A Christmas card from Bill Clinton to say thank you for the design and production of a special Advent calendar with the White House as its motif is among the most important souvenirs from the over 70-year history of Richard Sellmer Verlag. As early as in the 1950s, the German family-run business, founded in 1945, was known in the USA as the “Home of the Advent Calendar”. The US Presidents Nixon and Eisenhower had let themselves be photographed for a charity campaign with the attractive products from Stuttgart, which had been unknown in the United States previously.
Advent calendars are to the pre-Christmas period what the Christmas tree is to Christmas Eve. The publishers Richard Sellmer Verlag supply millions of them every year to more than 30 countries. The curiosity for the daily surprises behind the 24 doors continues even in this age of SMS and the Internet. The product became universally popular in the 1950s, when it became an affordable mass-produced item. Richard Sellmer Verlag, which is the only publishing house in Germany that concentrates exclusively on the production of Advent calendars, has the lion’s share of the market.
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Even the first Sellmer calendar with the motif "The Little Town" - which was reprinted - shows this careful attention to detail and the sophisticated, handcrafted design. Richard Sellmer had made it all by himself in the living room of his house in the Schmellbachstraße, opposite today's Sellmer company building. It was the first German supplier from whom customers could order Advent Calendars.
In 1946 the American occupation authorities granted permission to print. Although a good part of the Advent season of the first post-war year was already over, Sellmer's calendars became a huge success, so that in the following years he successively expanded the range.
Richard Sellmer quickly succeeded in establishing contacts with American customers via international trade fairs. The Advent calendar, which had been completely unknown in the USA until then, also found enthusiastic buyers there. From now on, American customers could also buy Sellmer's Advent calendars. Sellmers Verlag was even soon called "The Home of Advent Calendar".
So as not to give the impression that only Americans used Christmas calendars from Stuttgart to do good: Richard Sellmer himself financed the restoration with the proceeds of the motif "Alt Stuttgart". The opulent photo albums, which document the company's history, contain black-and-white photos from the early production as well as some letters from children all over the world, addressed to the "Secretary General of Father Christmas" or immediately to "Santa Claus".
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The fact that US Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon had themselves and their families photographed with a calendar made in Stuttgart-Rohr as part of a charity campaign further boosted the popularity of Sellmer products. The fact that a "Miss Christmas-Town" - the Advent calendar queen was crowned annually in the USA as part of this charity campaign - visited the publishing house was also seen as a nice recognition.
One of the best-kept souvenirs is a Christmas card from Bill Clinton: the President personally thanked him for the copy of a special Advent calendar from the 1950s with the "White House" as the motif that Sellmer had sent him.
So as not to give the impression that only the Americans used Christmas calendars from Stuttgart to do good: Richard Sellmer himself used the proceeds of the "Alt Stuttgart" motif to finance the restoration of windows of the Stuttgart Collegiate Church that were destroyed in the war.
Sales office England: International is important
At Sellmer, the international market now accounts for around 50 percent of sales. In terms of demand, the British are at the top of the league. For this reason, a sales office was set up near Birmingham in 2001.
Miss Christmastown with Sellmer Advent Calendar
A very important branch of business is now the area of custom-made products. Mostly it concerns advertising gifts, which companies send to their customers and employees. Apart from simple designs, where a sticker is attached to an existing motif, there is also the production according to individual templates - as well as the popular chocolate calendars. The fashion chain H&M, for example, commissioned a fancy chocolate advent calendar from Richard Sellmer Verlag with a magazine look, printed with a Christmassy cover girl.
Interestingly, the Advent calendar is a relatively young phenomenon - the first copy was produced in 1904. In fact, it only became popular in the 1950s. At that time it became a cheap mass-produced article - and the Stuttgart-based Richard Sellmer Verlag, the only publishing house in Germany to concentrate exclusively on the production of Advent calendars, played a considerable role in this.
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Every year, the family-owned company delivers millions of copies of the smart pre-Christmas agendas to sales partners in around 30 countries. Richard Sellmer founded the publishing house in 1945, today the grandchildren Frank and Oliver Sellmer run the business. The publishing house has eleven employees. About 5 freelance graphic designers are responsible for the artistic design, the printing orders are placed outside the company.
Richard Sellmer Verlag on Wikipedia (German version)