Candy and treats are the most collected Halloween items by children who travel from house to house when they are trick-or-treating. Candy is not a durable item which makes it a practical collectible. However, the containers that children use during trick-or-treating to collect candy are highly prized collectibles.
In the early 1900s, Halloween candy packages were being produced in Japan and Germany. During this same time period, trick-or-treating in the United States was spreading from the Northeast, an area largely populated by British immigrants, to other parts of the country. The children needed containers to collect their sweets and treats. The candy packages imported from Japan and Germany met this need.
Germany candy containers
Most German candy packaging was made of papier-mâché or composition. Others were made of cardboard, wood, or plaster. The Halloween candy containers were produced in the shape of cats, ghosts, lanterns, and demons. The top of the container usually included a hat or the head of the figure. When this lid was opened, the candy was able to settle to the bottom where it remained protected when the lid was replaced. The candy containers were produced in sizes ranging from 2 inches to over 12 inches.
Japan candy containers
In the 1930s, Japan was a major contributor to the import of candy packaging into the United States. The containers produced in Japan were made of bisque, celluloid and glass. Some containers came ready filled with candy, others required to be filled with homemade goodies. Before 1930, containers from Japan were simply marked as Japan or Germany. After 1930, new laws passed by the United States required imported items to be marked “Made in” followed by the name of the country.
United States Candy Containers
The beginning of the 1940s and continuing through the 1950s saw the production of a small number of commercially issued trick-or-treat bags. Bags with Halloween-related merchant messages were often used for Halloween candy collecting and later thrown away. The infrequency with which these bags survived makes them collectible.
Continuing into the 1960s, hard plastic packaging was produced in the United States. Containers were typically made in bright orange and black. Most were made in the shape of a pumpkin, although containers in the shape of cats and witches have been discovered.
Deciding what to collect
Germany’s candy packages are the most prized and also the most expensive. As German containers became more difficult to find and pay for, collectors turned to those made in Japan. The most abundant and affordable packaging is plastic in the United States. Plastic containers can be found at flea markets and yard sales and are inexpensively priced. Those who don’t collect Halloween items don’t see the potential value of these hard plastic containers.
Identification of reproductions
Candy packaging from Germany and Japan have been replicated in the last 20 years. Many of the reproductions come from China. At first glance and for the inexperienced collector, reproductions can be difficult to distinguish from early authentic containers. Characteristics that distinguish originals from reproduction include paint colors that appear brighter than the original paint, worn paint found in unexpected or unusual places. Original containers would be expected to show wear at high points, such as the top, handle, or bottom. Lastly, if the price seems too good to be true, it is likely a reproduction. When considering buying any antique, it’s best to do some research and, if possible, visit places or merchants that have authentic collections. Most collectors are happy to share information.