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A Vintage Halloween - By David Collier Page 1 of 2

I can remember as a child in the 1970's, Halloween always held such a magical and mysterious place in my heart. I'm not sure what the influence was. Neither my parents or my friends were Halloween junkies but I was. Going down to the 5 and 10 store was always a treat for me. I would buy things like vampire fangs, scar stuff, bloodshot eyes and the really awesome vampire blood AND green dragon's blood. I'm sure some of you out there know what I'm talking about. I would also always load up on rubber spiders, bats and other scary decorations to make my house the most terrifying house on the leat, that's what I thought.

Well, it's thirty some odd years later and you know what? I'm still looking for that particular decoration to add to my war chest of haunted supplies. But I'm finding as I get older, I long for the "good ole days" when Halloween seemed just a little bit more simple. I want to get my hands on vintage items of my childhood that remind me of that simpler time, so I thought I'd go straight to an expert.

Richard Miller, a Michigan native and long time California resident was just the expert I was looking for. He too, has the Halloween passion pumping through his veins. He doesn't just collect stuff from his childhood either. He gets the stuff your grandparents remember when they were llittle tykes. I had a little email to email chat to find out exactly what I'm in for in my quest for those oh so cool Halloween items.

Club Haunt: Did you have a fascination with Halloween at an early age?

Richard Miller: Very much so! My childhood Halloweens took place in Michigan, and the weather there was perfect “storybook type” weather for Halloween. After summer, there was a rather quick seasonal change to fall. The air became crisp, leaves on the trees turned bright shades of orange, red and yellow. The smell of smoke in the air caused by people burning bonfires of dried leaves contributed an atmosphere of mystery to the fall season in Michigan. It was truly a magical time of the year.

CH: When did you start collecting vintage Halloween memorabilia and why collect it?

RM: When I was very young, I remember going to the local “five and dime” store in early October. I would stand and look at the Halloween decorations, the designs were spooky and mysterious. I would use my weekly allowance to buy the 10 cent cardboard diecuts and whatever other Halloween I could afford. As an adult, I started to seriously collect vintage Halloween beginning about 1994.

CH: Is your stuff displayed in your home year-round or do you have it stashed away?

RM: I have a HUGE amount of Halloween, and 95% of it is stashed away. I have many favorites on display year-round in a glass cabinet in my bedroom. I like looking at them year-round and it’s also a good way to keep the rarer items protected from damage. I don’t have enough space in my house to display my entire collection, even at Halloween! Some collectors have entire “Halloween Rooms” in their homes, where it is Halloween year-round. I can see myself doing this if I had a large enough house and a room which I could convert into something that would look like a Victorian style séance room.

CH: What do you like to collect in particular?

RM: I collect a little bit of everything Halloween. I like American paper mache lanterns; I have succeeded in collecting all of the American lanterns now. In fact, as of this past month, I have collected everything Halloween that I set out to collect and more! I like cardboard diecut decorations of all kinds; American and German made.

CH: Do you have a favorite piece?

RM: No, I can’t narrow it down to one favorite piece, I have several dozen favorites, and each of those is a “favorite” for a different reason. I have many “one of a kind” pieces, and while they are probably the rarest and most valuable, most are not my favorite pieces. I tend to like the 1920’s and 1930’s “spooky” designs the best. They were very creative, very talented artists worked on those designs.

CH: What do you look for in a particular piece?

RM: For me, it’s more of an emotional “feeling” that I get when I see a piece. Feelings are difficult to describe in words, but it’s a feeling that I get which I recognize as almost magical; a wave of “comfort” is the closest thing I can write to describe this experience. I also recognize an appreciation of the piece as amazing artwork instead of just a common Halloween decoration.

CH: My experiences of Halloween started in the early 1970’s. Are the Halloween items of that era considered vintage – or even collectible?

RM: Yes, many of the decorations from the 1960’s were still being produced in the early 1970’s, the Beistle Company’s designs were still interesting. By the mid 70’s the imagery of Halloween became much less “frightening” or “threatening”. I’ve noticed that many people who grew up with the decorations from the 1970’s want to collect these as they remind them of their own childhoods. Now is a good time to buy them, as they are very inexpensive at the moment.

CH: Are there lots of reproductions out there made to purposely fool the casual buyer? Are these repro's collectible?

RM: Unfortunately, there are reproductions that were made to purposely fool casual buyers. The following describes one example. Several years ago, small hard plastic Halloween toys and decorations from the 1950’s skyrocketed in price. The most collectible of these plastic pieces were Halloween toys on small plastic wheeled carts. Someone less than honest manufactured reproduction wheeled carts and glued authentic Halloween toys to the fake carts. I still see these on eBay from time to time. There are ways to identify the reproduced carts and this is explained and shown in detail on my website.

Items such as figural candy containers produced in Germany in the early 1900’s are among the rarest and most expensive Halloween collectibles. Reproductions of these items have been showing up lately, and some of them have been made to deceive. There is a set of six "German" candy containers that show up regularly on eBay and are listed as a “warehouse find”. These are reproduced items, and unfortunately they do look very much like the old style containers. This type of forgery has made Halloween collectors very apprehensive of purchasing German figural items.

There are artists producing Folk Art Halloween decorations, many based on old style designs, but these are not intended to deceive. Some of these artists’ products have become quite collectible. I collect some Halloween folk art items, many are spectacular and they are made in very limited quantities. There is a good selection at , which is a wonderful store in San Marino that I have patronized for almost 25 years! Tell Barbara that Richard from sent you!

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