It’s probably always been a thing, trying to hold onto anything that may become vintage in the future. But only relatively recently has the whole Vintage Halloween craze taken over. It’s as if someone discovered their grandparent’s collection of blow mold decorations, long discarded in the attic or basement, and had some kind of revelation of nostalgic proportions. They were set aflame with excitement and the fire spread.
Nowadays, it’s not hard to go online and find someone making 3D printed replicas. They sell them to new collectors, enamored by the market, and to those, like myself, who grew up with such items of historical significance each and every Halloween season. There’s a lot of Do It Yourselfers out there in 2019, so you might even have some people making their own blow molds some old fashioned way. Seeing those things made me yearn for my younger days and the vintage decorations from when I was a kid in the ’70s and ’80s.
It just so happens that when my grandmother passed away a couple years ago, I was able to get a hold of some of her Halloween decor. I was thrilled to have these in my possession! I’m always ecstatic, adding things to my collection that are older than I am — but something so tied to my actual life meant so much to me.
It got me thinking that maybe some people might be interested in knowing a little more about these things. So, the following is a partial account of my own experience and some of what I found out as I made my way down this rabbit hole.
The blow mold pumpkin lights, not severely worn and in pretty excellent condition, were just rewired for the sake of safety and seeing that warm glow of the, now LED, C7 light bulbs again. While LEDs seem to be overly bright, they are safer. It might also be possible at this point to find some with a more yellowish light that would look more accurate to their original bulbs. I will say they looked brilliant in my windows the year I received them. I’ve kept them down in my dungeon since. I only put them up occasionally during Halloween. Still, these are something I’d really enjoy having displayed all year.
Then there was a stack of paperboard decorations, which is where things get a little interesting.
You don’t see as much of these over the top Halloween paperboard decorations anymore. Back in the day (the ’60s, ’70s, and even into the ’80s), people’s windows and walls were commonly covered to these spooky hanging characters. Hinged skeletons dangled and glowed in the dark while ghostly figures, moons with weird noses, and black cats in the windows of your home let everyone know it was Halloween time.
It just happened that, when I was photographing the now tattered collection, I found a company stamp on several of the decorations that had the strongest hold on my memories. Beistle Co. – A company out of my home area in Pennsylvania. Apparently, these decorations that everyone is so gaga over are something straight out of my home state! Who knew!
Even better, the company STILL exists, and STILL produces those same decorations! I found that replacing the ones I came up with would only run about $40 for the sets that include pieces I’m clearly missing. Due to some constraints on my budget, it’s going to have to wait, but I am excited nonetheless. To be completely honest, I paused on the purchase button because they are not all in the same format as the ones I inherited from my dear Nanny. I’d just rather have the paperboard than cling material.
The only other primary source for vintage paperboard decorations seems to have been Hallmark. Another popular store back home in PA. These seem to be a more cute style with fuzzy kittens and happy jack-o-lanterns with big cartoon eyes. While die cut is commonly used to describe this type of decoration, some of these look more like they were punch out.
One of the decorations I have still has a section of the punch out attached. Hallmark decorations are two-sided with flocking on one side and a graphic on the other.
It’s funny to think how much these decorations have caught on for collectors today. These things are a large part of my childhood! The memories are so thick I have to brush them away from my face. And now in 2019, people who haven’t been alive long enough to remember these are reproducing them. Even the vintage style costumes with the semi-hard plastic masks (that you oddly enjoyed stuffing your tongue through the tiny mouth hole) and the thin vinyl suit pieces have made a return for collectors. I wonder if anyone has their actual costumes from back then.
The blow molds, oddly enough, have no company marks, and the stickers that may have given some clue as to what company made them have long deteriorated. When I got these blown molds, one of the labels literally just crumbled away in my hand.
In the collectibles world, the most sought after of these pieces come from Empire Plastic Corporation and Union Products. How anyone would know what comes from which company, I can’t even guess. Since there are no markings or stamps in the plastic. I just have to think the people who do know are just ridiculously good experts.
You can, however, find tons of these blow molds floating around on eBay, Etsy, and other sites just like them. I’m guessing some of these are not the real deal, and I imagine that it’s easier to get away with copies since there are no “made by” markings on them. A lot of the blow mold companies lasted into the early 2000s, but the best stuff comes straight out of the time between the 1950s through the ’70s.
I actually came across an amateur crafting website hosting a list of blow molds for sale. I’m just guessing that these folks made them or the website owners are just really good at procuring blow molds from the original sources.
If you visit this site you’ll see it also points to a place in Pennsylvania. I guess I just got lucky and grew up in the right place for Halloween decorations.
Unfortunately, Seiter and Son seem to be out of many of the decorations I recall from back in the day; but they say they might be able to get a hold of some more. I hope you’re into road trips and cash money as they don’t ship, and they don’t do PayPal.
During my research into these collectibles, I found one more thing. Something commonly called “melted plastic popcorn”. They are plastic is melted into this strange leafy texture. It makes the decoration to appear slightly 3D and allows light to play off of it. You can compare it to AstroTurf in a way. They also look best from a distance. They feel cool, though! These also mostly fall into the cute category for vintage decorations.
I remember these, so I assume they existed somewhere in my life, but I don’t have any of them. You can actually make your own popcorn plastic with some Styrofoam and lacquer thinner. I don’t think anyone is making these in their garage, though. So it’s probably safe to say that if you’re into collecting this type of decoration, it’s going to be authentic. Still, the number one rule of collecting is DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Aside from the blow molds and paperboard decorations, I couldn’t find much more in the way of vintage Halloween decor. The melted popcorn stuff I found didn’t seem to be in demand. I’m guessing the other decor is so trendy that everything else is far too buried to explore unless you happen to have a more specific search. I found a couple listings for old Halloween noisemakers, but nothing of any significance. Then again, one collector’s insignificant find is another’s treasure.
The caveats about all this is that these items are most likely a bit worn if genuine and they are cheap! Depending on how you look at it, this could be a good thing. Most people will want these for the two reasons I laid out – nostalgia or that they look cute.
So, barring the idea that collecting vintage Halloween will bring a windfall of value to your collection, you may want to seek out some of this original stuff. I almost doubt that you’ll see it again the way I saw it in my youth.
So, final thoughts, if you’re into adding some of this stuff to your collection, run with it. Go nuts! The prices are right, and it seems to be easy to come by. Just don’t expect to make money off of it unless you’re producing the item replicas. Happy collecting!
– Mr. Frights
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