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We know and understand you, the Santos enthusiast and collector. An item from our gallery might spark that unique, personal connection to your roots and culture, and to that unique era when these artifacts were once venerated and treated with the utmost care and respect.  The santos and other artwork in our gallery once adorned churches and chapels where the faithful gathered.  They also adorned the home altars through which Christian families expressed and focused its faith in God. You may have a passion and  very special relationship with the Santos, an indescribable attachment and feeling of ownership. When you visualize the Santos character, the flowing carved vestments, the reverse inset glass eyes, the ivory age lines, the cracked polychrome paint, the exposed gesso, the worm holes, the aging cracked wood or the bent silver crown laden with patina, it produces an elation, a surge of adrenalin.  We at Antique & Vintage Santos Connection understand this unique experience so we select and offer only specimens worth collecting.

Our collection process considers all types of sculpture media, with an emphasis on each item’s artistic value, level of craftsmanship and expertise at utilizing such materials so that we can offer you specimens created with various mediums like ivory, wood, terra cotta, marble, plaster, wood/gesso, bronze and porcelain. 


Buying a Santos?

For the novice, it is tricky to purchase an authentic Santos online. One must have the know-how to identify its provenance or origin, its age and its value. Santos Connection is therefore providing you the following information and guidelines about Santos and its niche in the world of collectibles.

Santos in North America

North America is a treasure trove of authentic antique Santos. Santos collection is a very rewarding and profitable hobby. One may be interested in collecting coins, stamps, paintings and the like, but it is just as fascinating as any of these hobbies. Many Santos enthusiasts and collectors come from older generations of Christian background and many more collectors are simply attracted by the Santos pieces and collect them to decorate their homes to accentuate a certain style or period. One thing for certain is that Santos are an important part of our Colonial heritage and history and are here to stay and increase in value as time goes by.

Santos figures can be found in many US museums, can be acquired in live and on-line auctions, estate sales, swap meets, antique stores and today in a few on-line stores. The internet is the fastest and easiest way to purchase santos. The main problem in purchasing santos through the internet is the difficulty in assessing the authenticity of the Santos.

One may wonder why there is such a presence of antique Santos pieces in North America. The Americas was once a Colony of Spain and Portugal. North America is also a melting pot of immigrants coming from many countries like Europe, South America and Asia. These immigrants came from all over the world and they brought their valued possessions with them including their Santos which is a part of their religious heritage. Many of them came back to visit their original countries and brought home antique Santos.

Where Santos Originated?

Saint or Santos making flourished in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries although it started a early as the 13th century. These were originally carved by priests or artisans for church use and later were mass produced by artisans for home altars. Europe was the center of Christianity during the Colonial Period gave way to the spread of saint making to the conquered New World countries.

Types of Santos?

Santos can be found made in various materials, styles and age. Early santos are made of ivory or wood. Later ones can be found in terracotta, bisque, chalk or various other metals. One can also find porcelain, bronze or other metals in contemporary or some vintage Santos.

Antique santos are those that are 100 years and above. Vintage santos are those that are less than 100 years and older than 50 years. The rest can be considered contemporary or modern Santos. Many modern Santos can be considered collectible based on their artistic style and value. The price or value of a santos largely depends on its rarity, age, style, material and condition.

Very early santos (13th c.-to 17th c.) have a certain style. Some Byzantine Empire santos are primitive in style and some are very intricately carved wearing very loose vestments and sporting long curly hair. Those that exist today are largely pieces or parts of the original sculpture called “fragments”.

18th to 19th century santos are the most common antique santos. These are the most we sell in our store. Just imagine how much wood is left after 300 years. One will be very surprised. With careful handling and devotion, much of the wood will remain as with carvings such as the santos, because they were considered holy and thus were properly maintained and preserved. Many of these were in glass covered wooden altars called “urnas” or glass enclosures called “virinas”. Ivory items are very popular among collectors, but there is barely anything available for sale due to their rarity. Most of them are in possession private collectors.

Reproduction Santos?

One can find many Reproduction santos in North America. Majority of them were imported from Asia and South America. There are two types of reproduction santos. The first type are those that are sold and labeled as reproduction. The second type are labeled and passed on as antiques. One should avoid buying the second type because they are a waste of money. They are worth no more than the first type and are sold for as much as authentic santos. Most antique santos are in private collectors possessions and most of the time these are sold in estate sales. One can find many reproduction santos labeled as antique that are for sale at online auctions.

The modern “Santeros” are very experienced artisans that can almost duplicate an authentic antique santos. They carve them from old wood salvaged from old houses and other sources. They can mimmick old paint by exposing them to the elements, distressing the paint and/or storing them in areas where the paint will age faster. Soot from votive candles is an effective way to mask new paint. An experienced eye is required to differentiate an authentic santos from a reproduction. Centuries old style and method of carving will usually expose a reproduction from an authentic santos. Santos have unique features like hairstyle and vestment flow. One can also visually inspect the state of patina accumulation on the santos. Beware of items that have complete attributes (religious symbols) and body parts. There are a few almost perfect santos that survived the test of time and they command a high price. Ask seller if any repairs or restoration have been done. An honest seller will normally declare any changes or repairs done on the santos.

Modern or Contemporary Santos?

There are many Modern santos imported these days from Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Peru and other South/Central American countries. Elaborate carvings from Europe especially from the Gardena Valley in South Tyrol, Ortisei or Innsbruck (German Itlalian Border) command a high price and can be custom ordered if preferred. Modern Philippine carvings retained the quality and character of their Colonial past and are used as processional or church pieces and in home altars.  Modern santos are also made in New Mexico. One can easily appreciate the artistry and beauty of these modern santos and are collectible as well.

Vintage Infant of Prague

The Infant of Prague statue is probably the most popular religious figure for sale in the internet for adoration purposes or as a collector item. We primarily purchase these figures as collector items, but since they are religious in nature they can also be displayed by their owners for devotion and adoration. Some people assume that the Infant of Prague (Nino de Praga), Santo Nino de Atocha, Santo Nino de Cebu, Divino Nino or any other name of the Child Jesus or Baby Jesus are one and the same. In the religious sense it is true because each one pertains to only one person which is the young boy Jesus, but in history, each one is unique in the period and the location that it appeared.

The Infant of Prague in particular, its earliest history can be traced back to Prague in the year 1628 when the small, 19-inch high, wax statue of the Infant Jesus was given by Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz (1566–1642) to the Discalced Carmelites, to whom she had become greatly attached. The princess had received the statue as a wedding gift in1603 from her mother, María Manrique de Lara y Mendoza, a Spanish noblewoman, to whom it had been a wedding gift in Spain in1555 and who had brought it to Bohemia. 

There were a few manufacturers of religious figures during the early 20th century. We are particularly interested in the chalkware figures manufactured by Columbia Statuary in Italy. These were made during the mid 50’s and late 60’s. One can get more information about these statuaries in online auctions and blogs. They are easy to acquire, but it is problematic to find pieces in mint condition because the material (chalkware) is inherently fragile. This material can only withstand minimal pressure and will break or chip off if not carefully handled.

Chalkware will also absorb moisture when exposed to it and cause it to break down in time, however if it is well stored, it will keep  indefinitely. That is why sometimes one can find some pieces in excellent condition and rarely with the original box. The pieces in mint condition are the most collectible. 

There are at least three versions of the face. Some batches are made of solid chalk and some are lighter versions. They may have the same year made labels, but each one is unique in itself since they are handpainted. Some of them come with attached crowns also made of chalk or a detachable metal crown decorated with multi-colored rhinestones. These pieces can be dressed. Factory garments or vestments come in two types. Custom made garments can be purchased online. The standard style is made of thinner fabric and the premium vestments are made of brocade and thicker materials. Some of them come with blue, brown or black glass eyes and some have painted eyes only. The value of the piece will then depend on the skill of the artist, the type of eyes, the condition and its accessories. 

History of Lefton China
Founded by Hungarian sportswear designer George Zoltan Lefton, Lefton China of Chicago, Illinois, imported porcelain decorative objects such as figurines and head vases, as well as kitchen wares such as cookie jars and salt-and-pepper shakers, from postwar Japan. From 1945 through 1953, these pieces were stamped with the words “Made in Occupied Japan.” Figures from 1946 to 1953 may also bear a red sticker with either silver or gold trim on their bases, which reads “Lefton’s Exclusives Japan.” Objects made after 1953 added the words “Reg. U.S. Pat. Off,” while those made after 1960 swap that phrase for the simpler “Trade Mark.” Unfortunately, during the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, the use of these stickers (and others) overlapped, so they are not a perfectly reliable way to date a piece of Lefton.
Beginning in the 1970s, Lefton began contracting with potteries around the world, from China and Malaysia to Italy and England. Fortunately, this global diversification had little impact on the quality of Lefton pieces, which is generally better than that of direct competitors such as Nike NAPCO and ENESCO.

Santos Restoration
We recommend Wanda Alicea for professional Santos restorations. She charges at a very reasonable fee. We are not associated with her business but we have used her in some of our restoration projects. She has done a wonderful job on the 18th Century Mexican Christ Child SKU# 2018102. If interested please contact us so we can refer you.


Please do not hesitate to e-mail us if you have any questions or additional information regarding santos.

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