There are many things I remember about my Grandma Hamer: her beautiful blue eyes, her big hugs and the way her home was always filled with the aroma of fresh baked cookies. Many of the days I spent with her were occupied with baking and when the order of the day was cookies it was my job to select the cookie cutters we would use. I still have some of those cutters and they are among my most prized possessions.
From the popularity of vintage cutters, it would appear they strike a chord of sentiment in many of us. But, do you know that some of them are currently garnering in excess of $50 online? Maybe it’s time to check to kitchen cabinets to see what you have.
The oldest mass produced American cookie cutters were manufactured shortly after the Civil War. These were made of tin and are easy to identify as they are heavier and thicker than newer cutters. Other identifying features to watch for include a flat back and air holes. Tin cutters will often darken with age, but note that disturbing their patina can reduce their value. Many of them were marked by their makers. Names to watch for include Dover, Mason and Hilson. All of these companies have been defunct for many years, making their cutters an excellent find. Not all cutters produced by these factories were marked, but those with the company name are generally of greater value than those without.
Due to the difficulty in finding the very early cutters, most collectors focus on cutters from the first half of the 20th Century. The first rust-free aluminum cutters appeared in the 1920s. Many of these will have handles made of wood, metal or plastic. Older examples will have black handles, but collectors watch for green or red painted wood handles in the shape of a bullet. Figural cutters, especially animal forms, are more valuable than geometric forms.
Cookie cutter sets were introduce in the U.S. in the 1930s by Tala. These hand painted, nesting tin cutters came in sets of four and are highly sought out by today’s collectors. The early issues from the 1930s will be painted in pastel colors which makes them easy to tell from the 1950s reissues that were painted in bold primary colors. Their “Big Top” sets of six metal cutters including a penguin, pelican, hippo, horse, seal and elephant are a rare fine, so be on the lookout!
The 1940s saw several innovations in collectible cutters. The popularity of “card clubs” inspired what was marketed as “sandwich cutters”. These will have deeper cutting edges than cookie cutters and will be in the shapes of the four suits of playing cards. During this decade we also saw the introduction of the first plastic cutters. Examples from 1940-1959 can be identified by their thickness and transparent red or green color. As we entered the ’60s, plastic cutters became opaque and more shallow. You will find these vintage cutters in the form of holiday shapes, patriotic shapes like flags and the profile of Statue of Liberty and also in the likeness of popular cartoon charters of the day. These will be marked with their factory name or Made in USA. Those marked China or Hong Kong will be post-1970 and of little interest to serious collectors.
Cookie cutters are relatively inexpensive to collect, fun to display and even more fun to use. Not the “Betty Crocker” type? Not to worry. Vintage cookie cutters work just as well on the rolls of cookie dough you find in the dairy case, so fire up that oven! Until next time…Linda
Linda Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at email@example.com or 317-258-7835