A Haunted History of Halloween

Ghosts, goblins, and glamour?! Collectible objects associated with Halloween highlight the holiday and reflect the interests of a particular era. Halloween collectibles, like all holiday collectibles, are a sign of the times. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Halloween was largely devoted to a focus on ghosts and those souls that have passed over. During the Victorian era, the last night of October was certainly not about dressing up like the latest action figure or a fairy princess, instead it focused on memorializing the dead.

Noisy Nights

Halloween objects feature a potpourri of scary traditions. Literary and art images show witches and ghosts blowing horns and tapping tambourines as they celebrate the long awaited holiday. It was thought that making noise would frighten away evil spirits (for the wedding history buffs out there, this is why we tie tin cans to the back of the newlyweds’ car bumpers). Noise makers, like this Halloween tambourine from the early 1900s, were quite popular. Today, a vintage Halloween tambourine in pristine condition is a highly sought after collectible worth $800 to $1,200 on the secondary market.

Parties are the most popular celebrations of the holiday in most parts of the world. In South America, Asia, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and continental Europe, Halloween parties boast games, seasonal foods and beverages, and music.

I want Candy

By the 1940s and 1950s, Halloween collectibles focused on the all important and ever present aspects of newly emerging neighborhood culture. As the suburbs flourished in the years following World War II, Halloween became best known as the holiday that focused on crazed and costumed neighborhood children going house to house on a quest to secure candy and retain their quickly developing sugar high. It follows that candy containers made of paper machier and other materials were fine collectibles. They regularly came in the form of pumpkins, black cats, and ghosts. Not only did these objects carry the all-important and prized candy, but on the antiques and collectibles market, these candy containers in Halloween shapes also carry hefty price tags from $500 to $2,500 depending on condition, provenance, and other factors.

Spooky Masks

While the noise scared off the spirits and the candy served as the reward, the wearing of Halloween masks and costumes remains a most coveted tradition. In the mid 20th Century, color was king as it reflected the prosperity of the post-war years. Halloween costumes and masks were not only black and orange, but came in a variety of shades. Even Halloween costumes of characteristically dark or unsettling figures like witches, warlocks, and goblins had associated masks made of plastic decorated in very bright colors. While these masks were colorful for safety reasons as wearers took to the streets, they kept up with the trends of the times.


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