The Sears Catalog Used To Sell Complete Homes, 100 Years Later They're Collector's Items

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Sears Archive

While they may not be around much longer, the Sears department store chain has a long and interesting history in America.

Their famous catalog changed shopping forever by allowing rural citizens to "window shop" from the comfort of their living rooms. The huge books were once so common that people used the pages as toilet paper.  

And while the catalog contained thousands of items for the home, it also sold actual homes.

The Sears home catalog.Wikimedia

Between 1908 and 1940, Sears and Roebuck sold 70,000 build-it-yourself home plans to Americans across the country, from the East Coast to California and even Alaska. Shoppers would request a copy of the store's separate Honor Bilt Modern Homes Catalog, which included dozens of designs to pick from.

Once the home of your choice was ordered, home-building materials would be shipped by train to the nearest freight depot in a pair of boxcars. Most designs included at least 25 tons of materials and 30,000 parts.

Sears Archive

New owners either recruited their friends and family to help build the home, or hired a team of contractors to do the work for them. New innovations like precut timber and step-by-step instructions made it as easy as assembling a giant Ikea house.

A surviving Sears kit

And while Sears eventually stopped making their unique homes, demand for these architectural oddities is still high, and some Sears homes are actually rare collector's items.

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