OLD COOKIE CUTTERS
WORTH LOTS OF DOUGH
As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, January, 2005
Gentleman Galvanized sheet metal, Photo Credit:
Skinner Auctions, Boston, MA
The tinsmith who fashioned cookie
cutters for the lady of the house in the 19th century would
probably shake his head in disbelief at their current prices.
Made of humble materials such as tinned sheet iron and
galvanized sheet metal , they depicted a variety of subjects
from people and animals to hearts and domestic implements.
There is nothing humble about a cookie
cutter when it has an auction estimate of from $100 to $500.
Double that when it wears a shop price tag. Such was the case
when ten lots of 19th and early 20th century cookie cutters came
to a November Skinner auction.
Historically cookie cutters were made by
family members and itinerant tinsmiths who traveled the country
in the early 19th century. Often the tinsmith would spend
several days making cake tins, pans and pails. The cookie
cutters for the most part were made from left-over tin scraps.
Some interesting examples have turned up showing they were made
from flattened baking powder tins and canisters.
Most 19th century cookie cutters had
one-of-a-kind patterns. Often crudely made ,that is part of
CLUES: There are several ways to judge
the age of a cookie cutters. One is the subject. Early 19th
century hearts and birds resemble the Pennsylvania Dutch motifs
found on bride’s dowry chests. The birds are reminders of the
show towels and samplers of the time. Other popular subjects
were stars, the “preacher” and a lady in contemporary costume.
Domestic, everyday objects such as a shoe, gun , pitcher and
even a clothespin were depicted.
Early cutters, made of strong, thin
steel plate are quite heavy, coated with tin. These days the
plating may have worn away and touches of rust will show. They
also were heavily soldered. A cutter made in the mid 20th
century will have a tell-tale cutting edge with an applied, thin
line. 20th century cutters will be light in weight.
Signs of wear don’t always determine
age. Consider the designs made for Christmas cookies. They were
only used once a year and will be in better condition. Subjects
included Santa, reindeer, sheep and stars.
Ever wonder why there are holes in old
cookie cutters ? They let the air escape when the cutter was put
on the dough. There were from one to six holes.
Horse Cookie Cutter 20th century, galvanized
sheet metal. Photo Credit: Skinner Auctions, Boston, MA
The more elaborate patterns such as
horses are often in good condition since it was more difficult
to make the dough for the delicate legs and tail come out
Cutting edges measure from less than a
quarter of an inch to as much as an inch and three quarters.
Most common is a 3/4” depth. Really old cutters have deep
cutting edges. In 20th century cutters the depth can be 3/8”.
There were even miniature cookie cutters
made as small as a quarter. However, gingerbread men have been
made as much as fifteen inches tall. While 19th century cookie
cutters have been found in many parts of the country some of the
choicest examples have been discovered in the
Pennsylvania-German area. Highly prized are those with the
peacock motif. Most common are the variations of the heart,
tulip, thistle and birds. Other types of flowers are rarities.
These were made from the late 18th century till around the
aren’t signed. However if they were made from flattened food
containers partial lettering can show up. This adds to the
value. Pay attention to all the clues. Not everybody is a cookie
If you have any questions, you can Email us at
The Antique Shoppe
"Florida's Best Newspaper for Antiques
PO Box 2175, Keystone Heights, FL 32656-2175
Phone: (352)475-1679 Fax: (352)475-5326
[Top of Page |
Editorial Archives |
Copyright © 2006,
Antique Shoppe Newspaper