Happy Spring! Wiccans and pagans celebrate the vernal equinox in the Northern hemisphere, the time when light and dark are balanced again. Now, I know that sunshine and flowers don’t exactly scream Halloween, nor appease goth lovers, but if nothing else, we are moving one step closer to Halloween, and that’s cause for celebration.
The Germanic goddess of spring and dawn returns. This girl knows how to party. She loves festivals, feasting, drinking, and sex! Sex leads to babies and she is all about that. Ostara first showed up around the 8th century during festivals celebrating the vernal equinox. Details of actual worship are sketchy, but by the time the 19th century rolled around, she had become a permanent fixture in Germanic mythology. She represents fertility, healing, and rebirth, and is depicted as a radiant woman of childbearing years, wreathed or covered with blooming flowers, surrounded by rabbits, hares and other wildlife, and she brings absolute joy to those around her. One cannot go wrong planting some seeds or painting some eggs in her honor.
Hello future collectors! Apologies, it’s been a while since my last post, but I’ve been busy making more content for readers. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that shopping for vintage Halloween collectibles was a cool activity. So, I decided to expand a bit on the topic of collecting.
I believe collectors fall into three types of categories:
Professional collectors: Collecting, trading, buying and selling is their business. They do it for a living. They might own a physical shop or an online business. They know everything there is to know about vintage Halloween, including company details, origin dates and prices. You can talk to them online on their web page forums, or at collector shows, or find them in social media groups. The professionals love to talk vintage Halloween and share their knowledge.
Serious collectors: This group is also quite knowledgeable and passionate about vintage Halloween, but they don’t typically make a career out of it. Usually, these types of collectors are not open to trading or selling, and their collections tend to be plentiful, rare and quite expensive.
Casual collectors: If you don’t have a cabinet full of vintage Halloween wares, this is probably the category you fall into, for now. Casual collectors may or may not be as passionate or knowledgeable, but they’re always learning and on the prowl for cool vintage stuff.
What to buy is purely subjective. Generally, the rarer or the older the item and the better the shape, the higher the value. Some people work hard to build a collection of specific types of items, like blow molds, lanterns, Kokomold plastic candy holders, or die cut cutouts. Others buy whatever they can get their hands on.
In the past few years, Retro Halloween, or replicas of old Halloween decorations, have become all the rage with retailers. Owning retro items is totally cool, so long as you understand you are not buying authentic vintage collectibles. Watch out for online sellers who label retro items as vintage items. Also, keep in mind that even reputable shops could sell knock-offs, not necessarily because they’re trying to scam buyers, but sometimes even shop owners cannot tell the difference between authentic vintage and replicas. I once got suckered over a mislabeled black cat Paper Mache lantern that I bought on a whim. When shopping for Paper Mache lanterns, arguably the most sought after and yet most difficult to determine authenticity, look for a ring pressed in at the bottom. Smooth bottoms or crackled paint are sure ringers for a replica.
Antique Paper Mache JOL Lantern
JOL Lantern w/Ring-pressed Bottom
Determining the difference between authentic vintage, replicas or retro and knock-offs can be difficult. Over time, labels and logos disappear. Information gets lost if there was any to begin with. Don’t get discouraged. The Halloween gods are generous sometimes. Information on embossed die cut cutout decorations, Halloween party books, or blow molds is easily accessible online nowadays. Two of the biggest and most popular producers of Halloween party decorations and paper collectibles are Beistle Company and Dennison Manufacturing Company, both whom typically marked their products with the company name or logo. Dennison merged with Avery years ago, but Beistle is still around and making replicas of their own merchandise. Empire, a popular maker of blow molds and pumpkin pails, almost always placed their imprint near the bottom or back of their products.
1969 Empire Blow Mold
1925 Dennison’s Bogie Book
It’s important to do your research and ask questions before making purchases. Do not be afraid to sound stupid. Most sellers of authentic vintage Halloween collectibles know what they are talking about and are happy to answer your questions.
There’s no need to wait until October. Off-season shopping might yield lower prices, whereas, in-season, you may find more vintage wares but at higher prices. It’s not unusual for antique shops to put out merchandise according season, just like retailers. During off season, depending on the condition or rarity of the item, you may have better luck convincing store owners to accept lower offers. During the peak Halloween season though, don’t be surprised if they don’t budge.
Vintage Halloween collectibles are usually found in antique stores, thrift stores, estate sales, yard sales, collector shows and specialty stores. Vintage Halloween postcards often can be found at collector or paper shows. You can also shop online for all vintage collectibles, at places like eBay, VintageHalloween.com, Etsy, and specialty stores. Typically, retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, Hallmark, or Spirit Halloween stores, do not carry vintage collectibles, only replicas.
Most people get into collecting because they love vintage Halloween, but some are hoping to make money. Either way, remember do your research and ask lots of questions. There are collectible and price guide books available in book stores or online. Many of these books are from the 90s but are still great resources. One of the most current guides published is Mark Ledenbach’s Vintage Halloween Collectibles – Third Edition from 2014. It’s a fabulous book, full of detailed information and over 700 color photos. You can find out more about his book and wealth of information on vintage Halloween collectibles at his blog here: http://halloweencollector.com/
HOW (much to spend)
If you make a cool find in antique or thrift store somewhere, and not sure if it’s worth the price tag, Google it! Check eBay for a price comparison. Never let yourself feel pressured into buying anything. If you’re on a budget, stick to it. If you’re uncomfortable with the price, go with your gut. Missed opportunities do happen. It’s the worst feeling in the world, but so is being in over your head or in mountains of debt. Best advice I’ve ever received, only pay what you fell the item is worth.
You may have noticed I didn’t talk much about Halloween post cards. That’s because it’s a special category and deserves its own blog post. 🙂