“It’s cookie baking time!” Growing up, most people loved hearing this. Today, cookies may not be a holiday or special occasion thing only. Rather, everyday is a special occasion and so we would make cookies on a daily basis if we wanted to.
One of the things that makes the cookie baking business easier is the cookie cutter. You are used to the round shape but want them in a different shape, get that star shaped cookie cutter. Even better if you can invest in a rare old one and this article sheds more light into rare antique cookie cutters!
The History of Cookie Cutters
As of 2018, the average American eats over 30,000 cookies in their lifetime. 95.2% of U.S. households consume cookies, half of which are chocolate chip. This translates to over 2 billion cookies for all and about 300 for individual Americans. Only Santa Claus is an exception and on Christmas, he is said to eat about 336, 150,386 cookies, probably in order to make up for all the ones he didn’t have throughout the year. Yes cookies are life and we celebrate life when we are eating a cookie.
The first ever cookie cutter was made in 1475. Merely every expert will tell you that steel cutters from tin have their origin in Europe some 100 years ago. Back then, wood carvers would make wood dough molds but then developed metal inserts for them. While old European cutters will usually have outline forms that get support from their cross bracing bars, American cutters have a full tin plate in the back and every so often a handle and one or two holes the size of a lady’s finger on the tin back. The hole size makes it possible to hold the cutter better and to push the cookie dough out of it. If you come across a cutter with smaller star holes at the back, they were meant for decoration.
The very first American one was made around 1720 in East Berlin, Connecticut. The tinsmiths there had a hard time producing many of them since England banned the production of tin and they imported tin from there. So they made cookie cutters from the scraps of tin left over until after the Revolution in the late 1700s when the tinsmith made tin and tin cookies in America. It makes sense since following the end of the Civil War, the industrial world had every intention of taking on a ceasefire economy.
Some of the popular companies that made cookie cutters but are long out of business include Kreamer, Dover, Hillson, Mason, and Fries. Although, an old cutter with any of these names is no doubt more valuable than a similar one without, like we will see in the identification of rare antique cookie cutters.
By the 1800’s cookie cutters were made with welds. They became popular in Germany in the late 1800’s and most were imported from there. These cutters especially came through for decoration purposes as people used cut out cookies to adorn their christmas trees. Christmas was an American holiday by this time and shaped cookies were a thing in almost every cookbook, if not every kitchen.
Now these tiny kitchen equipment weren’t only preferred for the shape seeing they changed the cookie’s consistency and shape. The 1920s saw aluminum replace tin and wooden handles added to the aluminum cookie cutters in the 1930s as more demand for cutters arose and more designs sprung up. More people joined the cookie decoration and baking bandwagon in the 1970s and 80s as they became home-loving. You bet there are all kinds of cookie cutters today. One can find them in different shapes, sizes, colors and material including copper and plastic. The most common are aluminum, plastic and tin though.
Cookie cutters from the past
Types of Cookie Cutters
These are some of the most common old cookie cutter designs that you are likely to encounter out there.
Animal Shapes and Other Rare Cookie Cutters
It’s not just cookies, animal-shaped stuff has been a fascination of many and not only kids for years. The first animal cookie cutters were simple domestic animals like chicken or rabbits up until the Victorian era and the subsequent popularity of Barnum and Bailey’s Circus, when makers began experimenting with more exotic animals like lions, peacocks and other wild animals. These make for rare antique cookie cutters today and collectors will gladly pay a hefty amount for them.
Colorful Wooden Handles for Easier Cutting
As mentioned earlier, makers were already making wooden handles for cookie cutters by the 1920s. These handles were hand sized with either the color jadeite green or crimson red.
Flat-Back Cookie Cutters
Flat-back cookie cutters were first developed in the 1800s. They are designed for use on a leveled surface preferably a cutting board or cookie sheet. Flat-back cookie cutters have one or several tiny holes on the back for air release and some have the wooden knobs or strap handles mentioned above for easier cutting.
These cutters come in pretty basic shapes and some are animal shaped.
Another popular type of antique cookie cutters are cookie molds. These cutters were especially popular in the 1600s and were used to create Christmas cookies and Christmas tree decorations by American immigrants as part of remembering their motherland.
The Moravians brought delicately carved wooden molds in their colonies, which they used to create nicely punched designs and resulted in the popularity of Christmas-themed decorative cutters of different sizes and shapes .
Open Back Cookie Cutters
Open back cookie cutters are the more recent cutters. Like their name suggests, they have no back plate. Once in a while they will have a handle with a metal strp across the back but mostly they are entirely open.
These cutters come in varying shapes such as a star, heart, spade, diamond or Christmas tree. Their designs are also many including farm animals like rabbits, horses and chicken making them a favorite of many for years.
Are Old Cookie Cutters Worth Anything?
Usually, antique cookie cutters’ prices range from as little as ten dollars to thousands of dollars. This is influenced heavily by factors such as rarity, age and condition of each cutter but most will cost one less than ten dollars. Having already established that, anyone and everyone should own a cookie cutter because price is no excuse.
However, for those collectors looking to build a treasure of cookie cutters, spending a higher amount for old cutters that are in good condition is no surprise. What do we mean by good condition? A cookie cutter that is in great condition will usually not show any bends and if it has soldier lines, they are strong lines. Cutters with unusual shapes are rare and thus will cost a collector a dime.
Thing is, as long as it is an old original cookie cutter or it has a story to its origin it will cost more than the average old cutter. Large gray-painted solder-splashed tinsmith-made cookie cutters are a coveted gem especially if it has a literal or comical rabbit shape.
More hen or tree cutters were produced compared to Bear ones so if you come across a bear cutter, it should be more valuable. At an auction in 1989, an “Uncle Sam” cutter sold at $3,000 and a “Running Slave” cutter went for $7,400. Most of these old cookie cutters though will only cost a few dollars especially if they are wall decorations or Christmas tree ornaments.
In addition to the condition, shape and age of an old cookie cutter, size also influences the value of antique cookie cutters and a large cutter will go up to $80 or more.
Factors Affecting Antique Cookie Cutters’ Value
Like most old antique items, age is an important factor when determining the value of antique cookie cutters. The older a cookie cutter is, the more valuable it is. Those cutters that were made from the late 1800s or early 1900s will fetch a seller a higher amount than much newer ones.
The condition of any antique cookie cutter will almost always override its age and consequently value. This means if the cutter is old but in poor condition, the value goes down. No one wants to spend a good chunk of their money on a rusted or cracked old cookie cutter.
Usually, tin or aluminum cookie cutters cost more than plastic ones but in instances when the condition of an old plastic cookie cutter is poor, that might not be the case.
Of course if more people can’t easily find something, that thing will cost an arm and a leg. Rare cookie cutters are no exception and those cutters with distinctive or handmade designs will be worth more than their counterparts.
15 First-Rate Antique Cookie Cutters
#1 Martha Stewart Martha By Mail Large Copper Cookie Cutters
#2 Martha Stewart MBM Copper Cookie Cutter Set
This Martha Stewart MBM Copper Cookie Cutter DOGS original Set in its original box is going for $349.
#3 Old German Folk Art Cookie Mold
This hand carved wooden cookie mold is going for $359 on eBay.
#4 Antique Easter Bunny Rabbit Cookie Cutter
This antique Easter Bunny cutter in vintage condition with signs of age and use is worth $349.
#5 Pre-War Handmade Soldered Metal Rhinoceros Cookie Cutter
Get this used metal Rhinoceros cookie cutter on eBay for $325.
#6 Antique Tin Cookie Cutter Man
This large 19th century Tin cookie cutter man with a top hat and flat back is going for $300 only.
#7 Old Martha Stewart Martha By Mail Copper Dog Cookie Cutter Set
This Cookie cutter set in used condition is going for $329 on eBay with its box.
#8 Antique Ice Box Bridge Cookie Mold
Get this antique cookie mold for your money’s worth at only $289.
#9 1800s antique Tin Horse Cookie Cutter
This early original handmade horse cookie cutter is worth $275.
#10 VTG Cookie Cutter Mold
This handmade Cookie cutter mold set of 6 is going for $239.
#11 Old Tins Of Cookie Cutters
This set of 8 tins of Cookie Cutters from West Germany is worth $200 only.
#12 Antique Flat Back Cookie Cutters
#13 Set of Old Tin Cookie Cutters
#14 Five Antique Tin handmade Cookie Cutters
Get Them for $105.
#15 Rare Depression-Era Tin Minnie Mouse Cookie Cutter
Where to Buy and Sell Antique Cookie Cutters
Anyone looking to buy or sell an old cookie cutter may be ignorant of how to go about it or rather, where to do so. Here are a few places to start if you are on the hunt for antique cookie cutter cutters for your lovely kitchen or christmas tree!
As an antique cookie cutter, a place you can be sure to get the most out of and one that comes highly recommended by us as well, is antique stores. Your local antique store probably has more of these hard to find gems than you could imagine but you wouldn’t know that unless you went and checked it out.
These stores normally have a wide range of items from different periods so the chances of not finding an antique cookie cutter are slim.
You can also search for vintage cookie cutters at street markets that sell second hand items. While you may have to negotiate for a good price, collectors find treasures at flea markets all the time and one of those are old cookie cutters.
If you can’t find any cookie cutter that speaks to your soul at flea markets or local antique shops, don’t quit just yet. The internet is another good place to check. The good thing about online marketplaces is that you can watch and buy your favorite old cookie cutter from the comfort of your couch.
It also offers a wide range of cookie cutters to choose from since there are multiple vendors from different parts of the world.
Some of these sites include Etsy, 1stDibs, Collectors Weekly, and eBay.
Join A Collectors’ Club or Ask a Pro
Being part of a community that shares similar interests is underrated, really. Whether one is only starting out as a cookie cutter collector or they have been collecting antiques for a while, there is no end to learning and a collector’s club is the best place for that.
There are experts in these clubs too, who can be consulted on just about anything antique cookie cutters.
How to Clean Your Old Cookie Cutters
Most old cookie cutters are tin-plated over steel. This tin coating wears away with time and rust develops in these weared out spots. Instead of buying new cutters, it will save you money and heartache (they’re probably favorites) to restore them to great condition.
A good way to ensure your old cookie cutters are taken care of and are free from rust and any dirt is to clean them, obviously.
- Buff the tarnish or rust off the cutters with a kitchen sponge, baking soda and water for about 10 minutes, focusing on the cutting edge.
- Bubble them up in hot soapy water using a gentle dish detergent.
- Allow them to soak for a few minutes before rinsing them off and ensure to rinse the soap off completely.
- Place the rinsed cutters on an unlined baking sheet and put in an oven at 350 degrees celsius for about 2 hours. This does not apply to plastic cutters or ones with rubber handles as these can’t stand high temperatures.
- Once 2 hours have passed, check that the water is fully dried from the cutters and allow them to cool.
- Check to confirm that the cookie cutters are clean to your satisfaction then give them moisture-repellant coating using a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.
- Your cookie cutters are now ready for use.
- Always remember to wash them in hot soapy water, rinse and dry them right after each use.
Displaying Old Cookie Cutters
Once you have a nice collection of clean cookie cutters, now the only remaining thing is to flaunt them. Yes, you heard that right. On top of shaping cookies, these cutters can be stored and displayed in more ways than you might have thought of.
One way is to store those cutters that you often reach out for in a large apothecary jar on your kitchen counter. Having a cork board will help with easy spotting of cutters. Or maybe hang them from your kitchen cabinet door knobs or from a dowel over the window for those vintage farmhouse vibes in your home.
You might consider sorting those old cookie cutters by theme and label their plastic storage boxes for faster access. In fact, setting aside a specific drawer with dividers for them may be the best storage option if you aren’t so big on literal display.
Having established everything you need to know about old cookie cutters, even those of you who came here oblivious of everything antique have left with a thing or two. Hopefully, with an old cookie cutter that fits your needs as a collector.
Also, if you have any tips or questions relating to the intriguing world of antique cookie cutters, do let us know in the comments below.