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Halloween Jack-o’-lanterns: Collecting Vintage Examples

October 24, 2013

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Jack-o’-lanterns have come to symbolize the Halloween season in America and have become part of a newer area of the collecting market – vintage Halloween. Within the Halloween collectibles market, “there is a hierarchy of Halloween imagery, the jack-o’-lantern is the most common. If you think of such imagery as a pyramid, jack-o’-lanterns form the base of it…then black cats, witches, bats, ghosts and finally devils,” says Mark B. Ledenbach, author of the book Vintage Halloween Collectibles and the blog http://halloweencollector.com.

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The earliest known recorded reference to a jack-o’-lantern in connection with Halloween in America was in 1866. But, by as early as 1900, an article published by the New York Times on Thanksgiving entertaining recommended using a lit jack-o’-lantern for the festivities, showing the growing popularity within a short period of time.

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It is believed that the term jack-o’-lantern comes from Ireland where it derived from a strange light flickering over peat bogs known as a “will-o’-the-wisp”. “Will” is a proper name of a person and wisp refers to a stick or match bundle to make a torch – the word Jack-o’-lantern has a similar taxonomy.

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If you are looking to begin collecting vintage Halloween it might be good to start with depictions of the jack-o’-lantern as they would be more available and affordable. But, to get more rare examples you could look for designed paper goods from companies like Dennison and Beistle, says Ledenbach. He adds, “the most expensive Halloween collectibles date to the 1920s and 1930s. Buyers typically didn’t keep items after a party, so few near-mint items exist from that time period, especially when compared to Christmas collectibles.”

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Like other collectibles the most important factors are age, rarity, and condition. For Halloween collectibles, like in collecting paintings, the complexity of the design is also considered and is a determining factor in the value. You might want to begin looking for companies known to have made Halloween decorations like Dennison, Beistle, Gibson and Whitney. With any collectible, it is important to do your research and buy from reputable dealers.


About the author: Bill Indursky
Bill Indursky is an architect, trend expert, and digital entrepreneur. He is the former founder of V&M (Vintage & Modern (2006-2013)) and the current founder of Design Life Network (DLN). DLN is a MAGAZINE + DESIGN AGENCY + MARKETPLACE + TV CHANNEL promoting inspiring design of all eras online and on TV.


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