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Mark B. Ledenbach's vintage Halloween collectibles blog.

Halloween Cat Banjo In Pumpkin Embossed Die-cut Germany

I was buckled in tight for the ride but didn't see that last sharp turn on the roller coaster. I knew this spectacularly rare German diecut would go for gobs o' cash but not that many gobs! Listen, I've been around the vintage Halloween market for nearly three decades and have seen hundreds of private collections, hundreds of brick-and-mortar auctions listings and tens of thousands of on-line listings and I have NEVER seen this particular diecut or anything remotely similar. The seller bought out a huge collection from the estate of a quite elderly and very long-time holiday collector from somewhere in the upper Midwest and has been smartly selling things off for years. This is surely one of the diecuts made around 1935 and sold only to eastern Canada. Given the extreme rarity, perhaps this represents one of the final diecuts from that batch of designs that is characterized by an aggressively out-there design aesthetic. I love items from that final year and they are hard to come by. This is in a league all its own. I decided this morning not to bid as I felt it would go to ~$3500. There are many other great paper items I can and will pick up for that sum. Imagine my shock when my phone began to light up with text after text from collector friends who wondered my opinion on the price threshold. My opinion is simple: for items that are truly unique, the sky is the limit. I wasn't willing to go to the outer edges of the atmosphere for this item, but I congratulate whomever did! It will absolutely be the star of the show, the belle of the ball and all that!

VINTAGE 1920'S GERMAN DIE CUT EMBOSSED HALLOWEEN JACK O LANTERN WITH BLACK CAT

This diecut is what I call a mini, and it is part of a set of six designs shown on page 185. (Although there are 6 main designs, often there are minor variations in the mold, so knowledgeable collectors scrutinize these mini-diecuts looking for those subtle differences.) Pieces from this set routinely fetch $225-250 and up, so this result is a true fluke and resulted in some person getting VERY lucky in acquiring it for a pittance. This mini-diecut set is one of the very few examples of these deeply embossed German diecuts to be made after WWII. They are typically marked to reflect the specific occupied zone in which they were made, and virtually all came with these black props. There are 1 or 2 people who believe these diecuts were made through the 1980s, just as there are those who still believe the Earth is flat or that the moon landings were faked. If you hear such nonsense, laugh and move on. 

VINTAGE PAPER DEVIL 14" EMBOSSED HALLOWEEN DECORATION GERMANY

What a nice surprise to see this exceedingly rare diecut being auctioned. This is the smaller of two similar designs. (The other can be seen on page 136.) Each is breathtakingly rare. The seller describes this as being in fair condition, but it seems better than that to me. Yes, the bends in the legs are somewhat off-putting, but the separation between the tail and the wing could be easily mended. The last time one was listed was almost exactly one year ago and it fetched $3,100. It was a mirror-image of this one and was in better condition and was much brighter. The Germans made this very late in their production of holiday items for the export market before WWII. These "last year" designs were almost exclusively exported to the population centers in eastern Canada and are among the most interesting, out-there designs the Germans made before WWII - and arguably ever. 
Take a moment and read the questions and answers posted as part of the listing. They all ask for a BIN price to be added, fair game for collectors eager to get a dream piece without the uncertainties of the auction process. The seller is smart, saying basically no - there is too much interest. Read the pathetic question posted by a "Michael," who bangs on about how he wants one and then makes an eye-rollingly low-ball offer of $70. What a schmuck! I kind of hope he never gets to own one of these. 

03/18 Update: I have heard from an avalanche of collectors since this auction ended last night, most stating that if they knew it was going to be sold for such a pittance, they would have bid. The moral of the story is always to place a bid for the maximum you'd want to pay, because sometimes you might score a bargain like whomever this prevailing bidder was. It sold for only $913.99. 
 

HTF Halloween Pumpkin / jack o'lantern German Die Cut Embossed Decoration 7"

This result is absurd. The prevailing bidder, the same in all four of these examples, has been caught out by an underbidder who was equally insane. I'm sure that neither party ever expected another bidder to place such a silly and never-to-be-seen-again bid. The only winner here is the seller who has to be scratching his head at his good fortune. Seller, run out and buy a lottery ticket. You're on a roll! The prevailing bidder now has to shell out a laughably high number of dollars for a diecut that surfaces every now and then. SGV is $125. Results like these can contribute to the demise of a great hobby as potential new collectors see these incomprehensible results and decide to move on to other pursuits. I am gob-smacked.

GERMAN HALLOWEEN MINI-DIECUT~1930'S~WITCH COOKS IN CAULDRON~4.25"

This is a true variant to the design that one sees occasionally. The set to which this mini-diecut belongs is one of the most desirable around. (See the set on page 185.) Each of its members typically fetch between $200-$300, as did the cat and JOL design offered by this same great seller. What differentiates this is the reverse coloring and the additional embossed stars on the witch's cloak that are not present in the more-commonly seen design. I attempted to obtain this for the collection by putting in what I thought was an aggressive bid of $500, but was outbid by a wide margin. Even given the very high price paid for this item, I have to offer a hearty congrats to the prevailing bidder, whomever it is. 

Vtg Die-Cut Black Americana Musician JOL Halloween Decoration 15.5" Germany Rare

This is a rare diecut, indeed, evidenced by its already strong price with over 2 full days to run on the auction. This is among  relative handful of German diecuts made in 1935 and shipped only to eastern Canada before the outflow of holiday goods from Germany was shut down for good until 1946. There are four designs comprising this set. You can see two of them in my book's third edition on page 171. 

08/05 Update: This sold for a strong $472.77. I say "strong" based on its poor condition. 

WONDERFUL 1930's "LARGE" HALLOWEEN GERMAN BLACK CAT ON PUMKIN DIE CUT-EMBOSSED

This large German diecut, made during the early 1930s, is not often found in this stellar condition. The colors are rich and the embossing appears to be quite deep. Although these surface with great regularity, this may be the diecut with which you can buy anew or buy to upgrade. RSIN = 4. Sustainable guide value is ~$150. 

07/14 Update: This brought a strong $202.49. Even though guide value was greatly surpassed, when might you see another in such pristine condition? 

Vintage Mickey Mouse Disney Halloween German Diecut JOL Band 15"~MINT~NR

This great Mickey Mouse-like band member is from a set that has always had a special place in my thinking. The design with the JOL-creature playing a horn was the first German diecut I ever purchased, subsequently upgraded several times. I was in Seattle, shopping at a long-defunct shop called Antiques Bela V. I asked the owner if she had any Halloween and she looked at me as if I was crazy. (This was early September of 1989. Back then, dealers didn't put out their Halloween wares until mid-October.) The set is a great one to have and this example looks to be in tip-top condition. If you love diecuts, snap this one up!

#185 ANTIQUE HALLOWEEN 3 CARDBOARD DIE-CUTS MAID WITCH CLOWN GERMANY 1920s/1930s

This is merely one example of the great bargains to be had this time of the year for Halloween collectors. (Although a great time to buy, it is a horrific time to sell, since the recently passed holiday seems to have sated collectors' appetites, a phenomenon that occurs regularly from about early November through late March.) My advice, unless you have to sell, just wait until early April to begin selling anything noteworthy.