Sweet treats and candy are the most collected of Halloween items by children traveling from house to house when they are trick-or-treating. Candy is not a durable item that makes a practical collectible. However, the containers children use during trick-or-treating to gather candy are highly prized collectibles.
In the early 1900s Halloween candy containers were 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. Children required containers to collect their sweet treats and candy. The candy containers imported from Japan and Germany met this need.
Candy Containers From Germany
The majority of German candy containers were crafted of composition or papier-mâché. Others were made of cardboard, wood, or plaster. Halloween candy containers were produced in the forms of cats, ghosts, jack-lanterns, and devils. The top of the container typically included a hat or the head of the figure. When this top was opened the candy could be deposited into the bottom where it remained protected when the top was replaced. Candy containers were produced in sizes ranging from 2 inches to greater than 12 inches.
Candy Containers From Japan
By the 1930s Japan was a major contributor to the importation of candy containers to the United States. The containers produced in Japan were made of bisque, celluloid, and glass. Some containers came ready filled with candy, others required filling with homemade treats. Prior to 1930 containers from Japan were marked simply Japan or Germany. After 1930 new laws passed by the United States required imported items be marked “Made in” followed by the name of the country.
Candy Containers From the United States
The ushering in of the 1940s and continuing through the 1950s saw the production of a small number of commercially issued trick-or-treat bags. Bags with merchant messages related to Halloween were often used for the collection of candy on Halloween and then discarded. The infrequency with which these bags survived makes them collectible.
Continuing into the 1960s hard plastic containers were produced in the United States. The containers typically were made in bright orange and black. Most were crafted in the form of a pumpkin although containers in the form of cats and witches have been discovered.
Deciding What to Collect
Candy containers from Germany are the most prized and also the most expensive. As the German containers became more difficult to find and afford, collectors turned to those made in Japan. The most plentiful and affordable containers are those made of plastic in the United States. The plastic containers can be found at flea markets and yard sales and priced inexpensively. Noncollectors of Halloween items do not see the potential value in these hard plastic containers.
Candy containers from Germany and Japan have been reproduced within the last 20 years. Many of the reproductions originate from China. At first glance and to the inexperienced collector, the reproductions may be difficult to distinguish from the early authentic containers. Characteristics that distinguish the originals from reproduction include paint colors that appear brighter than the original paint, worn paint that is in unexpected or unusual places. Original containers would be expected to show wear on high points, such as the top, the handle, the bottom. Lastly, if the price seems too good to be true, it is likely a reproduction. When considering purchasing any antique it is best to do some research and if possible visit places or dealers who have authentic collections. Most collectors are happy to share information.