The “Dean of Hal­loween” shares tips on this red-hot mar­ket—and how to make a good in­vest­ment.


ALL HALLOW’S EVE NEVER ENDS AT THE NORTH­ERN CAL­I­FOR­NIA HOME OF MARK LEDENBACH. The renowned ex­pert on Hal­loween col­lectibles keeps his re­mark­able trea­sures on dis­play year round. “I ad­mire and envy peo­ple who put them out once a year,” he says. But his col­lec­tion is large enough that if he took it down, “my walls and cab­i­nets would be de­nuded,” he says. Known as the “Dean of Hal­loween,” Mark is the au­thor of Vin­tage Hal­loween Col­lectibles, now in its third edi­tion. You may have even seen him chat­ting up Martha Ste­wart on her TV show. Mark started his Hal­loween col­lec­tion in 1988, and has seen the “sport” grow. “As with Christ­mas col­lectibles, the mar­ket is ro­bust,” says Mark. Yet Hal­loween me­men­tos are rarer. “Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions tended to be boxed up and saved from year to year,” he says, “but if you gave a Hal­loween party in the 1920s, would you have saved the in­vi­ta­tions?” That rar­ity, com­bined with the in­ter­est, has led to a hot mar­ket. Mark saw a flaw­less sin­gle party in­vi­ta­tion re­cently sell for $227. “As a flea-mar­ket goer, you hope that some­one is set­ting up and let­ting Hal­loween stuff go for a song … Flea mar­kets

are won­der­ful places for dis­cov­ery,” he says. On a re­cent flea-mar­ket hunt, he found sev­eral items worth $70 and paid $7 for each. The bulk of Mark’s col­lec­tion is from the late 1910s and 1920s, which cor­re­lates with when Hal­loween took off in Amer­ica. It’s hard to be­lieve to­day, but this hol­i­day wasn’t orig­i­nally for chil­dren. It was for grownup par­ty­go­ers— that’s why the col­lectibles are things like for­tune hold­ers and place cards that fea­ture scary graph­ics. “Then in the 1930s, de­pend­ing on where you were in the U.S. (we think in the Mid­west), trick or treat­ing started. Af­ter World War II, kids con­fis­cated the hol­i­day,” says Mark, and party goods be­came more smi­ley. But Mark prefers the sin­is­ter stuff.

Fakes In­vade Mar­ket

Now speak­ing of scary, there are some un­scrupu­lous ven­dors who take ad­van­tage of the pop­u­lar­ity of Hal­loween col­lectibles by sell­ing fake vin­tage pieces. Mark can trace this in­sid­i­ous prob­lem back to about 1995. “They were all brought in by one per­son, who rep­re­sented a num­ber of fac­to­ries,” he notes. There are cer­tainly many nice, vin­tage-in­spired Hal­loween dé­cor items,

THIS 12-PANEL col­lapsi­ble lantern was made dur­ing the poorly doc­u­mented time of tran­si­tion when Beis­tle be­gan in­di­cat­ing that de­signs, orig­i­nally cre­ated by Ger­man artists, were “Made in U.S.A.” It dates from 1928 to 1930.

THE FRONT LID OPENS on this Ger­man-made candy con­tainer book. It is ex­ceed­ingly rare and val­ued at $1,500.

A WITCH, MADE FROM HEAVY-COM­PO­SI­TION MA­TE­RIAL, emerges from a pump­kin­shaped candy con­tainer. It would be filled via a plug on the bot­tom. Ger­man, 1920s.

Gib­son Art far right: Cincin­nati of Com­pany cat­a­log for cre­ated this con­sumers, not re­tail­ers, the var­i­ous show­ing all made com­pany wares the such as Hal­loween, for hats and dance cards, tal­lies,1920s A set of 10 right: cuts, 1920s. Ger­man die .

BONES does all the work on this 1950s candy-holder, made by G.M. Co.

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