Most Halloween items were disposable, as they were intended for one-time use and this was back in the day when not everything in our lives was disposable—unless your mom was like my mom, who packed everything away for use the next year. So, a die-cut black cat decoration like this could set you back a couple hundred bucks or more.
I think that most of us, at least those of us of a certain age, have very fond memories of Halloween. The costumes, the parties, the favors and, of course, going out for the candy. Deciding what you were going to dress-up as was a months-long process and there were years when my mom would labor for weeks making costumes for my brother and me—we had one year where we waited so long that we ended up going out as the default ghosts draped in white sheets with holes cut out for the eyes. There was the school Halloween party (yes, there was a time when we actually had Halloween parties at school) with orange and black jack-o’-lanterns taped to the classroom windows. The excitement built all day until, finally, came the main event when all the neighborhood kids would run from house to house yelling out “Trick or Treat!” The boys would usually follow-up the good-natured demand for treats with “smell my feet, give me something good to eat.” There was always the ambitious parents who would take the time to create a haunted house in their garage. What is there not to like about Halloween? There is no other holiday where you get to dress-up as any character you desire, real or imagined, wander the streets and collect candy. Now that I am an adult, I still dress-up to hand out candy and thoroughly enjoy all the princesses, cartoon characters and scary creatures that come to my door. I have even been known to put costumes on my dogs. Halloween is the stress-free celebration that ushers in the big holiday seasons. There is no large meal to prepare, you can decorate your home or just place a pumpkin on the front porch, there are no gifts to purchase and wrap and, certainly, no family drama at the dinner table. Heck, you can even turn your house lights off and not participate if that is your desire.
Postcards and Halloween greeting cards start at $5. Even the honeycomb-tissue-paper and cardboard table decorations can bring $75 or more.
Of all the holiday collectibles, it is my humble opinion that antique and vintage Halloween items bring the highest prices. If anything, the prices continue to go up and the popularity keeps growing unlike other collectible genres, which fluctuate in popularity and price. What makes vintage and antique Halloween items so valuable? Most Halloween items were disposable, as they were intended for one-time use and this was back in the day when not everything in our lives was disposable—unless your mom was like my mom, who packed everything away for use the next year. Items were made of paper, plastic, papier mâché, pressed cardboard and celluloid, all of which are not known for longevity. Papier mâché jack-o’-lanterns can sell for $250 and up, depending upon characteristics (painted eyes and mouth) and condition. Postcards and Halloween greeting cards start at $5. Even the honeycomb-tissue-paper and cardboard table decorations can bring $75 or more. Other Halloween collectibles:
• Noise makers; • Costumes; • Candles; • Hats; • Window decorations; • Candy containers—figural and paper; • Games; • Party game books and magazines.
I just did a quick check on eBay auctions to see what Halloween items are selling for and found a plastic Rosbro witch whistle from the 1960s with a current high bid of $425. A die-cut cardboard candle with cat face is at $75. Another Rosbro plastic whistle depicting a cat playing a saxophone is currently at $295. All of these auctions are still open and you bet I will check in to see what the final values are.
This plastic Rosbro witch whistle from the 1960s was up for auction on eBay with a current high bid of $425.
In the late 1920s through the 1930s an America-based company Beistle created cardboard games. Most were fortune-telling games and those with a tissue-honeycomb base can sell for $250 and up. These have wonderful graphics and are great fun to own. A single mid-century paper candy bag can sell for up to $50. Once again, these were meant for single use and most got thrown in to the trash. Size is not important when pricing Halloween collectibles. A very small German composition-and-plaster candy container can fetch a price of around $300. Noise makers come in various shapes, sizes and materials. You have the small metal hand clicker, the pan-clanger—a flat metal disk with one or two wooden balls that when spun makes a wicked noise—and a wood ratchet noise maker are all in demand now. The latter two are the winners, price wise, in this category, as most are circa 1920 and it rates as a minor miracle for these to have survived.
In the late 1920s through the 1930s, cardboard games were popular at kids’ and teens’ parties.
Halloween items are yet another collecting genre where you do have to be able to discern the old from the new. New papier mâché items are on the market and it is often difficult to tell the difference between old and new. When buying window decorations, be sure to look at the thickness of the pressed cardboard, as the older pieces are a tad thicker and have more detail than their new counterparts. Many of the cardboard items have a company name noted on them, so do your homework before you spend a lot of money on something you aren’t too sure about. Bargains can still be found, especially at garage and estate sales, so you can start a Halloween collection without taking out a second mortgage on your home. It saddens me that Halloween in America has been given such a bad rap over the past 10-15 years. October 31 is celebrated in different ways by every society and religion. When we lived in Mexico City, I was lucky enough to have experienced the “Day of Dead” celebration and it was quite magnificent then we returned to our neighborhood and went trick or treating. Every year on October 1, I drag out all of my Halloween decorations. We have a big costume shop not far from the house that I visit—you don’t want to put this off until the last minute—and we will buy several pounds of candy from the warehouse store because, thank goodness, we have droves of costumed kids of all ages that still visit our neighborhood. BOO!
Michelle Staley, who insists that collectors are the happiest people, is an antique collector and dealer. Her shop, My Granny’s Attic Antiques, Collectibles and Memorabilia, is in Lenexa, Kansas. WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth