As a holiday, Halloween came into its own in the early 1920s, when parties were primarily for adults. Guests would play
(The practice of going door-to-door for candy actually didn't come into vogue until after World War II, when Halloween morphed into a holiday mainly for children.) The zenith of Halloween items both in variety and design was from about 1919 until 1935, when American discounters such as Woolworth's and Kresge encouraged expert German artisans to craft unique items for the growing American holiday market. Many of the lanterns, candy containers and figures from this period were made in homes or very small firms, from either a fixed design or a mold, and all were hand-decorated. The overall quantity of items produced was quite small, resulting in a limited supply of these spooky treasures today.
What to Look ForThe hierarchy of Halloween collectible imagery has always been fairly logical: The pumpkin, or its anthropomorphic incarnation, the jack-o'-lantern, is the most common symbol of the holiday. Black cats, skeletons and owls appear frequently, followed by witches, bats and, more rarely, devils. For collectibles, within any given genre, this means devil imagery is the hardest to find -- and often it commands the highest prices. There were two premier American die-cut and party-supply manufacturers in the prime production era: the Beistle Company of Shippensburg, Pa., and the Dennison Manufacturing Company of Framingham, Mass., both of which are still in business today. Collectors can look for a mark on some of the better die-cuts from about 1940 through the early 1950s, such as "H.E. Luhrs," which was used exclusively by the Beistle Company. Beistle is known for its very detailed die-cuts, lanterns and table decorations.
What's Hot and What's NotHalloween decorations were traditionally used once for a party and then discarded. There are numerous other reasons why there is a true scarcity of quality or near-mint condition vintage Halloween memorabilia:
- Lanterns were illuminated by a flame that either consumed them or made them undesirable for later display.
- Die-cuts were often affixed to walls with liberal use of tape, which through the years causes damage.
- Games were often designed so that during play, pieces would be torn from backing or cut away.
Don't Be Haunted by ReproductionsWhen Halloween items first became very collectible in the 1980s, reproductions quickly followed. To satisfy buyers who wanted vintage and nostalgic items, numerous companies added lines of vintage-look Halloween items. These are usually not made to fool collectors; rather, they are designed for those who want vintage-looking Halloween decorations for the holiday. Along with this type of item, however, there are also reproductions and fantasy items made and marketed as old originals. A knowledgeable collector can usually tell the difference, but those new to the game should speak to a dealer or check a reference book such as Ledenbach's
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