Halloween Collectibles

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing, and I’m not talking about the manufactured “collectibles” created each year for no other purpose.

Nope, this is your warning ( in case you didn’t already know) that elderly Halloween doodads, while not in the league of antique Christmas ornaments, are nevertheless worth more than you might think.

Not always a lot more

Candy container, plastic, from the 1950’s, spotted at a nearby shop

Candy container, plastic, from the 1950’s, spotted at a nearby shop

But sometimes, as in this example from the website of Showcase Antiques

“ Composition "Pumpkin Girl" candy container painted in tones of yellow, green, blue, red, and white; marked "Germany;" circa 1910. Height=4.5 Price: $795.00”

“ Composition "Pumpkin Girl" candy container painted in tones of yellow, green, blue, red, and white; marked "Germany;" circa 1910. Height=4.5 Price: $795.00”

In a normal year,  this wouldn’t come up; I’d just be merrily chirping along about how this is a good time to bake

Spicy Walnut Gingerfingers

Spicy Walnut Gingerfingers

But I’ve gotten fixated on the depressing news that this year’s spending on Halloween is projected to be only 3 to 4 billion dollars, instead of the 5.8 billion (yes, b as in bilious) spent in 2008, and that as a result the avalanche of Christmas crap will be picking up speed even earlier than usual.

Most of the great collectible stuff was made between roughly 1910 and 1940; plastic and patina are not friends. But online sellers are hawking items made as recently as the 1990’s, so if you are about to celebrate your children’s departure for college by chucking a couple of decades’ worth of All Hallows Detritus, you might want to remember that the worthless schlock of today is – at least potentially – the vintage collectible of tomorrow.

For more on this, much of it quite entertaining, check out Jason Walcott’s Vintage Halloween Pages.

For about 80

GINGERFINGERS

3 ½  c. all-purpose flour

2 generous tsp. ground ginger

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

pinch each nutmeg and dry mustard

1/2c. honey

3 tbl. Molasses

2/3c. sugar

½ c. butter, cut in 3 or 4 pieces

¼ c. lard or chicken, duck, or bacon fat, or 5 tablespoons more butter

2 tsp. baking soda

1 c. ground walnuts

sliced almonds for decorating

1. Mix the flour with the salt and spices and set aside.

2. Put the honey, molasses, sugar and fats in a kettle or large saucepan and stir over low heat just until the fats melt and mixture is smooth. Don’t let it actually cook. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the soda.

3. Stir in the spiced flour, then work in the walnuts, using your hands if necessary. The dough will be very firm but malleable.

4. Heat the oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and create fingers (see below), keeping them about ½ inch apart. Bake until a bit darker than gold, 12 to 15 minutes or more depending on size. Transfer gently to racks for cooling; they’re soft when they’re hot – as durable as biscotti after they cool.

Shaping:

Pinch off a tablespoon size lump of dough and squeeze it in the crease between your palm and fingers to elongate it into a fat, bumpy rope – or a skinny bumpy torpedo, depending on how you look at it. Place the proto-finger on the paper and fiddle so it’s about 1/3 inch  in diameter and 3 or 4 inches long. Blunt one end and leave the other tapered.

Using a fingertip, moisten the narrow ends of the fingers. Apply sliced almonds to be the nails.

Before

Before

After

After

Alternative shaping:

The trompe l’oeil fingers are fun but of course somewhat time consuming. Nothing wrong with making a few fingers for the fun of the thing, then slicing a few zillion icebox cookies out of the rest of the dough.

(Recipe originally published last year, shortly before the election when we were all needing something to nibble on to allay nervousness.)

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