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Spooky Antiques to Enjoy at Halloween

We need a little spooky fun right about now. With the real fear of pandemics, quarantines and divisive politics, dressing up as a witch, goblin, ghost or any other ghoul, sounds appealing. Halloween takes folks of all ages into the world of make-believe and that’s a good thing.

Collectors enjoy Halloween stuff tremendously. It seems as popular as Christmas in the vintage decorating world. Reproductions too abound. Vintage items like mid-20th century costumes and masks, treat bags, spooky lanterns and pumpkins are big in the collecting world.

Of course, ghoulish masks are another area that can become an obsession, even for adults. These scary faces depicting movie monsters and horror film stars remind many of their favorite classic movies from the 20th century like Frankenstein, the Mummy, Wolfman or Dracula.

Halloween decorations were made in the late 1800s but it was 1900 to 1920 that is considered the golden era of Halloween memorabilia. This is when lanterns, postcards, candy containers, dolls and party items began to be produced. Since many of these items were paper and used by children, early pieces in good condition are rare and increasing in value.

Another area of note is Halloween folk art, with papier mache and wooden creations attracting new fans daily. I like these folksy looking collectibles too since they are often one-of-a kind.

The most important quality to look for in ghoulish collectibles is condition and quality of construction. Well-made German decorations and postcards are often the most valuable. Celluloid items made in Germany, Japan, or America also are tops.

My favorite spooky collectible that I discovered by writing about antiques over the years is the vampire killing kits of yesteryear. Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic novel “Dracula” created this interest.

These are expensive and were made at one time for wealthy travelers going to Transylvania (Romania) or Europe and seeking protection.

The small suitcase-like cases are packed with weapons and tools to protect a person from the threatening teeth of the undead.

Most include a pistol, silver bullets, holy water vial, cleaver, prayer book, looking glass, rosary, cross and stakes.

Prices for these handy protection devices are high and many go for thousands of dollars. Interest is found both in Europe and the United States. Finding real antique versions can be tough but they do pop up at auctions, especially in the south and around New Orleans, where voodoo and vampires are culturally intertwined.

This is an item that has been reproduced in quantity too so be careful and don’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting a deal on an antique. Most kits today are good copies or cheaply made fakes which are fun to display but not dollar valuable, and the Internet reports lots of controversy about the authenticity of the kits.

Now if I could just find a COVID-19 killing kit … I could make a fortune.

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at zambitomaureen@hotmail.,com or by writing in care of the Sunday News-Register, 1500 Main St., Wheeling, WV 26003.

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