Spooky delights: Halloween collectibles

One of my most vivid boyhood memories is of walking up to Winslow Elementary School for the Fall Festival. The festival always coincided with Halloween. The air was cool and crisp. Ghosts and witches seemed to fly through the air. In the dark, the school took on an eerie, spooky quality reminiscent of a haunted house. The rooms within were filled with ghosts, goblins, and ghouls – my class-mates. There were games to play, baked goods to buy, and even a haunted house for those who dared. It was a long time before I worked up the courage to step into that haunted house – that was a place for the high school kids. There was something almost magical about the Fall Festival. It was the very essence of Halloween.

Everyone has their own Halloween memories. It is such memories that attract many of us to Halloween collectibles. There is something about those paper jack-o’-lanterns and ghosts that brings back memories of the past. Almost everyone can remember the orange and black decorations hanging in class-room windows, or at home. Halloween collectibles are so prized because they are a link to all the fun of past Halloweens. Perhaps, as adults, we miss some of what was once a part of our lives.

As with most collectibles, there are far more items to collect than you can imagine. You could completely fill a house with jack-o’-lanterns alone. Beyond this there are paper decorations of all kind and descriptions. There are party favors galore. There are tin toys and hats, costumes and candles, candy containers and noise-makers, invitations and dance cards, books and magazines, streamers and records, cookie cutters and party hats. Think I’ve exhausted the list? This is only the beginning. For each item mentioned, there are dozens more.

For the space conscious among us, there are a plethora of small collectibles. One of the most attractive, and easy to store, are the Halloween postcards. There are hundreds, thousands, enough to keep a collection going for a life-time. Halloween postcards are highly sought out. Their prices are not cheap, but not exorbitant either. The general range is $10-$25, the price depending on design, colors, and condition. Exceptional examples can cost more, and there are bargains too. One of my friends has picked up several nice post cards, all for only a dollar or two.

Papier mache and pressed cardboard jack-o’-lanterns are some of the most expensive pieces to collect. These can go for more than $250. I’ve found them for far less, however. I’ve noted several for $75-$150, still not cheap, but more affordable. Flat paper decorations are far less costly. The general price range for these is $10-$50, with the majority falling at the lower end of the price range. Candy containers can be quite costly, sometimes in excess of $250. Other examples are available for as little as $15. Those interested in pieces from past  Halloweens need to pick up a good price guide and do a lot of comparison shopping. This is the only way to really get a feel for values.

Displaying Halloween collectibles can be a challenge. Most were designed to be displayed precisely where they should not be – in windows. The black and orange of many paper decorations fades quickly in bright sunlight. Avoid direct sunlight at all costs! The result is irreversible damage. If you’re tempted to display vintage Halloween decorations in the windows, just remember that sunlight will have about the same effect on your decorations as it would on a vampire.

Halloween collectibles are best displayed where sunlight is an infrequent visitor. Halloween lends itself to darkness and the shadows can become a part of the aura of the collection, while protecting it at the same time. When not displayed, store Halloween collectibles in sturdy boxes, wrapped in white tissue paper. Avoid the use of newspaper as the ink can rub off.

Finding Halloween collectibles is not an easy task. It is a rare occasion when I discover a dealer who has a good selection. Antique malls and shows are among the richest sources. Antique shops have something to offer as well, but it may be necessary to browse through several to turn up anything. Yard, tag, and garage sales can yield Halloween finds.

I can’t recall spotting any Halloween collectibles at any of the antique auctions I’ve attended over the years, but as with all collectibles, it pays to keep your eyes open at all times! While traditional auctions offer little, there is quite a selection on eBay. Thankfully, most Halloween collectibles tend to be small and therefore not too expensive to ship. EBay may well be the best source of all.

While there are dedicated Halloween collectors out there who fill their homes to the brim with ghosts, witches, and jack-o’-lanterns, much pleasure can be found in just a few items. I focus on the smallest of Halloween collectibles – postcards. They are easy to store and make a beautiful display that isn’t at odds with my 19th century antiques. It doesn’t matter what you collect, or how large the collection. In the end, it’s the memories that these relics revive that are important. That’s what we really collect when we purchase antiques – memories. All the little and not so little items we cherish are merely doorways to memories of times past.

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