I recently interviewed Mark B. Ledenbach about his Halloween collection and his Halloween guide, Vintage Halloween Collectibles, which was just recently published in a third edition. It has 600 new items and nearly 550 new photos! I highly recommend it, it's a great resource for collecting Vintage Halloween. I reviewed the third edition guide here at the blog recently--click here for the review. You can see some sample pages from the guide below as well.
Here's a video from Martha Stewart Living featuring Mark when he visited the set of Martha's show with some of his Vintage Halloween Collectibles:
VH: You began collecting vintage Halloween in in the late 1980s. Do you still have many of the items you first purchased that day in the antique store or have you since upgraded? Tell us a little about that experience that started your Halloween collecting.
ML: Yes, I have many, although many others have been upgraded. I was lucky to have been in Blue Eagle Antiques in Fair Oaks, CA. that Fall day in 1988. (The shop just closed last year.) The owner asked for my help in moving a few boxes from her back room and I obliged. The boxes were filled with Halloween paper and I became instantly enthralled, buying much of it over the course of the next week.
VH: You have mentioned before that you generally don't collect pulp JOLs--I don't see a lot of examples of the paper mache/pulp lanterns - in your guide--is there a particular reason you don't collect these or just simply that they don't interest you as much as other collectibles?
ML: They simply never interested me. I do wish now that I had purchased some of the rarer iterations when prices were so low, but by and large I don’t care for pulp JOLs.
VH: Speaking of these lanterns, with so many being reproduced or vintage ones being repainted and new inserts added, is there by chance a rule of thumb that would apply to all of these lanterns (or most) in trying to determine if one is vintage or reproduction? Some clue about a vintage lantern that wouldn't be present in a reproduction or is it just a myriad of factors for each lantern that have to be assessed?
ML: The fakers have gotten much, much better over the years. Unfortunately, many dealers who sell vintage Halloween aren’t sufficiently knowledgeable to differentiate newly made from truly vintage, so much of the trouble starts there. Generally, the vintage pulp lanterns will have impressed rings on the bottom, although that is no longer a fail-proof way to discern new from old. I always assume inserts are new and recommend that people seldom pay a premium for supposedly vintage inserts. In determining whether to buy pulp, one must look at the item holistically. If something – the surface, the contours, the heft – feels wrong, it probably is a fake.
VH: Do you collect much in the way of modern folk art or vintage-style pieces that are evocative of vintage Halloween collectibles?
ML: Luckily, there are several very top-shelf folk artists working today: Matthew Kirscht, Jack Roads, Allen Cunningham, David Bruce, Cali Lee, Scott Smith and Katherine Webber to name a few.
VH: Do you have a particular favorite decade of Halloween imagery that you like the most?
ML: Yes, I feel items made during the 1920s generally represent the very best items available today. To be more specific, Beistle items made through 1940 and Dennison items made through 1932 are top-shelf with a dwindling supply of near-mint or better examples.
VH: Dennison or Beistle collectibles - which manufacturer do you like the most overall?
ML: Probably Beistle, but it would be a close call. Beistle had better artists who were more willing to push the boundaries. Don’t underestimate the whimsical nature and quirkiness of the Gibson product line from ~1923 – 1935.
VH: Have you ever visited or do you plan to visit The Beistle Company to view their Halloween archive?
ML: No, I never have. To call their collection of vintage material an archive greatly overstates the reality. Beistle was a manufacturer which was not too concerned with keeping things for posterity. At some point, some employee must have thought it would be a good idea to do so, so items were collected and haphazardly stored in filing cabinets. Most of these items have not been cared for and are in considerably less than “fine” condition.
VH: What is your favorite item in your collection? The rarest item in your collection?
ML: I really like my Halloween Ring Toss Game made by Spear & Sons. The rarest is surely the German parade lantern. There is not another example known to exist, although there are at least two similarly sized table lanterns existing in collections today.
VH: Of all the items you've had a chance to add to your collection, is there one that got away or has remained elusive?
ML: There are several German diecuts made only for a single season in the early 1930s that I’d like to have. The 1913 Dennison Bogie Book has eluded me over the decades.
VH: What is the most expensive Halloween collectible featured in your guide and how much is it valued at? How many examples of this collectible have you seen for sale since you began collecting?
ML: The German parade lantern shown on page 129 of my newly published third edition. It is valued at $13,000-15,000.
If you'd like to ask Mark questions about his collection and/or Vintage Halloween collectibles, please feel free to use the comments section of this blog posting--Mark has graciously agreed to respond and follow up on questions. ***PLEASE NOTE: Due to spammers, comments are on moderation--so your comments won't show up right away--only when I get a notice to go approve them sporadically throughout the day, so please don't repost, wait until they're approved. Thanks :) ***
Mark also has a great series of videos featuring Vintage Halloween collectibles at his Halloween Collector You Tube Channel - check it out. Here's a sample video to get you started: