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Collecting Antique and Vintage Cookie Cutters

Updated on February 13, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Collecting vintage cookie cutters is an enjoyable, as well as affordable hobby for many people. As they become more popular among collectors the values continue to rise.

There are many types of vintage cookie cutters. The oldest ones are carved wooden molds that are most often from Germany and other parts of Europe. Tin became a popular material for cookie cutters in America in the late 18th century and remained popular throughout the 19th century and up until the 1920s when the new miracle substance, aluminum, became popular. Aluminum cutters were replaced with plastic after World War II.

The differences in materials and the way they were made makes it pretty simple to identify the age of the cookie cutter that you are considering. 

Slideshow: Vintage Aluminum Cookie Cutters

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sometimes called a gingerbread man, a clown, Santa, or even a cowboy this large aluminum cutter is from the 1940sFluted heart shaped cutters from the 1940sBridge was a popular game.  Many couples got together on Saturday nights to play cards and eat cookies made with these bridge cookie cuttersAnimal cookie cutters like this bunny were popular.This chicken cutter is from the late 1930sA sitting down bear was part of the cookie cutter revivial in the early 1980sA poplar leaf cookie cutter.This holly cutter has berries etched on to the surface.  circa 1930s
Sometimes called a gingerbread man, a clown, Santa, or even a cowboy this large aluminum cutter is from the 1940s
Sometimes called a gingerbread man, a clown, Santa, or even a cowboy this large aluminum cutter is from the 1940s
Fluted heart shaped cutters from the 1940s
Fluted heart shaped cutters from the 1940s
Bridge was a popular game.  Many couples got together on Saturday nights to play cards and eat cookies made with these bridge cookie cutters
Bridge was a popular game. Many couples got together on Saturday nights to play cards and eat cookies made with these bridge cookie cutters
Animal cookie cutters like this bunny were popular.
Animal cookie cutters like this bunny were popular.
This chicken cutter is from the late 1930s
This chicken cutter is from the late 1930s
A sitting down bear was part of the cookie cutter revivial in the early 1980s
A sitting down bear was part of the cookie cutter revivial in the early 1980s
A poplar leaf cookie cutter.
A poplar leaf cookie cutter.
This holly cutter has berries etched on to the surface.  circa 1930s
This holly cutter has berries etched on to the surface. circa 1930s

A Brief History of Cookie Cutters

Cookie cutters have been around in one form or another for thousands of years. The Egyptians shaped small cakes over three thousand years ago as did the ancient civilizations of Asia. In Europe carved wooden molds have been found that dated from the early Middle Ages. It was these molds, often German, that found their way to the American Colonies with the Moravians and other Germanic people that settled in Pennsylvania. However, the earliest cookie cutter, as we know it, was crafted in the mid 1400s. 

By the late 1700s tinsmiths had found a use for scraps of tin that were left over form other, larger projects. They carefully formed this scrap into simple shapes like stars and hearts with solid backs, and sold them to the farmers' wives as cookie cutters.

Solder was very expensive in those early times and the tin cookie cutters had solid backs. The handles and various pieces were soldered together with small dots of solder to save money. It wasn't until the early 1800s that the price of solder became affordable and then the cookie cutters were put together with large welds rather than small dots. This is one way to tell if an antique cookie cutter that you are considering is from the 18th or 19th century.

Shortly after the Civil War companies began manufacturing tin cookie cutters. The cutters still had solid backs but were more uniform and looked less "homemade" because of the sophisticated machinery. These manufactured cookie cutters were more detailed than those of the tinsmith and were often stamped with the manufacturer's name.

Tin cookie cutters were popular until about 1920 when aluminum became popular. Aluminum was lighter, easier to care for, and stayed looking nice. For the next twenty five to thirty years aluminum and copper cutters were created in many types, shapes, and sizes.

After World War II plastic cookie cutters came into vogue and these were used until metal cutters of various types were rediscovered in the early 1980s. Currently there are many collectible and unique cookie cutters being hand crafted by artisans all over the country. 

Displaying Vintage Cookie Cutters

There are many ways to display cookie cutters. They look great piled in a basket or jumbled into a pantry jar. Other ways to display them are:

  • Hung from curtain rods.
  • Hung on Christmas trees.
  • Attached to wreaths.
  • Hung from cabinet doors.
  • Used as napkin rings.
  • Shadow boxes

A great way to give them as a gift is to use them to decorate the outside of a wrapped gift. Just wrap your gift with a simple, country themed paper and tie with raffia. Add the cookie cutter hanging from more raffia and you have instant charm! 

Finding Vintage Cookie Cutters

Vintage, antique, and collectible cookie cutters can be found all over. Some places to look are:

  • eBay
  • Garage sales
  • Thrift shops
  • Antique shops
  • Craigslist
  • Cookie cutter collectors meetings and swaps
  • Kitchen shops 

Cookie cutters range in value from a few dollars to hundreds, even thousands of dollars depending on their size, rarity, era, and desirability. Accurate appraisals can only really be gotten from appraisers that are familiar with cookie cutter history.

Much of the time cookie cutters labeled as tin on ebay and other antique stores online are in all actuality aluminum. Few of the aluminum cutters will sell for more than five dollars so be sure that you are getting what you pay for. 

If you find an old tin cutter use it as decoration. Much of the solder was lead based and can be harmful to your health if used as it was originally intended. 

Aunt Chick's Collectible Plastic Cutters (1940s)

Comments

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    • profile image

      BECCA 

      8 months ago

      Rather desperately looking for the saddle collar or bridge cookie tin, Scandinavian, I believe. Anyone know where I can get a couple of these?

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      5 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      I''d assume that they were collectible. Try to find similar ones on eBay

    • profile image

      sharron 

      5 years ago

      I found a set an old cookie cutters possibly from the 60's I believe? CampFire Girls Metal Cooky Cutters in original box (a bluebird &campfire) they look to be in excellent condition.

      Having a garage sale soon, not sure if they are a collectable?

      Please help

      Sharron

      from Liverpool ny

      mommyhomaker63@yahoo.com

    • jojoluvsjon profile image

      jojoluvsjon 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      interesting! have you ever trident find vintage cookie cutters on etsy.com?

    • profile image

      Julia 

      7 years ago

      I was going through my moms cookie cutters and I happened upon the soldier one. Its so cool that I found it here. Its my favorite cookie cutter.

    • profile image

      helen 

      8 years ago

      I think I know which one you mean, Susan!

      This one?

      http://www.poodledances.com/servlet/Detail?no=257

    • profile image

      Susan 

      8 years ago

      My mother has always made gingerbread men with a red plastic cutter in a very unique shape of the man running. It has long legs and arms very different from the running man cutters available today. I have been unable to find this cutter available anywhere online. Does anyone know anything about it and where I might find another?

    • goldiekc profile image

      goldiekc 

      8 years ago

      I loved seeing these cookie cutters, as they are exactly the ones my mom always had (and now I have). Thank you for posting such an interesting topic and for writing it so well.

    • profile image

      Jennifer 

      8 years ago

      I have an Acme International, 2000 Goosie "Once Upon A Recipe" on card cookie cutter set. I cannot find it anywhere on the internet! Can you tell me if its worth anything? Thanks!

    • profile image

      Mary Pat 

      8 years ago

      Hi! I'm a high school senior from MA and for my AP english class we are doing a research paper on a collectible and I have chosen cookie cutters!

      I was wondering if you could put me in contact with any avid collectors in the MA or New England area so that I could interview them?

      Also I have to do some field research so I was wondering if anyone knows exactly where I could find collectors shopping?

      Thanks so much!

      Mary Pat Connolly

      marypatcpa@comcast.net

    • ChloeAliceWilson profile image

      ChloeAliceWilson 

      8 years ago from Spain

      I didn't realise there was so much to know about cutters. My son loves them and making cookies but ours are not vintage, which is probably a good thing at that price!

    • profile image

      One Sharp Cookie 

      9 years ago

      Good overview of Aunt Chick's cookie cutter history and who is in the know today. Would like to see more about HRM/Educational Products Inc. vintage cookie cutters too. Well done.

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