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
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 block...at 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?
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
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
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?
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 www.impromptu.net
, which is a wonderful store in San Marino that I have patronized
for almost 25 years! Tell Barbara that Richard from spookshows.com
the Features Page