If all this scary technology leaves you feeling a bit nostalgic for a cardboard skeleton and a few honeycomb tissue paper pumpkins, you're not alone. Original vintage Halloween decorations from the 1920’s through 60’s are ‘in demand’ because they are near impossible to find.
“Vintage Halloween images are most memorable because they were meant to scare. And for this reason finding such decorations in today’s marketplace especially near-mint condition, is fast becoming a rarity,” says Gerard Arduino, author of “Holiday Love and Madness”. These vintage decorations include one sided paper cutouts, or die-cuts, of classic images such as scary witches, spooky black cats and Jack-O-Lanterns, plastic pumpkin candy holders and honeycombed-tissue decorations.
“About 10 years ago, there was a resurgence of the old stuff really coming back,” he said. “I thought (Halloween) is really catching on again. I got into it myself then. It became a passion of mine.”
“Unlike Christmas decorations that were passed down from generations and would be packed away carefully, regarded as family heirlooms, Halloween decorations were generally used once to decorate a themed party and then discarded without a thought,” continued Arduino. “For this reason, today, an original 1930’s jointed skeleton paper cutout, in mint condition, could be worth as much as $150 or more compared to its original price of a mere five or ten cents.”
Arduino explains that the Internet has allowed for many of the vintage Halloween decorations to resurface. “Thanks to the Internet and sites such as eBay it has become much easier to find classic images. In comparison to the Halloween decorations of today, the timeless decorations of the past are much scarier and, for us ‘baby boomers,’ they bring us back to a time when life was simpler and no one thought twice about letting children “trick 'or' treat door-to-door.”
“The decorations have character. They remind everyone of their childhood. People will see them and say “I had that when I was a kid” or “I remember those.” I get all of that kind of feedback,” he said.
The Beistle Company of Shippensburg, Pa., and The Dennison Manufacturing Co., now known as Avery Dennison and based in Pasadena, Calif., produced some of the most popular collectible Halloween items.
Beistle is still in business and with the recent popularity of its vintage items, has reissued some of its holiday creations for today's buyers.
“Beistle made party hats, lanterns…a bunch of things that were party-themed,” Arduino added. “All of it was made in the United States and sold in 5- and 10-cent stores. I remember going to Woolworth's and buying these cutouts and Halloween costumes. You don't see that anymore.”
What have been selling well in today’s market according to Arduino are “the traditional ‘Classic’ cutouts.” The ones that look and feel spooky! In addition he added the ‘Gothic’ line of indoor/outdoor lawn and durable decorations are popular sellers as well.
If you’re looking to start your own Halloween collection and prefer the “retro images” of days gone by, then here are some tips to help you keep up with the ever growing trend of vintage Halloween decorating:
What to look for:
- The names Beistle and Dennison are usually printed on the cutouts.
- The scarier the imagery, the older the item.
- Older cutouts have one-sided images with a thick card board backing.
- Halloween Bogie Books, once published annually by Dennison were magazines that served as the primary sales and marketing tool for the company’s Halloween line. Finding them today is rare, but they can help collectors determine the manufacture date of vintage decorations.
- The more delicate the article, the more rare, and of course, the more valuable.
Where to find them:
- Local garage sales are an excellent place to find vintage holiday items.
- Antique/collectible shows are another source; although they can become pricy, depending on how much you are willing to spend.
- Look for distributors who sell vintage recreations which will cost far less than the originals. These are a must have for Halloween aficionados.
- Small, local party stores often sell Beistle recreations, and may even have some old cutouts in storage that may be for sale.
- If you choose to purchase authentic vintage decorations on the Web, generally avoid dealers who provide photos of their items for sale taken from catalogs or other sources. Its buyer beware. Always make sure that you are viewing the actual item you are purchasing.