The idea behind Halloween goes back centuries, but the first Halloween parties that resembled modern celebrations were costume parties for adults in the 1880s and 1890s.

Costumes from those parties — some of the earliest Halloween collectibles — were almost always homemade.

Pressed-paper “veggie people,” jack-o-lanterns and other Halloween decorations were being made by the 1900s, mostly in Germany.

By the 1920s, jack-o-lanterns were made of a composition material, holes were made for the eyes and mouth and a hand-painted piece of paper was glued inside to create a finished face.

By the 1950s, Halloween decorations were being made of hard plastic, and in the 1990s a strange sponge-like plastic was popular for soft jack-o-lanterns.

Pre-1950 Halloween memorabilia is scarce, so prices are high. But beware: Many reproductions of early paper jack-o-lanterns and Halloween candy containers have been made in Japan.

New mail order catalogs sell copies of old pieces along with new life-size witches, ghosts, skeletons and zombies, as well as tombstones, black cats and huge blow-up monsters and spiders. These, too, will be popular collectibles in a few years.

I have my grandfather’s black hat. The name in the hat is “Sheldon & Co., London.” It was in a hat box that says “Mallory Hats, Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y.” I think he had the hat when he was a member of the Shriners. Can you give me any information?

Both Sheldon & Co. and Mallory were hat makers listed in the 1908 “American Hatter.” G.W. Sheldon & Co. was a maker of felt in 1823. It was the first hat maker in the United States and was one of the largest by the early 1900s.

E.A. Mallory & Sons became a division of the John B. Stetson Hat Co. in 1946. Production of Mallory hats ceased by 1965. Maybe Mallory sold hats by other makers, or maybe the hat was put in the wrong box by the owner.

Vintage top hats in great shape sell for about $100. Twentieth-century hat boxes with good names or graphics are $50 to $75 retail.

Current Prices

Halloween postcard, little boy, carving a jack ‘o’ lantern, seated, girl in blue dress, standing above, watching, signed, c. 1905, $20.

Door knocker, mask, grotesque, horned head, knocker ring in mouth, 14 x 8 inches, $190.

Halloween, Jack-in-the-box, pumpkin man, turnip nose, bug eyes, plaid paper litho wood box, 7 inches, $350.

Halloween decoration, witch face, hand-painted papier-mâché with black and gray horsehair and burlap hat, cleft chin and wart, 1920s, $750.

Tip: Be careful where you put a fresh pumpkin or gourd at Halloween or Thanksgiving. Put a plastic liner underneath it. A rotting pumpkin will permanently stain wood or marble.

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