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How to Collect Vintage Halloween Antiques and Collectibles

I've lived in Arizona for 70 years (Tucson, Glendale, and Sedona). I love writing about Arizona history, antiques, books and travel.

Paper Mache Pumpkins and Lanterns

Whether those pumpkins are grinning or scary, they are amazingly expensive if they are not reproductions.

Whether those pumpkins are grinning or scary, they are amazingly expensive if they are not reproductions.

Halloween Traditions

Collecting retro Halloween items takes patience and money as Halloween antiques and collectibles are more scarce than Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentines and Easter collectibles. Also, be forewarned, that Halloween items are often reproductions. Be sure to check guidebooks and buy from reputable sources. That said, collecting Halloween items and decorating with them for Halloween has become bigger every year.

How Halloween began and where its traditions began is open for dispute, but many believe it is rooted in the Christian tradition of All Hallows Eve (All souls, All saints) on October 31st when the departed souls would be honored. Others believe that Halloween began with Celtic roots as a day of harvest and summer's end which began the "dark" half of the year. On October 31st, it was believed that a portal was opened for the departed souls to return to earth and seek revenge. In some societies, it was believed that harmful spirits, ghosts and fairies could roam the earth and inhabit the living bodies of persons and animals.. To ward off the harmful spirits, masks could be worn by the living to confuse the spirits, and giant bonfires were lighted to repel creatures of the dark. Later, lighted candles would replace bonfires. The early Catholic church recognized All Saints Eve as the time to time to pray for restless souls in Purgatory (a place between Heaven and Hell) to pass into the peace of Heaven. The practice of carving turnips that represented souls began in Ireland and Scotland. In America the Puritan immigrants from England did not allow any celebration of Halloween as it was considered pagan; however, as immigrants from Ireland and Scotland arrived in America the practice of carving pumpkins and placing a candle in them began.

Small Vintage Halloween Items Can be Artfully Arranged

How a collection is displayed makes all the difference in the way you and others enjoy it.

How a collection is displayed makes all the difference in the way you and others enjoy it.

Knowing a little about the history of Halloween, prepares a collector for the types of items to collect, how to date them, and their historical significance. While the practice of disguising oneself on Halloween was centuries old, the practice of wearing a costume and trick-or-treating in America seems to be traced to the 1930s when costumes began to be mass produced and references to trick-or-treating can be found in advertising and literature. My mother who was the right age to trick-or-treat in the 1930s, wore a simple homemade costume and told me that it was common to go to a few neighbor's homes for a treat of homemade fudge, a popcorn ball or an apple. Sometimes children carried a real carved pumpkin with a lighted candle which resulted in a number of children being burned, so carrying pumpkins made of light weight paper mache with a wire handle to put candy into became popular. When I was trick-or-Treating in the late 1950s, store bought costumes and masks were the norm, and most treats were wrapped candies which were placed into a pillow case or paper bag. Adults also enjoyed costume parties, so adult masks and costumes were also popular.

Paper mache pumpkins or Jack-o-Lanterns or Halloween Lanterns are very collectible, and their value is determined by size, condition, if the paper eyes and mouth are in tact and if they have retained their wire handle. Most have orange and green paint. For those lanterns shaped like pumpkins in good condition, a rough estimate of value is $50.00 to $150.00. For Halloween lanterns shaped like cats, if they are in good condition, expect to pay $200 plus. To become familiar with their sizes, shapes and values, I suggest looking at them on on-line sites such as Ebay, Ruby Lane,and Etsy before considering a purchase.

While collectors do look for Halloween costumes and masks, they are among the most reasonable Halloween items. Look for costume sets that are complete in their original boxes by companies such as Collegeville and Halco. They should be priced in the $10 to $25 range, with the "cute" sets priced at the low end and the scary sets priced higher.

Black Cats Noise Makers Witches

Die cut black cat mask.

Die cut black cat mask.

Noisemakers and Die Cut Decorations

Tin Litho Halloween noisemakers, clackers, rattles horns and tambourines were mostly made in the USA. Noisemakers with a grinding sound or rattles sell in the price range of $8-$25, while horns are priced slightly higher. Tambourines are priced in the $20-$60. Again, these are often difficult to determine the age of and are frequently reproduced.

Halloween die cut paper (light cardboard) decorations are also very collectible. In the 1920s and 1930s the Beistle Company of Pennsylvania began making cute decorations out of cardstock that made decorating for Halloween affordable on most budgets. The most common themes are pumpkin heads, skeletons, witches, devils, black cats and owls. Some will have crepe paper fold out legs or tissue paper embellishments and. Items made by the Beistle company are tops in this category. Expect to pay at least $75 for a jointed skeleton or from $6 to $100 depending on size, condition and unusual themes or graphics. If the item is marked Made in Japan, it is not a Beistle decoration.

Skulls and Skeletons Too

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Additional Paper Halloween Collectibles

Other vintage Halloween paper items include all types of party goods, such as paper plates, cups, napkins, tablecloths, nut cups and table decorations. Also,look for the small paper sacks that candy or other treats were placed into before they were given out. Games for Halloween parties are very rare.

Another type of paper collectible is the Halloween postcard which is valued according to age and condition, but many times the price depends on the postcard publisher and the artist who created the graphics. A special Halloween postcard can be as expensive as a paper mache pumpkin or in the $50 up range. There are also many of these wonderful postcards that have been reproduced. If a Halloween postcard is priced in the $10 range and does not show any evidence of wear, chances are it is a reproduction. Many of these postcards will be labeled as reproductions and can be fun to decorate with.

Pumpkin Head People


Black Cats, Crows & Day of the Dead Collectibles

Coffee table display

Coffee table display

Candy Containers and Plastics

Old candy containers such as the 1950s lollipop holders by Rosbro are highly collectible, but again in the $50 and up price range. Even more rare are paper mache candy containers from the 1930s, that when found in good condition can be priced at $100 up.

If the prices on the truly old Halloween items from the 1950s back are out of range, it's not too late to find some cute plastic Halloween items from the 1960s forward that I suspect will soon be in the sites of collectors someday.

© 2013 mactavers


mactavers (author) on September 08, 2014:

Thanks for your comment. I think that while trick-or-treating is pretty much gone, Halloween celebrations and costumes have become bigger than ever. I'm always trying to guess what people will collect in the future.

LisaKeating on September 07, 2014:

I had forgotten about trick or treating with a pillowcase! Thanks for the memory. I always look for vintage Halloween collectibles, but they are really hard to find. Nice hub.

mactavers (author) on October 13, 2013:

Thanks Writer Fox. For myself, I love things that show some evidence of wear better than always searching for those in the box items that some child never got to play with, or that someone stuck away in a drawer because it was "too good" to ever use.

Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on October 13, 2013:

It's amazing that collectibles survive since many of them were actually used by kids. Interesting article and voted up!

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