Department 56 vs. Lemax Halloween Villages

There are rivalries in every industry – even the collectible porcelain building industry! In the Halloween arena, there are two main distributors: Department 56 Halloween and Lemax Spooky Town. Below is an overview of their strengths and weaknesses. Village collectors, please submit your comments below.

1. Design. Both produce similar themed buildings but Department 56 definitely has more sophisticated designs that are scarier and feature more realistic details. This is the biggest advantage over Lemax who has a more overdone and often silly aesthetic. There are so many accents, bats, webs, colors, signs,  figures, etc. that the excess is just overwhelming.

2. Production. Department 56 has superior quality from construction to materials. Every small detail is carefully sculpted and painted (note the fingers on the reaper below). Lemax has less of an emphasis on quality with lackluster paint jobs, many plastic pieces, and often crooked decals. I've often resorted to repainting and fixing pieces.

3. Lighting - Hands down, Lemax outshines Department 56. They know these displays are meant for dark rooms and many pieces have timed lighting effects, spotlights that illuminate features, flashing lighting, and generally more interest. Department 56 generally sticks one bulb inside the building and calls it a day. The Halloween line has definitely improved but still nowhere near as dynamic as Lemax.

4. Price. Lemax again has the upper hand in pricing. Even the most intricate pieces rarely top $75. Combined with a Michaels sales & coupons (where new pieces are readily available in the fall) they're are a bargain. Most Department 56 items generally start at $75, with typical price points between $125-$150. Department 56 is also hard to find and almost impossible to see up close until after the purchase. Although shopping online offers the best selection of both lines.

5. Packaging. Okay, this may not be a deal breaker but every collector knows that they have to store these fragile things year after year, and those storage boxes take a beating. Department 56 packing is just a terrible. The buildings are packed in flimsy styrofoam and put in flimsy sleeves that always tear or slip off. Lemax really puts a lot of though into packaging with high-density foam (which rarely flakes), includes a velcro strap to easily pull out of a sturdy box, and even stamps useful things like "Top" so the contents don't accidentally spill out. Department 56 needs significant improvement in this area.

Overall, if you prefer substance over flash, Department 56 is the way to go provided you can afford it and can find it. Lemax seems more kid-oriented although their designs can be ghastlier. They've really stepped up the quality on the higher end pieces, so definitely consider those. As always choose pieces that speak to you, but consider that mixing pieces from both series many look a touch off.


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  2. Department 56 used to make very nice things but not anymore. Over the years their products have continued to be less and less impressive and very much overpriced. Lemax has much more interesting products and they all or most all come equipped with sound and animation for a much more reasonable price.Look at a department 56 building that cost's $130 and it's just plain and simple and nothing else. Big deal if Dept 56 has a little bit of a cleaner paint job, it's not worth the ridiculous price that they're asking for almost every one of their products. Now look at a Lemax building that cost's much less. With lemax you get a lot more for your buck. Cool lighting effects, animation and fun sound effects. Dept 56 has absolutely nothing going for it anymore. You compare their products with Lemax's and the choice is clear.

  3. I have Dept 56 Dickens Christmas collection, I have about 20 pieces in total including houses and accessories, not much but I don't have the space for a large collection, perhaps when I move. I would like to start a Halloween collection, preferably with Dept 56 however I am finding it difficult to get pieces on sale. I got all of my Christmas villages pieces on sale during the off season and have not been able to do the same with Dept 56 Halloween pieces. Can anyone refer me to either a store (I live in NYC) or website I can get Dept 56 Halloween stuff on sale? If not I think I may try Lemax Halloween collection although I'm worried about the quality. Thanks!!

  4. Thanks this was really helpful. I have a Dept 56 Dickens Christmas Collection, small about 20 pieces but hopefully growing once I get more space. I would like to start a Dept 56 Halloween collection however I'm finding it difficult to get pieces on sale (all of my Dept 56 Christmas stuff I got on sale). I don't know if I want to spend $75-150 on each piece. Any suggestions where I can get sale items for Dep 56 Halloween collection online or in a store (I live in NYC)? I may just start a Lemax although I am very worried about the quality. Any input would be great! Thanks.


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