we may participate in Operation Dear Abby. Please send at least 5 Christmas cards to each of the addresses below.)

The mail is limited to First Class letter mail, 13 ounces or less.

For holiday greeting to Europe and South West Asia:

Any Service Member
Operation Dear Abby
APO AE 09135

For holiday greetings to the Far East:

Any Service Member
Operation Dear Abby
APO AP 96285

For holiday greetings to the Mediterranean Basin:

Any Service Member
Operation Dear Abby
FPO AE 09646

For holiday greetings to the Pacific Basin:

Any Service Member
Operation Dear Abby
FPO AP 96385

eBay Watch:

By Ron Carnicom

During the last two months, Fontanini seemed to explode on eBay. There were about 1025 Fontanini items listed for sale on eBay from August 16, 1999 through October 15, 1999. Many of these items included plates, cherubs, music boxes, globes, ornaments, and miscellaneous non-nativity figurines. In the past months I have reported on only the nativity figurines and buildings. Starting with this report, I will report on only the 5" and 7.5" pieces that are retired, limited edition, members only, etc. In essence, I will include, to the best of my ability, only those pieces that cannot be purchased as open stock. I know that there are many other sizes out there (including 4", 4.5", WCL, Signature Series, various pieces from Rome). However, my knowledge about these pieces is extremely limited since I do not collect them.

For the time period noted above there were about 517 figurines and other pieces offered in the 5" and 7.5" size. Of that number 110 did not receive a bid and an additional 64 did not meet the reserve. That left a total of 343 that sold - which included accessory pieces and open stock items. There were 183 nativity pieces listed that can no longer be purchased as open stock items. Below is a synopsis of those sales.

Retired Gloria Angel

The retired Gloria Angel (52517/0 that all true blue FF's are looking for) sold once for $362.77.

Limited Edition Figurines

Though it was available 6 times, Ariel (65187 from 1992) sold only 1 time for $31.00. Four other times the reserve was not met even though the bid reached $35.05 and one time it did not receive a bid at all when the opening amount was $45.00. Jeshua & Adin (65245 from 1993) sold twice, once for $40.26 and again for $48.00. Abigail & Peter (65274 from 1994) sold twice out of the six times it was listed, once for $56.00 and again for $54.99. Gabriela (65281 from 1995) sold once for $51.19. Raphael (65288 from 1996) also sold twice, once for $22.50 and once for $36.00. Judah (65214 from 1997) appeared nine times but only sold twice, once for $16.00 and again for $11.00 (bargains can still be found). It was listed once with an opening bid of $32.50, but no one bid on it. Celeste (75505 from 1998) sold 4 out of the 8 times it was listed. The low was $12.50 and the high was $35.52. Tiras & Lena (65290 from 1999) even appeared 7 times. It sold twice, once for $24.25 and again for $20.24.

Personal Tour Figurines

(Luke (65269 from 1995-1997) was offered 4 times, but sold only once for $40.00. Emanuele (65341 from 1998-1999) did not sell any of the 4 times it was listed. One time the opening bid was a rather stiff $30.00, especially since that figurine is still available this year.

Special Event Figurines

Susanna (65273 from 1994) sold 2 out of the 3 times it appeared, once for $46.00 and again for $40.00. Dominica sold all 5 times it was listed. The price ranged from a low of $32.49 to a high of $42.49. Sarah (65157 from 1996) did not reach the reserve price 3 times even though the high bid was $26.00. A signed Sarah did sell one time for $51.00. Martha (65121 from 1997) sold 5 of the 6 times it was listed. The high was $41.00. The low of $13.00 did not include a box or story card. Phoebe (65340 from 1998) appeared 8 times, but only sold twice, once for $24.05 and again for $9.99.

Exclusive Figurines

Adam (75512 from WDW in 1998) sold once for $35.00. Beth (75511 from WDW in 1998) sold 4 out of 6 times it was listed. The low was $56.00 and the high was $77.99. Stefano (96676 from FAC in 1998) sold all 4 times it was listed. The low was $20.00 and the high was $32.15. Thomas (98511 from GCC in 1998) sold for $23.00 the only time it was listed.

Symbols of Membership Figurines

I Found Him (66641 from 1990-1995) sold one time for $45.00. Rosannah (65373 from 1996) sold once for $49.00. The other 2 times it was listed with an opening bid of $75.00 - but no one bid on it at that price. Leah (65375 from 1997) sold one time for $37.00. Candace (65378 from 1998) sold 3 out of 4 times it was listed. The low was $21.50 and the high was $31.01. One time it was offered with an opening bid of $45.00 but received no bids. Lemuel (65301 from 1999) sold one time for $9.99. He Comforts Me (66452 from 1993 renewal) sold one time for $102.50 as did I'm Heaven Bound (65352 from 1994 renewal). Gift of Joy (65284 from 1995 renewal) sold one time for $118.25.

Members Only and Nativity Preview Figurines

The Pilgrimage (65183 from 1990-1995) sold one time for $140.25. She Rescued Me (66642 from 1992) sold one time for $51.03. Sweet Harmony (65351 from 1994) sold once for $56.00. Faith (65283 from 1995) sold twice, once for $142.50 and again for $163.58. It is interesting to note that the higher priced sale did not include a box or card. A blue Mara (65374 from 1996) sold one time for $51.00. A blue Mara was listed with a starting bid of $145.00 and a pink Mara with a bid of $85.00, but neither one received a single bid. Benjamin (65376 from 1997) sold 2 times, once for $31.00 and again for $49.00.

Retired Figurines

Aaron (52563 retired in 1993) sold 3 times, with a low of $31.02 and a high of $37.00; the Kneeling Angel (52518 retired in 1994) once for $14.00; the Standing Angel (52519 retired in 1994) once for $26.06; Azzan (75554 retired in 1999) once for $10.00; Balthazar (52516 retired in 1992) once for $31.00; Gaspar (52515 retired in 1992) twice - once for $21.49 and again for $6.50; Jesus (52513 retired in 1991) once for $22.49; Joel (52581 retired in 1998) 3 times with a low of $7.50 and a high of $10.57; Joseph (52511 retired in 1991) once for $21.49; Josiah (52552 retired in 1998) twice, both times for $21.49; Judith (52556 retired in 1996) once for $15.00; Levi (52570 retired in 1995) once for $18.00; Mary (52512 retired in 1991) once for $21.49; Melchior (52514 retired in 1992) twice for $21.49 and $23.00; Micah (52558 retired in 1995) twice for $15.76 and $20.50; Michael (52565 retired in 1998) twice for $11.10 and $21.49; Mordecai (52557 retired in 1995) once for $10.57 with no box and again for $21.00; Naomi (75555 retired in 1999) once for $21.49; Reuben (52550 retired in 1998) twice for $15.50 and $7.60. The 3 Kings (52514, 52515, & 52516) sold as a set once for $44.00

7.5" Figurines

The Kneeling Angel (52818 retired in 1995) was offered twice, but did not sell even though there was a bid of $19.09. It was offered a 2nd time with an opening bid of $38.00, but no one bid on it. The Standing Angel (52819 retired in 1995) sold one time for $29.75. It was offered two other times - a bid of $24.49 did not meet the reserve and no bids when it was offered with an opening bid of $38.00. Josiah (52852 retired in 1998) sold twice, once for $26.51 and again for $9.49. Mary (52812 retired in 1993) sold once for $9.99. Reuben (52850 retired in 1996) sold once for $10.29.


The Bakery (50150 retired in 1999) sold once for $71.00. The blue King's Tent (50153) sold once for $50.00.

Recipe(s) of the Month:

Nathan's Pearled Onions in Sweet-N-Sour Bacon Sauce

Contributed by Roger Arndt:

1 glass jar of onions - drained

to lb. Bacon - diced

1/3 C. Sugar

1/6 C. Vinegar

1 C. Hellmann's Mayonnaise

In a small frying pan, fry and drain bacon. Add sugar and vinegar to bacon and bring to a boil. Cool. Add mayonnaise; stir. Add drained onions. Heat until warmed through.

Seth's Fruit Salad:

Contributed by Hope Rosen

1 pint strawberries

3 peaches

1 can pineapple chunks with juice

1 can mandarin oranges with juice

2 bananas

1 package sugar-free Jell-o, fruit flavor

Cut fruit into pieces into large bowl, add juice from canned fruit. Add sugar-free Jell-O (your favorite fruit flavor). Mix well and chill. Serve as is or over angel food cake or over short cake. (Out of season use frozen fruit: bag of strawberries, bag of peaches.)

Insights, Suggestions and Miscellaneous News:

(Editor’s Note: Bill Egan sent me several links to some fascinating web sites. If my guess is correct, you’ll find these sites as fascinating as I did.)

Operation Dear Abby 1999
Diorama Bethlehem
The largest creche in the world. The Christmas story - from the announcement to the shepherds, the scene of the birth of Christ and the arrival of the three kings till the flight into Egypt - illustrated with over 450 wood-carved figures wearing fabric costumes in a realistic reproduction of the environs of Bethlehem
Project for Christmas - A 3-D Manger
A Christmas project for the youngsters. After you print out the stable and figures, they can color them and cut them out.
The Creche and the Cross
T. "Sam" Parrish has a fantastic website. Plan to spend an entire evening getting acquainted with its various aspects
Creche School
Study the creches from various countries in Europe then go to the instruction pages to learn how to reproduce them. Links to landscape and scenery supplies.
Community Creche
A huge nativity scene in Spain - a community effort. (Click on the Galeria button) Photos of the construction process.
Woodland Scenics
Check out the Sub Terrain System tutorial for using plaster-cloth over wadded up newspapers = lightweight mountains. Terrain accessories, rock molds, landscaping systems, trees, ground cover

A Note from Jeff Schmitt:

"Celebrating 50K Hits"

On October 29 we celebrated our 50,000th page visit. This counter refers to pages that are accessed after logging in as Guest or as a registered user. No attempt is made to count the accesses to the public pages such as the home page, FAQ, Newsletter and Links.

The 30K hits milestone was reached June 22, so in these past 4 months we have averaged 5K hits per month, or 167 hits per day. To commemorate this milestone, the image served at the top of each login web page has been changed. The image is now The Pilgrimage. It had previously been the 5"kneeling angel.

The web site now has 120 registered users, 285 uploaded images, and 586 items in the database. The images and of the number if items will continue to expand. I plan to enter many of the Fontanini non-nativity items as soon, but for now the development of the software has taken priority.

"New software for Item Search"

On October 26 -- New Software for Item Search was installed. This software exploits the dynamic database of category codes. Here is an explanation of how it works.

There are an unlimited number of items in the database. To make it easier to find items, they are coded into various categories. There are now an unlimited number of categories, and each piece can belong to any number of categories. For example, the Millennium piece "Gabriel with dog" belongs to three categories which are "Nativity, Millennium Edition [16cm]", "Animals", and "Shepherds". All shepherds appear with a sheep, it is the dog which classifies this piece in the animals category. A better name for this category would be "Animals (excluding sheep)" and perhaps I should edit that category name to say that.

The item search works by selecting a category, such as "Shepherds" and you will find all shepherds. If you wish to narrow your search, you can choose "Animals" and now you will have only the shepherds appearing with animals. The searches should quickly locate the desired item. There is also a link that starts a new search rather than continuing to narrow the search.

"New Software for For-Sale Listings"

Website Members are now welcome to list their extra pieces on this website. We have long had a tradition of helping other FF's to locate and buy pieces. FF's who hold extra pieces for which a buyer is not immediately found, often turn to eBay to auction them to the highest bidder. This software is not an attempt to do the same thing as eBay, but it will serve as an alternative to eBay, and I hope it will be a useful service for the collectors.

One advantage will be the fees. eBay charges fees to list an item, and also at the end of the auction. The FF website will not charge fees. Another advantage is the length of the auction. eBay auctions last a week on the average, they will charge you a new fee each week if your item remains unsold. The FF website will allow the item to be listed for a term of four weeks, with another term automatically provided as long as the seller updates the item listing.

Expired listings will no longer be shown, but will be retained in the database and can be reinstated by the seller. The seller can update the listing to place it on hold (not displayed) while negotiations with a possible buyer of that piece are in progress.

To view listings in the For-Sale section, you can choose the User ID (by seller). Eventually I plan to have a search capability that allows the search to proceed by the item categories (like the search described above).

Both private individuals and store-based sellers will be allowed to post listings on the FF bulletin board. The more listings the better. If a buyer comes along and sees, for example, 5 sellers offering the item they want, the buyer can choose to email the seller with the lowest price.

It is expected that a form of "reverse auction" may sometimes develop. Sellers will tend to (optimistically) list their items on the high side, and they may sometimes be willing to take less for their item. If the buyer considers all sellers to be high, then buyer can email all sellers and ask them to meet sellers offer, and a sort of auction develops, with sellers bidding to win the buyer. This reverse auction will not be directly supported in the website software, but would be conducted privately between the buyer and the sellers by email.

An eBay-style user feedback rating system is not planned. Buyers are cautioned to seek and check references of anyone they plan to do business with over the Internet. Many sellers will have already established a feedback rating on eBay and they can provide that information to potential buyers.

"New Software for advertising Ebay Auctions"

Many of us would like to know how much a particular piece has sold for recently. Searching eBay can sometimes be helpful, but they carry that information for only about 30 days, and the photos are often not available. Also many of us would like to share the fact that a particular piece is available on auction, perhaps because it is our own auction, or perhaps because it is an item that we think others may be interested in finding.

There is now a form for any member to enter any eBay auction into the database. As system manager, I have been doing that myself for months, but I was not able to devote enough attention to that task. By opening the form to all members, I hope to encourage this data to become available for the benefit of all.

To enter an auction into the system, the user types the Auction # and the Item ID code of the Fontanini item. The software validates that the auction is valid by consulting eBay's server, and a record is made of the auction ending date and time. The Item ID is also validated to make sure that it exists. If an auction contains two or more items, just enter the same auction number several times, each with just one Item ID of an item. There is no limit to how many items can be entered for a given auction.

Note: there is no way for the software to tell whether the item is actually the item corresponding to the Item ID, so users who enter items must exercise care. If an item is entered by mistake, please email me and I will change it in the database. I will also be spot-checking and editing as necessary.

In addition to having a list of current auctions available, another benefit is offered from this system. Once the auction ends, it is retained in the database (1) if there was at least one bidder and (2) if the reserve was met. The price information from ended auctions can be a useful reference for collectors. If an auction ends and there were multiple items included, I use my judgment to allocate the ending price over the several items, usually equally, but not equally if one item is highly prized, such as an RGA.

"JavaScript Technology for Item ID Search"

Many forms require a special item code to be provided. For example, when selling an item, or uploading a photo of an item, you must provide the Item ID code, which uniquely identifies the item in the database. The Roman Co. code cannot be used, since there are many, many Fontanini pieces not being sold by Roman Co.

To locate the necessary Item ID code, an new JavaScript window has been developed. A hypertext link in the form will launch a new window which will allow choice of an item category, and then the particular piece by name. Once you have selected the piece, its Item ID will be revealed. The JavaScript code is generated from the active database each time it is needed, so this should always be up-to-date, consistent with the current item database.

A Note From Ivy:

Year Around Display Ideas

While looking through my figures preparatory to the Christmas season I thought of a way to enjoy and display many of them through out the year. I realized that there are several themes running through the collection. The first one that struck me was the agricultural/gardening theme. Think of Sarah, Rachel and Hannah, or Seth, John and Judah and you will see what I mean. Even Phoebe could be considered to fit into this category. And all the Angels, of course. Many people have lovely collections of Angels displayed in their homes all year, why shouldn't we share ours too?

Some of the other themes I discovered were the musicians, how about displaying them by the piano for example or if you don't have a piano, how about by the stereo? The kitchen would be a great place for Martha and Ezra, and Azzan and his family, or the sewing room for Beth and Gabriela as well as Cornelius and Thomas.

By putting different themes in different areas through out in our homes we could continue to enjoy our collection all year round. Think of the opportunity this would give us to share our love of Fontanini with our friends, family and visitors to say nothing of giving ourselves continual enjoyment. With a little contemplation, a large portion of one's collection could be shared and enjoyed all year when displayed this way.

A Closing Note:

The other night, while chatting about the Fri. night get-together in the hotel lobby at the convention, a FF described the room as being "full of love." It’s true! It was like a family gathering, yet it was more than a "family." Even though some members were missing, they were with us in our hearts. And, when that many truly caring, good hearted people are gathered together, whether physically present or not, there is love. ".....the greatest of these is love." We have truly been blessed with His greatest gift.

May the Peace of Our Lord be with you!