Collecting Antique and Vintage Cookie Cutters
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 CuttersClick thumbnail to view full-size
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:
- Garage sales
- Thrift shops
- Antique shops
- 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.