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Mark B. Ledenbach's vintage Halloween collectibles blog.

1920s Halloween Noisemaker Squeaker Toy Germany Mechanical Die-cut Cardboard

The Germans produced many variations of this design in the early 1920s. What makes this stand out is that it still squeaks. Most of these fragile items fell silent decades ago. These were cleverly designed novelty items with their eyes changing when the mechanism is squeezed together. The ghost designs are among my favorite as they stand out in a display case. White really catches the eye when nestled among so many orange and black items. I appreciate this seller's careful and informative descriptions. 

WTH Is Going On With Seller Northcane?

Wow, I haven't received so many exasperated, borderline-angry emails since some under-informed bozos began claiming on Facebook that some of the rarest German diecuts were made through the 1980s! (If you believe that, then Elvis is really still alive, the moon landings never happened and Ringo is the most musically talented Beatle....but I digress.) 

The eBay seller, northcane, listed a high number of items on that site, many with pictures that couldn't be viewed properly. Today, all but seven of these listings have been cancelled, many with active bidders. From the emails I've received, these people are not happy. 

Interestingly, I spoke with a knowledgeable Halloween collector and friend earlier this week asking if she had a theory as to why this seller was listing so many things at once after a long absence. She responded that she didn't, but that she wouldn't do business with northcane anymore since the last time northcane listed, most of the listings were cancelled without explanation. 

Here are just three of the emails I've received this afternoon:

"I wanted to contact you about the seller Northcane on eBay who was putting up a shipload of Halloween items. I actually bid on a few items, now they are suddenly cancelling their auctions one by one. In retrospect I remember bidding on some items from this seller last year and the year before. I don't know what's going on, but they do this everytime. I don't see the point of putting these items on eBay ,let many people bid ,and then shut the auctions down. I have no idea who they are, but this is a very unprofessional and sneaky way to do business. I don't know what your take is, but it just seems very suspicious. I'm not one to make a big deal about stuff, but it does bother me that they do their business this way.I love your blog by the way and learn a lot."

"Soooo, I like to read your blog (avidly, I might add), and I noticed your comments about the person on E-bay who has recently flooded the Vintage Halloween market on E-bay. "Northcane" was dumping one heck of a collection ( and you were right, the mix-up with photo posting was not helpful to bidders) ! As many others, I am sure, I marveled at the quantity and quality of many of the items listed, and bid on a few. I continued to follow this lister, and the listings kept coming, most with the photo not visible. I thought that was strange, and even sent the person an e-mail pointing that out, and thought they'd figure it out, and re-post the ones with no photo, but that never happened. I have just received notice at approx. 7:30 p.m. EST that all bids on the items I had bid on were cancelled "due to an error in the listing ". I also went through my watch list, and most, if not all of those are cancelled as well. ... E-bay gave no other reason other than this basic notification. Do you know what's going on ?"

"So much for flooding the market ~ all of the items except for 7 (at this moment) have been cancelled. Maybe she will list them again with pictures..."

I don't know what is going on, folks. What I will say is that apparently cancelling listings is something that has happened before with this seller. 

RARE 1920S HALLOWEEN FORTUNE TELLING SPINNER GAME BY WHITNEY

One of these rare games produced by Whitney during the 1920s last surfaced in July of 2014 and brought $318, so I feel this buyer got a good deal. I've seen one poor reproduction of this game offered for sale wherein the reverse was completely blank. So, be vigilant. If one pops up for sale, ensure that you check that the fortunes are printed on the reverse. 

Rare SET Of 1920'S 7 Vintage BEISTLE Halloween BROOMED WITCH Gummed SEALS

This seller has flooded eBay with listings these last few days. Although I love seeing new items, rather than the high percentage of retreads choking eBay, I wish this seller could get a handle on how to properly load photos. Only a small percentage of her items have photos that show as thumbnails when searching by category. This will surely hurt the overall returns expected from the listings. 

Bizzare Scarce Bestle Vintage Halloween Hinged Figure Electricity Dragon cv9838

I finally made it through this seller's over-caffeinated prose, shaking my head at his reference to the pineal gland. Thanks, Doc! This was produced by Beistle in 1929 and marketed as a Jointed Lightning Wumpus - The Hallowe'en Dragon. This is in superb condition, perhaps in the top two I've seen. SGV for these is $525, but I'll be surprised if this doesn't exceed that price given its condition. Beistle produced two Wumpus designs - the other being made in 1931. Using the same basic design, they produced two Skairo Bugs, one scowling (1929) and one smiling (1931). 

3 Early Dennison Halloween 1920S Place Cards Cat Witch Jack O'Lantern unused

I don't believe that any of these three place cards comprising this lot were actually made by Dennison. I think they were made by another company with or without permission from the original designing company. The cat face has a strong resemblance to one of Dennison's designs, but their name is spelled out in the artwork along the inside of one ear. This cat face has rather blurred art there, leading me to believe this was not made by Dennison. The JOL is from Hallmark or another firm with the witch being by another manufacturer altogether. Given the similarity of the edge colors and the uniformity of the "Made in USA" printing on the reverse, I feel quite confident asserting that these were made by an unknown third party with or without authorization. I feel these are therefore around $15-18 each, so the buyer paid a premium, almost certainly in the mistaken belief they were buying a trio of Dennison items. 

06/21 Update: The buyer of this set contacted me to say he would be contacting the seller. Here is what I wrote to him on Monday: "The seller of the place cards is a good person who is really quite knowledgeable about vintage Halloween paper. I understand how the mistake was made given that the cat face is an iconic Dennison image, and all of them had the same look and feel. The trio of items is still great – just not Dennison – and not commanding the premium that Dennison so often brings.'

Vintage Pop-Up Halloween Party Invitation Owl Pumpkins Deputy Cat

This is a very desirable invitation from 1924 made by an unknown manufacturer, although there is a possibility it was Whitney. Know that it is NOT complete. The cat deputy should be holding a folded piece of paper with "A HALLOWEEN SUBPOENA" printed on the front along with a black seal. Unfolded, there are indicated lines for "place," "date," and "hour." I feel that very few of these exist with its original subpoena. 

Vintage Halloween Noise Makers lot of 3 Witches Cats Bats Skeleton Pumpkin

My eye quickly breezed over this listing until I saw the ending price. Puzzled, I took a moment to comprehend what I was seeing and the result made more sense. However, instead of wondering why someone paid so much, I wondered how they managed to pay so little. The star of the lot is the noisemaker on the right. This design is rare, appearing in two forms to my knowledge, a clanger as shown here and a pair of cymbals. This design has been on my "I Want" list for some time. I regret not seeing it. I feel that alone should have brought between $200-225. 

VINTAGE HALLOWEEN PAPER CARDBOARD MASK BEISTLE?

I sure wish I was camped out in front of the desktop when this listing landed. This is a rare Domino hat mask produced by Beistle from 1926-1931. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen it for sale. The seller knew just enough to understand it may be Beistle, but nowhere near enough to lazily slap a BIN of $60 on it rather than put it up for auction. SGV is $275, but I think it would have brought more than that given that one hasn't surfaced for quite some time. Beistle made four Domino hat mask designs. I am searching for the one that still eludes me after all these years. 

1920s German Composition Arched-Back Black Cat atop Devil Head Candy Container

This is one of the most pleasing devil head candy containers I've seen for some time. I like its surprised, slightly dazed expression. I see that someone asked whether this is a truly vintage item. I don't have any doubts on that score. In looking closely at the ample photos provided, everything is as it should be. The flaking of the cat's paint is quite common, and for those whom it really bothers, easily remedied. (I would encourage the soon-to-be-new-owner to leave the paint untouched...) I am not buying vintage German compo candy containers much these days, but this one sure is tempting! 

German Parade Lantern News

In 1997, I was lucky enough to purchase an exceedingly rare parade lantern. Here is how I describe it on page 129:  
"Made in Germany circa 1908–1912, this layered papier-mâché with compo wash lantern and its original inserts served as the focal point for a small town Halloween parade, probably in New Jersey. A stick would be placed in the wooden yoke surrounding the lantern before it was hoisted high to lead the festivities. This item transcends the singular Halloween genre, easily crossing into the wider world of folk art. The design was done by a gifted artist, with the great care taken in its creation obvious in how dramatic this item is to look upon. The Parade Lantern measures 7.25” h x 7.75” diameter and has a removable bottom plug candleholder. This is a one-of-a-kind item as to its size and intended purpose. (I know of two other similarly-sized lanterns in other collections created by the same artist, but both are tabletop decorations, as they lack yokes. This same artist created many smaller lanterns, and like their two larger brethren, all were meant as tabletop lanterns as none have yokes. There are ~twenty of these small tabletop lanterns known to exist, most without bottoms. The last cache to be discovered numbered seven, found in Pennsylvania in 2003. These small tabletop lanterns sell for $2,200 to $2,300 each. This unique Parade Lantern is valued at $13,000 to $15,000."
As some of you know, my collecting tastes have been changing over the last few years. I was never all that interested in lanterns and candy containers, but made an effort to collect the best of those genres anyway. I have moved much more enthusiastically into collecting paper items like diecuts, table decorations, boxed goods and small paper ephemera (invitations, tallies, invitations and the like). I rarely purchase lanterns or German compo candy containers as they simply don't elicit much excitement for me anymore. I will retain my favorite 100 or so German compo candies and sell the rest in a measured way over the next many years. 
So, with this as a background, I decided to sell my parade lantern in early March to a collector with exquisite taste and an impeccable eye. She and I have known each other for many years. It sold for a price in the middle range of the stated guide value. 
There was a holiday show held in Columbus, Ohio on the Sunday of this past Memorial Day weekend. Surprisingly, a German parade lantern surfaced for sale. It was given to a high-end dealer to sell on consignment by a collector who likes to keep a low profile and who lives in the South. It is only the second such yoked lantern known to exist. It sold to a savvy collector who lives in northern California for about half of the low range of the value cited in my book. The lantern has a broken yoke and has a different color palette, not possessing the warm golden tones of the one that was in my possession for 20 years. Those issues and the hustle-bustle of a show setting probably account for a selling price I'd characterize as low. 
Interestingly, I was told that someone was claiming on a social media site that two additional German parade lanterns are owned by an elderly collector in Minnesota. Although one can never be sure, I doubt this. Back in 2003, I attended an event called The Halloween Opera in Jim Thorpe, PA. I was fortunate to chat with a pioneer in the field of holiday collecting, Roy Olsen. He had a small tabletop lantern he wanted to sell. Like nearly all of them that are extant, it lacked a bottom. We talked about the yoked version I then owned. He said that he owned a large tabletop version without a base and knew of no other yoked versions beside the one I bought in 1997 from Hugh Luck through a Dunbar Gallery auction. 
So, from all I know now, there were two yoked versions existing - the one I sold in early March and the slightly differently hued version that changed hands in late May in Columbus, Ohio. 
Unfortunately, there is now still only one German parade lantern known to exist. Sadly, the collector who purchased the parade lantern from me in March lost everything in a house fire at the end of May. Her house burned entirely to the ground. All of her collections, including her extensive and well-curated Halloween collection, were lost. She was not home when the fire occurred and no one was injured, a true blessing in a fire of this magnitude.