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.