Collecting Antique Cookie Cutters
Think of a country kitchen, and odds are, you will picture painted-handled rolling pins, Hoosier cabinets, and antique cookie cutters. These little treasures are easy to find in antique stores, vintage shops and my40yearcollection.etsy.com and they're affordable to collect.
Cookie Cutter History
Although cookie cutters of various types have been in use since Egyptian times, the metal type that cooks are most familiar with came into existence in the 1400s. In Colonial times, tinsmiths looking for a use for their scraps of tin shaped bits and pieces into stars, circles, and other simple shapes to the delight of homemakers everywhere. Tin remained the primary material for cookie cutters until 1920 when aluminum became popular. Plastic replaced aluminum after World War II.
Animal Shapes and Other Rare Cookie Cutters
Animal-shaped cookies have delighted children for centuries. The earliest animal cookie cutters were simple farm animals like rabbits or chickens. During Victorian times, animal cutters became more exotic and began to include lions, tigers, and other wild animals. This was due in part to the increasing popularity of Barnum and Bailey's Circus.
Some of these unusual animal shapes are rare antique cookie cutters, which are highly valued by collectors.
Antique Christmas Cookie Cutters
The Moravians brought exquisitely carved wooden molds with them when they settled in the Colonies. With these molds, they created beautifully stamped designs. As the idea of Christmas cookies spread throughout the Colonies, tinsmiths created Christmas-themed cutters that created cookies meant to be hung on Christmas trees. It wasn't until the 1930s that the tradition of leaving cookies for Santa was established.
Colorful Wooden Handles for Easier Cutting
By the 1920s, manufacturers were adding wooden handles to make cookie making even easier. The handles were often crimson red or Jadeite green and shaped to fit in the hand easily. These cutters generally have developed a beautiful patina where time and use have worn away some of the paint.
Vintage Cookie Cutters for Gingerbread Men
Gingerbread men became popular during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. She ordered that the royal bakers create cookies that looked like her guests. The idea caught on and soon bakers everywhere were asking for gingerbread man-shaped cutters to make the job easier. Gingerbread men come in different shapes, from simple round heads, arms and legs, to more detailed cowboys and clowns like this cutter from the 1940s.
Vintage Bridge Set Cookie Cutters
After World War II, the United States settled down into a prosperous, relaxed lifestyle. Middle class, suburban women might get together to play bridge in the afternoon to pass the time. Serving small cookies shaped like the suits on the cards was considered "smart" and whimsical.
Using Vintage Cookie Cutters
Antique cookie cutters are meant to be used and will last for decades if treated gently. The key is knowing about the materials of your cookie cutter and making sure it's safe for food use. The majority of the cookie cutters you will find will be aluminum or plastic. If you have a tin cookie cutter, use it for display only. Some of the old tin cookie cutters were soldered with a lead-based solder and shouldn't be used.
You can clean vintage cookie cutters with mild soap and water, making sure you dry them thoroughly. Do not put them in the dishwasher, since the rough action and harsh detergent can damage them.
Where to Buy Antique Cookie Cutters
You can find cookie cutters at antique stores, estate and garage sales and thrift shops, as well in our My40YearCollection Etsy shop. Look through bins of old kitchen collectibles or small housewares. Sometimes, you'll find a few cookie cutters in a general lot of items at an estate sale or auction.
Displaying Old Cookie Cutters
The fun part is you can store and display your cookie cutter collection in a variety of ways. If you use them often, keep them in a large apothecary jar on the counter. You can also hang them from cabinet doorknobs or from a dowel over a window as a unique valance. They're a great way to add some vintage farmhouse style to your modern home.
We share these precious treasures with you whenever we come across them, great for baking, crafting and even pottery. They come in metal and plastic type.