Mark B. Ledenbach's vintage Halloween collectibles blog.

3 Early Dennison Halloween 1920S Place Cards Cat Witch Jack O'Lantern unused

I don't believe that any of these three place cards comprising this lot were actually made by Dennison. I think they were made by another company with or without permission from the original designing company. The cat face has a strong resemblance to one of Dennison's designs, but their name is spelled out in the artwork along the inside of one ear. This cat face has rather blurred art there, leading me to believe this was not made by Dennison. The JOL is from Hallmark or another firm with the witch being by another manufacturer altogether. Given the similarity of the edge colors and the uniformity of the "Made in USA" printing on the reverse, I feel quite confident asserting that these were made by an unknown third party with or without authorization. I feel these are therefore around $15-18 each, so the buyer paid a premium, almost certainly in the mistaken belief they were buying a trio of Dennison items. 

06/21 Update: The buyer of this set contacted me to say he would be contacting the seller. Here is what I wrote to him on Monday: "The seller of the place cards is a good person who is really quite knowledgeable about vintage Halloween paper. I understand how the mistake was made given that the cat face is an iconic Dennison image, and all of them had the same look and feel. The trio of items is still great – just not Dennison – and not commanding the premium that Dennison so often brings.'

Vintage Pop-Up Halloween Party Invitation Owl Pumpkins Deputy Cat

This is a very desirable invitation from 1924 made by an unknown manufacturer, although there is a possibility it was Whitney. Know that it is NOT complete. The cat deputy should be holding a folded piece of paper with "A HALLOWEEN SUBPOENA" printed on the front along with a black seal. Unfolded, there are indicated lines for "place," "date," and "hour." I feel that very few of these exist with its original subpoena. 

Vintage Halloween Noise Makers lot of 3 Witches Cats Bats Skeleton Pumpkin

My eye quickly breezed over this listing until I saw the ending price. Puzzled, I took a moment to comprehend what I was seeing and the result made more sense. However, instead of wondering why someone paid so much, I wondered how they managed to pay so little. The star of the lot is the noisemaker on the right. This design is rare, appearing in two forms to my knowledge, a clanger as shown here and a pair of cymbals. This design has been on my "I Want" list for some time. I regret not seeing it. I feel that alone should have brought between $200-225. 


I sure wish I was camped out in front of the desktop when this listing landed. This is a rare Domino hat mask produced by Beistle from 1926-1931. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen it for sale. The seller knew just enough to understand it may be Beistle, but nowhere near enough to lazily slap a BIN of $60 on it rather than put it up for auction. SGV is $275, but I think it would have brought more than that given that one hasn't surfaced for quite some time. Beistle made four Domino hat mask designs. I am searching for the one that still eludes me after all these years. 

1920s German Composition Arched-Back Black Cat atop Devil Head Candy Container

This is one of the most pleasing devil head candy containers I've seen for some time. I like its surprised, slightly dazed expression. I see that someone asked whether this is a truly vintage item. I don't have any doubts on that score. In looking closely at the ample photos provided, everything is as it should be. The flaking of the cat's paint is quite common, and for those whom it really bothers, easily remedied. (I would encourage the soon-to-be-new-owner to leave the paint untouched...) I am not buying vintage German compo candy containers much these days, but this one sure is tempting! 

German Parade Lantern News

In 1997, I was lucky enough to purchase an exceedingly rare parade lantern. Here is how I describe it on page 129:  
"Made in Germany circa 1908–1912, this layered papier-mâché with compo wash lantern and its original inserts served as the focal point for a small town Halloween parade, probably in New Jersey. A stick would be placed in the wooden yoke surrounding the lantern before it was hoisted high to lead the festivities. This item transcends the singular Halloween genre, easily crossing into the wider world of folk art. The design was done by a gifted artist, with the great care taken in its creation obvious in how dramatic this item is to look upon. The Parade Lantern measures 7.25” h x 7.75” diameter and has a removable bottom plug candleholder. This is a one-of-a-kind item as to its size and intended purpose. (I know of two other similarly-sized lanterns in other collections created by the same artist, but both are tabletop decorations, as they lack yokes. This same artist created many smaller lanterns, and like their two larger brethren, all were meant as tabletop lanterns as none have yokes. There are ~twenty of these small tabletop lanterns known to exist, most without bottoms. The last cache to be discovered numbered seven, found in Pennsylvania in 2003. These small tabletop lanterns sell for $2,200 to $2,300 each. This unique Parade Lantern is valued at $13,000 to $15,000."
As some of you know, my collecting tastes have been changing over the last few years. I was never all that interested in lanterns and candy containers, but made an effort to collect the best of those genres anyway. I have moved much more enthusiastically into collecting paper items like diecuts, table decorations, boxed goods and small paper ephemera (invitations, tallies, invitations and the like). I rarely purchase lanterns or German compo candy containers as they simply don't elicit much excitement for me anymore. I will retain my favorite 100 or so German compo candies and sell the rest in a measured way over the next many years. 
So, with this as a background, I decided to sell my parade lantern in early March to a collector with exquisite taste and an impeccable eye. She and I have known each other for many years. It sold for a price in the middle range of the stated guide value. 
There was a holiday show held in Columbus, Ohio on the Sunday of this past Memorial Day weekend. Surprisingly, a German parade lantern surfaced for sale. It was given to a high-end dealer to sell on consignment by a collector who likes to keep a low profile and who lives in the South. It is only the second such yoked lantern known to exist. It sold to a savvy collector who lives in northern California for about half of the low range of the value cited in my book. The lantern has a broken yoke and has a different color palette, not possessing the warm golden tones of the one that was in my possession for 20 years. Those issues and the hustle-bustle of a show setting probably account for a selling price I'd characterize as low. 
Interestingly, I was told that someone was claiming on a social media site that two additional German parade lanterns are owned by an elderly collector in Minnesota. Although one can never be sure, I doubt this. Back in 2003, I attended an event called The Halloween Opera in Jim Thorpe, PA. I was fortunate to chat with a pioneer in the field of holiday collecting, Roy Olsen. He had a small tabletop lantern he wanted to sell. Like nearly all of them that are extant, it lacked a bottom. We talked about the yoked version I then owned. He said that he owned a large tabletop version without a base and knew of no other yoked versions beside the one I bought in 1997 from Hugh Luck through a Dunbar Gallery auction. 
So, from all I know now, there were two yoked versions existing - the one I sold in early March and the slightly differently hued version that changed hands in late May in Columbus, Ohio. 
Unfortunately, there is now still only one German parade lantern known to exist. Sadly, the collector who purchased the parade lantern from me in March lost everything in a house fire at the end of May. Her house burned entirely to the ground. All of her collections, including her extensive and well-curated Halloween collection, were lost. She was not home when the fire occurred and no one was injured, a true blessing in a fire of this magnitude. 



Vintage Paper Halloween Hat by Beistle's. A black cat on one side, a witch on

This early variant of a thin-tissue coned hat produced by Beistle sold for $45, a solid price considering its wrinkled and bedraggled appearance. I would have taken even more dollars off given that the seller included a photo showing it being worn and another showing enough dirt under the fingernails suggesting that the seller, drac, clawed his way out of an earthen resting place after daylight hours ended. 

Wonderful Vintage Jointed Halloween Skeleton-Embossed-Heavy Cardboard-38in-EXCLT

The Germans issued three sizes of this deeply embossed articulated skeleton design during the 1920s. The size you will see most commonly is 27" high. This intermediate size is rarely seen, while the largest, at ~50" high, is exceedingly rare. Prices for the German diecut skeletons have been strong for some time. The seller has not provided enough photos, with none showing the reverse, so that will almost certainly impact the final price. Given that the most common size brings ~$150, this should bring somewhat less than double. 

Vintage Halloween Nut Cup Rats Black Cat

This fine seller had four different designs, three from the same set and one from another set featuring witches, that all ended today with very strong results, contributing to the data indicating that small paper is one of the hottest sub-genres currently. Whitney made these intelligently designed nut cups during the 1920s. These sets seem to have 6 designs each. I bought all the cat/mice nut cups from the same source about a year ago for an average of $48 each. The four that ended today ranged from $76.85 to $99.99, a steep increase in one year. 

A Word on eBay....

I registered to buy and sell on eBay back in 1997 when their emphasis was on catering to those interested in offering vintage items for auction. Over the years, and seemingly at an accelerated pace, eBay has paid more attention to developing their fixed price/Buy-It-Now sales of all products at the expense of those wishing to sell through an auction format. They have also emphasized buyer protections while seemingly not doing enough to bolster reasons why sellers of vintage goods should use the site. eBay has inexorably raised their selling fees and it is hard to avoid using Paypal and being nicked their ~3.25% fee, even though eBay and Paypal had a corporate parting of the ways ~two years ago. 

Regular readers know that I have long bemoaned the "light touch" eBay takes in patrolling their listings. They introduced automatically relisting unsold items so now eBay's categories are often clogged with the same tired items no one has wanted for weeks and months on end. In short, it has become less of a desirable selling venue for those wanting to share their vintage treasures with a wide community. 

As a less desirable selling venue, the risks of selling hard-to-find vintage items through an auction format with low starting prices have increased. I no longer believe that beginning things at $9.99, let's say, and allowing the eBay-defined market to set the price is the preferred route. 

I feel that knowledgeable sellers of vintage Halloween items should use an appropriately priced BIN option with a Best Offer option activated or an auction format with a starting price that is no less than ~50% of SGV. 

I don't feel this is an ideal new direction, but I do feel it is better overall than trusting a deteriorating venue to deliver desired results when using a low-opening-price auction format for vintage Halloween goods. 

Vintage Beistle Halloween Die Cut Candy Container

This seller made an error selling this rare Beistle candy basket for less than $59.99 through a Best Offer scenario. Beistle made this for a single season in 1921. The designer went all out decorating every surface with now-iconic as well as odd art choices. (Check out the pine tree on one of the sides.) I haven't seen one of these come to market in many, many years. Given how hot Beistle is at the moment, I feel confident in asserting that an auction ending price would have far exceeded SGV of $325. These are very delicate items, and this seems to be in superb condition given that caveat. Reviewing the sold items, I see this seller sold a number of rare Beistle items for far less than SGV. 

1930's -'40's Halloween Sample Book of Cats, Witches< JOL & Other

Even as an aficionado of vintage Beistle items, I'm puzzled by the ending price for this sample book. Sure, based on the photos there was a number of interesting and rare items contained within the pages, but they were all glued in, making their collectible value a fraction of what some of these items would have brought otherwise. I wonder, too - how is something like this displayed? 

Dennison's Bogie Book - 1922 Halloween Catalog - vibrant color

Three Bogie Books from the 1920s are appreciably more common than the others: 1922, 1925 and 1926. The latter has always been common. Dennison must have been having a banner year then. The other two have become more common since 2012 when a largish quantity was unearthed in Kentucky, all in near-mint condition or better. Given that, this is a copy that is over-priced and over-graded.