Mark B. Ledenbach's vintage Halloween collectibles blog.

Halloween Dennison Vintage Invitiation, Witch with Green Face Envelope 1928

This season has seen some crazy, unsustainable results. This is an example. Looking at the bidding history, only three bidders are responsible for this result, else this Dennison invitation would have sold for below $100. I worry about these steep, silly prices being paid for things and the effect it has on the hobby’s ability to attract new collectors over time. I’ve said it often and it bears repeating - I don’t want this truly fun hobby to become the exclusive province of the well-heeled. If someone wants to purchase the one in the collection, I will happily sell it for $450, shipping included.

Vintage HALLOWEEN Greeting Card Invite Black Cat Witch & Bat Mary Lyon School

I recently posted a photo of the one in the collection that was acquired in April 2017 in the Acquisitions section of the site. Prior to that time I’d never seen this Dennison invitation design. This is a sweet, intricate invitation. Based on the day and partial date written inside, this was sent out for a party in 1930. Here is what I wrote about this in the Acquisitions section: “This is one of the gems of the small paper collection. Beginning in 1929 when this was produced, Dennison was hard hit by the Great Depression, as were so many other firms making non-essential items. They responded by making fewer holiday items in fewer numbers - and lived to tell about it. (Dennison is still in business today, albeit through mergers.) Prior to acquiring this invitation I had never seen it before. I know of one other in a collection. It is unused. When opened, there are partial pine trees at the left and the right, with a lined area where a party host would delineate the party details. It measures 4” high by 3.5” across, closed. Acquired in April 2017. RSIN: 1”

05/21 Update: This sold for $247.16, lower than I would have expected.

1930`s Die Cut Dennison Invitation 2 Black Cats On Fence #5

This is an exceedingly rare and desirable invitation produced by Dennison around 1930. The bonus is that is is unused. (Finding near-mint, unused small paper items like this one doesn’t happen as often as finding them ragged and written upon.) I like how the colors and the energy of the fighting cats contrast with the mellowness of the interior. This deserves to bring meaningful dollars.

05/23 Update: This sold for a shocking $549.


This incredible invitation is part of a set of at least three produced by Whitney during the early 1920s. (One shows a cat on the stoop, while the other has an owl on the stoop. This one is the most populated and, in my opinion, the very best.) As I forecast some time ago, small paper has become a white-hot market segment. This same seller sold another one of these in September of 2018 for $495. Most collectors I know have decidedly moved on from lanterns and many candy containers to concentrate on small paper (invitations, place cards, tallies and nut cups) made by a wide variety of manufacturers and diecuts made by Dennison, Gibson and Beistle. As the first generation of serious collectors leave the stage, defined as those who began collecting in earnest during the 1960s, the market will see a relatively large influx of lanterns and candy containers become available. Few first, second or even third generation collectors concentrated on paper goods, so few collections richly featuring such items will be coming to market in the near to medium-term. My analysis routinely indicates that certain market segments will slacken while others grow even more competitive. The small paper market segment, for one, will continue to see price increases that will outstrip, maybe far outstrip, price increases seen elsewhere.

Vintage 1930s Halloween Party Invitation Card #1

This pop-up witch invite was produced by Beistle during the late 1920s. They produced another pop-up design a few years later featuring a scarecrow. To my knowledge, the scarecrow design hasn't come up for sale in many years. Check it out on page 223. 

09/11 Update: This sold for less than expected - $44.

Halloween Dennison Invitation, THE CALL, 1929, JOL Reads Book, Rare

I've come to the opinion that some of Dennison's finest work can be found in the small paper they produced from 1928-1932. Given the greater economic forces at work during much of that interval, production was sharply curtailed, making items made at this time largely hard to find. This invitation, The Call, was sold singly in shops with an inventory number of H580. It first appeared in Dennison's 1928 Price List pamphlet. During the last few years, small paper has been a hot segment of the market. This seller is a long-timer collector with an exceptional eye for good design. I have long enjoyed doing business with her and give her my highest recommendation. 

Vintage halloween Card 1918

This cleverly designed tri-fold invitation was produced by Dennison and first appeared in their 1916 Bogie Book. Considering how clean this example is, I feel the buyer snagged it at a bargain price. Although the SGV is $165, I've seen these trade for up to $225. I like the nearly faceless ghoul holding a parade lantern. This Dennison treasure has eluded my grasp all these years. I had seen this but forgot to add it to my Watch List. 


This is a really great pop-up Beistle invitation produced during the 1920s. There is a second pop-up design that I've almost never seen for sale. Made in the early 1930s, it features a scarecrow rather than a witch. I've wondered why it is seen so rarely, and conjecture that maybe that design was never sold in boxed or enveloped sets, but instead just singly, as Dennison did with many of their designs at this same time. Readers, have you ever seen a boxed/enveloped set of the scarecrow pop-ups? (A single can be seen at the top of page 223.) 

ca 1920s Halloween Invitation Card Shocked Witch Flying in Moon unused

This is an excellent bargain from a wonderful seller. This is a rare invitation with excellent graphics that should find a good home in any collection. There is no marking to indicate which firm produced it. I feel it was made by a regional firm with somewhat limited distribution. It is priced at an eminently reasonable $46 as a BIN. (If I didn't have one already, it would be already gone!) Someone needs to scoop this up pronto!

07/18 Update: I'm glad to note that someone followed my advice and bought this fine invitation a scant 19 minutes after my post. 

1925 Pop-Up Folding Halloween Party Invitation

The ending price of this remarkable pop-up invitation is another indicator of how strong the market is for unusual small paper. I recently purchased a sizable small paper collection out of Iowa. One invitation was from this same set. Also written in, it too had a date of 1925. Because I have never seen examples from this set surface prior to the last few months, I surmise these were made for a single season only. Given the graphics, the pop-up and the cool closing method (The "To Let" sign is perforated.) these were expensive in 1925. 

Vintage 1920s Halloween Invitation, Pop Up Witch, Cauldron, Cats, Ghouls, Unused

I sure have received a lot of traffic related to the ending price of this well-designed, colorful and very rare invitation. One long-time reader asked me what I thought. Here was my reply: "The sub-genre of small paper has been on fire for the last year or more. I see the trend continuing and strengthening. The high prices may be drawing forth heretofore unseen examples of the sub-genre. The item you mention is one I had never seen before. The lushness of the design and color evoked great interest. The springboard seems to have been at the $165 level. Three committed pursuers escalated the bids to the final level. Do I think that is a sustainable price? No. If others were to surface, I think the price would settle to $250 then be sustainable at $200." 

Thanks to the excellent memory of a long-time reader, I was reminded that two examples of this invitation were sold through Dunbar Gallery in 1997 at the second Hugh Luck auction. 

Vintage Dennison Halloween Ghost Invitation, Victorian Couple, Unused w/Envelope

Dennison excelled in small form factor ephemera. This tri-fold ghost invitation first appeared in the 1922 Bogie Book. Everything is exquisite about this item from the unsettling expression on the ghost or ghoul to the distended lettering. Given how hot this sub-genre of collecting is right now, I'll be surprised if the ending price doesn't blow past the guide value of $65. The condition is near-perfect, as is the seller! 

I am not surprised this  fetched $154.50. I don't feel this is a sustainable price, but do feel the guide value is too low. 

Vintage 1930s Halloween Invitation, Cat w/Big Eyes, Witch, Stars, Unused w/Env

Many of the ephemeral items produced for Halloween were not marked. Some companies - Dennison comes to mind - were quite disciplined about marking their products, whereas companies like Whitney rarely marked such items, aside from their postcard output. Gibson was a middle of the road firm when it came to marking. One characteristic to look for if you think something might be Gibson is the presence of a slanted exclamation point. Although not a foolproof method of identification, it is a handy one. This particular invitation is one of Gibson's best. The artistry and use of unusual colors make this stand out. These were sold with stock number 1860 during the 1930s.