Vintage Halloween Collecting

by Lynne Constantine
Glenwood Manor Antiques Center
& Antiques Market Place

It started 25 years ago while rummaging through boxes at a local antique shop. I spotted an orange cardboard box covered with black silhouettes of scary looking bats and witches. The box alone was exciting enough but when I opened it, it contained an early string of celluloid jack-o lantern shaped lights with frightening facial expressions made by Noma in the 1930’s. It actually made my heart skip a beat. At that time there was no eBay, no reference books about Halloween collectibles, and antique shops only put Halloween and Christmas related items out only right before each holiday. Prices were low because collecting had not become wide spread. The first holiday collecting books came out in the 1980’s and the prices soared, which is what usually happens when the first book about a topic is published. Then, after three or four books are published on a topic, the prices drop a bit. Then comes the bad part, the reproductions hit the market. Today, eBay is filled with reproductions (listed along with authentic antiques) so it is best to search shops, shows and sales where you can actually handle the item and talk with the seller.

There are lots of Halloween categories to collect. The item’s scarcity, the imagery, and the condition is what determines the value. The most common image is the pumpkin and the humanized Jack-O-Lantern. Next are black cats, skeletons and owls. Rarer images are witches, bats, and “veggie people” which are characters depicted with different vegetable heads and body parts like watermelons or squash. Devils are the scarcest image. Generally, the scarier the image, the earlier the piece.

Postcards: early postcards from 1905-1915 have great graphics and are very collectible. Artist signed cards such as Clapsaddle, Winsch or Tuck command higher prices.

Party Decorations: Die-cuts (shaped paper decorations made with a die or cutting tool), table centerpieces, garlands, candy boxes, candles, books. Signed pieces are better, especially Beistle and Dennison.

Games: Most early games were made for adults to play at parties; most often are fortune telling, stunt or board games.

Paper Mache: Jack-o-lanterns with paper insert faces (which were often burned by the candle inside). The earlier, smaller German hand decorated lanterns are most desirable. German candy containers and nodders (figures with heads on springs) are harder to find.

Noise Maker: Horns, tambourines, clickers & clappers were made from tin and sometimes cardboard. Larger ones are hard to find; and the ones with wooden handles are earlier than the ones with plastic handles. Early cardboard noisemakers marked Germany are generally more desirable. Signed tin noisemakers are usually better, such as Chein, Bugle Toy, US Metal Toy.

Costumes: Early 1900’s costumes were mainly hand made from crepe paper, often following instructions from Dennisons or Beistle party books. Later, costumes came in a box with an outfit and a mask.

Plastics: 1950’s-1960’s small figural plastic candy containers sold in the 5 & 10 cent stores originally came with candy wrapped in cellophane and tied with ribbon. Now the containers are usually found empty. These are a fairly newer Halloween collectible.

Halloween is now the second most popular holiday to collect after Christmas and I am always on the lookout for more.

For Halloween events, activities & attractions throughout the Lake George Region, click image below:

For more information on Glenwood Manor Antiques Center & Antiques Market Place, as well as other related vintage articles, click below: