Halloween is the second most popular holiday among collectors of holiday memorabilia. Christmas comes first. But Halloween decorations are in such demand today that there are even mail-order catalogs and pop-up stores that feature nothing but Halloween. The idea behind Halloween goes back centuries, but the first Halloween parties that resembled modern celebrations of the holiday were costume parties for adults in the 1880s and 1890s. Costumes from those parties - some of the earliest Halloween collectibles - were almost always homemade. Pressed-paper “veggie people,” jack-o’-lanterns and other Halloween decorations were being made by the 1900s, mostly in Germany. By the 1920s, jack-o’-lanterns were made of a composition material, holes were made for the eyes and mouth, and a hand-painted piece of paper was glued inside to create a finished face. By the 1950s Halloween decorations were being made of hard plastic, and in the 1990s a strange sponge-like plastic was popular for soft jack-o’-lanterns. Pre-1950 Halloween memorabilia is scarce, so prices are high. But beware: Many reproductions of early paper jack-o’-lanterns and Halloween candy containers have been made in Japan. New mail order catalogs sell copies of old pieces along with new life-size witches, ghosts, skeletons and zombies.
Q: I’m 65 years old. When I was a child, my grandfather bought a Ross two-wheel bicycle for me. I wonder if the company is still in business.
A: Albert Ross founded Ross Galvanizing Works in 1940 in Brooklyn. The company made pipes and fittings for fencing and military parts during World War II. It became Chain Bike Corp. in 1946, moved to Rockaway Beach in the 1950s, then to Allentown, Pa., in the 1970s. The company name became Ross Bicycles Inc. in 1982. It has been estimated that the company made over 15 million bicycles before it went bankrupt in 1989. The name “Ross” was bought by Rand Cycles of Farmingdale. Rand made Ross children’s bicycles in Asia for a few years.
Q: I have a small oil lamp that was used in the Illinois home my family owned from 1867 to 1950. It has an amber glass base embossed “Wide Awake.” The acorn burner is brass and the chimney is clear glass. Please share its history and value.
A: Miniature finger lamps like yours often were called “night lamps” or “night lights.” The name “Wide Awake” was one of many given to these small lamps. They were sold in the United States between about 1875 and the early 1900s. A “Wide Awake” lamp with a cobalt-blue base sold for $184 earlier this year.