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Vintage Halloween Decorations In Demand This Year, Collectors Of Spooky Items Say

Paper goods from the '20s, greeting cards from the '50s — Chicagoans are turning to retro Halloween decorations and using them as-is or repurposing them to celebrate the holiday, collectors said.

Vintage goods from Steven Daniel.
Sam Stroozas/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Vintage Halloween goods, like paper decorations from the ’20s and greeting cards from the ’50s, are getting a new life among Chicagoans, collectors said.

More people are snatching up decades-old items and finding ways to reuse them for the holiday, collectors said. It’s about people’s personal style — but also about helping the environment, one collector said.

“There is a push to be more sustainable. And you see stuff at stores in the dollar bin you could buy and, yes, it’s cheap, but think about the waste you are contributing,” said Michelle Curtin, the owner of Baby Grandma Vintage in Pilsen. “There are already so many Halloween decorations out there that you can take and make your own. They are better designed and made. Everything now is trying to look vintage — but why not buy the actual thing?”

Curtin was among a bevy of Halloween lovers who showed off their retro goods at the Vintage Chicago Garage Sale on Saturday. Curtin’s “witchy pop-up” at the market carried vintage goods and her own creations.

Credit: Sam Stroozas/Block Club Chicago
Vintage paper decorations at Michelle Curtin’s pop-up at the market.

A replica of Wednesday Addams’ outfit welcomed shoppers into Curtin’s space, which had racks of vintage, gothic clothing: white collars, velvet and lace, all in black and purple. Curtin also offered her own handmade decorations: dragon glass, dehydrated spiders, mummification gauze and more.

Curtin explores garage sales and thrift stores to find her items. Trained in graphic design, she reuses glass bottles and creates her own labels.

Halloween is Curtin’s favorite holiday, and she has always been drawn to the vintage look. She said decorations sold today don’t hold the same feeling as those from the past.

Credit: Sam Stroozas/Block Club Chicago
Steven Daniel stands with the vintage Halloween decorations he’s selling.

Steven Daniel, a collector of vintage Halloween items who was also at the market, said he noticed a few years ago cutesy pumpkin decorations are fading in popularity — and what people really want are items from the past.

“Who doesn’t love Halloween?” Daniel said. “Most of my stuff has that vintage feel, but some of it are replicas. I would see something I liked that was Halloween, and then I had to buy it. You know the look.

“You see a lot of neighborhoods in Chicago decorating, and there is such a draw to vintage Halloween items. it’s just fun — just look at it.”

Daniel started collecting 10 years ago, picking up holiday wares at flea markets and estate sales. He recently started collecting old Halloween fabric, which he uses to make aprons with big enough pockets to stash candy for trick-or-treaters.

Credit: Sam Stroozas/Block Club Chicago
A vintage Halloween-themed Bingo card being sold by Michael Manefee.

Michael Manefee has been collecting for 40 years. He snaps up old Halloween cake toppers, candy holders and noisemakers, then presents them in frames with white and black borders so they “pop,” he said.

“I love and adore Halloween. After Christmas, it’s my favorite holiday,” he said. “I have three Halloween trees up and decorated at home right now, too.”

It’s not the easiest work: Manefee said vintage Christmas decorations are often easier to come by than material for Halloween. People keep their ornaments and knick-knacks and pass them down to family members, whereas Halloween decorations are often discarded, he said.

Because of this, one of Manefee’s favorite products is part of a banner from the ’20s that was hung in a grade school for the holiday. He can’t bear to part with some of his collectibles, but others he sells or turns into new creations.

“You can’t imagine what you can do with a glue gun and some old decorations,” he said.

Credit: Sam Stroozas/Block Club Chicago
Michael Manefee stands with his vintage decorations.

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