Welcome. My name is Dan Sherman and along with Allison, my wife, we’re the proud owners of Great American® Collectibles. We’re one of the few (perhaps only) remaining resin collectible companies that still does all of our manufacturing and painting here in the USA.
In 1987, a wood carver by the name of DeLancy Smith approached Jack Taylor, owner of Great American Taylor Corporation, and asked if he’d be interested in reproducing her carvings in the form of resin. His company was already making resin teddy bears, fan-pulls, switchplates and collectible lamps so he thought this would be a good addition to his company’s offerings. The Great American® Old World Santa was born.
From the very first year, it was apparent that these charming little folk art Santa collectibles would find a place in the hearts of many Americans. They convey a sense of holiday tradition that sadly stands in stark contrast to the ever increasing world of holiday commercialization. They just bring a certain warmth and tradition to the holidays.
Fast forward to the Christmas of 1996. My wife Allison and I were introduced to the Great American Old World Santas for the first time. Allison’s mother purchased one for us (as well as other family members) as a gift. Everyone loved them so much that they soon started flying around our family in the form of gifts all year ‘round and all of us became official collectors.
In the summer of 2000, fate was about to have a hand in our future. Mr. Taylor had asked me to do some marketing as well as establish a presence on the Internet for his company. I agreed. Perhaps my marketing efforts were so effective (or not... ha!) that Mr. Taylor’s production ability became over-taxed during that holiday season. After a series of unrelated set-backs as well as Mr. Taylor’s inability to keep up with demand, things started to unravel for Great American Taylor Corporation. By January of 2001 it was apparent that they would be ending their 25+ years of successful operation.
One thing led to another and at the end of January 2001, my wife and I had the opportunity to purchase the “Great American” trademark as it applies to collectibles as well as all trademarks and copyrights associated with all collectibles manufactured by Great American Taylor Corporation. Bottom line, if we didn’t step in and purchase everything from the IRS (whom Taylor was indebted to) the Old World Santas were going to die. We just couldn’t bare to see this happen.
So, we took a leap of faith and on February 1st, 2001, I quit my job and began to work on the monumental task of making Santas. We rented an abandoned barn in the middle of a field in Sherwood Oregon for our first “santa shop.” I was there every day, sometimes 18 hours a day, trying to figure out how to make a Santa. Before quitting my job I was in the world of corporate sales. So I had no idea how to make a Santa.
Meanwhile, we had over 900 Santas on backorder left over from the previous company. Many of those backorders had already been paid for, yet we weren't the ones that had received the funds. Mr. Taylor had received those funds, in the previous year. But we had decided from day one to honor those backorders and fulfill them without being paid. It was just the right thing to do.
May 2001 came and went but I still hadn‘t made an actual Santa. Frustration was running REALLY high. But I was bound and determined to figure it out.
After a LOT of research, talking on the phone, traveling to Tennessee to learn how to mold and cast and reading a lot of online info (this was before youtube), I managed to make my first production quality Santa in June, 2001. Now the challenge was to make a LOT of them in a very short period of time. The heat was on. By July 2001 we had close to 2000 Santas on order because we were starting to get orders for the 2001 Christmas season on top of the orders that were left over from the previous Christmas. Talk about pressure.
On July 1, 2001, we moved our operations to a 1200 square foot industrial bay located in the Old Town section of Wilsonville Oregon. I hired a crew of 5 people to start making Santas as quick as we could. At times, we had two shifts working 24 hours a day.
Then there was the absolutely incredible task of finding painters to paint them once they were cast and ready to be painted. We advertised in the Oregonian and had about 10 painter orientation meetings where we’d have 25 to 80 people show up wanting to be a painter. We held tryouts by giving them a character, with instructions and the correct paint colors included along with a picture of what color went where. They were to take it home, paint it and bring it back the next day. On average, only about 1 in 4 people were good enough (and/or patient enough) to actually become a Great American® painter. At one point, we had over 200 painters working with us during that 4 month period leading up to Christmas 2001. It was CHAOS. I was working 20 hours a day, some days.
On August 18, 2001, we shipped our first order of Santas. We soon began getting calls from our retail stores (and collectors) thanking us from the bottom of their heart for taking on the task of continuing the Old World Santa tradition. The comments that really impacted me (to the point of tears) was when they said they were amazed at the level of quality over the previous company’s work and they loved everything about them. I choked up because they had no idea what kind of ordeal Allison and I had gone through to get to that moment. It was the culmination of 7 months of amazingly difficult and tedious work. Their comments gave what we had gone through some sort of validation and it was the most incredible feeling of euphoria.
By November 1, 2001, we had fulfilled all the backorders and by December 24, 2001, the last of the 2001 Christmas orders had been delivered. It was close, but we had gone from not knowing one thing about making resin figurines in February 2001 to delivering close to 5000 of them between August 18th and December 24th, 2001. 100% made in the US, no less. And we offered approximately 50 characters that first year, too. It was INSANE!
Something else happened during that 7 months. As we all know, our country went through a tragedy on Sept 11th of that year. And unfortunately, our new business, that we scraped together that year, was not immune to the retail downturn in subsequent years. We almost went out of business because of it. But I kept it going, losing money each year due to our desire to NOT take our manufacturing outside the US like almost all other resin figurine companies.
By 2010, we had decided to reduce the number of pieces we were releasing but at the same time we decided to upgrade the artistry of each piece and push our collectibles into another level of collectibility. It was the only way we would be able to keep the company going.
But by doing that, we made our collectibles that much more collectible and the price had to reflect that. They are now amazing works of art. The artistry displayed in each one, coupled with their wooden (and now laser engraved copper treated stainless steel) bases with their name and country engraved onto the underside of the base, along with the story engraved on a separate wooden "chip" (also now copper treated stainless steel)... well, they are truly one of a kind collectibles. No one else is doing this level of quality and detail in the resin collectible figurine world. Nevermind doing it all within the US.
As the years progress, we hope to build our collector base up again so that we can justify more and more characters being released each year. We'll eventually expand our Old World Witches line for Halloween and our Uncle Sam line for the 4th of July. So with your help, we'll continue to build up this tradition of Old World Collectibles, and they'll always be 100% Made in the US of A. That, I promise.
Of course, our “story” is ongoing. Our family is currently on a multi-year journey around the world. We're "world schooling" our two girls (currently 13 and 17 years old as of May 2019) by traveling. We're currently in the Dominican Republic but we’ll be traveling around Europe during the summer of 2019 and then onto other parts of the world going into the 2019 Christmas season. We’ll see where the wind takes up.
Anyway, you can follow our journey through our family blog at:
Thanks for reading all the way through this. We hope you enjoy our collectible figurines. They mean the world to us and we hope they create joy in your life, too!
Be sure to follow Great American Collectibles on Facebook by clicking the Facebook icon in the upper left corner of the site.
Head Santa Guy
P.S. The lifeblood of our business is the carvers (we have two right now) and the person that does all the design and painting of our pieces. Let me introduce you to them here:
Mary Jo (Designer/Artist): She's the person responsible for bringing color (literally and figuratively) to our characters. She's been painting for over 40 years. She's even taught hobby and tole painting classes for many years and her designs have been published in several industry magazines and have been made into pattern packets and published in pattern books. She's even taped two how-to videos for cable access TV. Her passion nowadays mainly consists of designing and painting for Great American Collectibles and painting Christmas items year around for a well known local Christmas Marketplace in Oregon, where she lives.
Rob Francis (Carver): Rob's been with us for many years. His talent speaks for itself. You can read all about his work and see all of his amazing carvings at his website.
Mark Bair (Carver): Mark has done a few pieces for us and may continue to do so in the future if the opportunity arises. Meanwhile, you can see his original work at his website.