NEW YORK — Halloween ranks among the biggest holidays in the vintage collectibles market, second only to Christmas. Halloween-themed offerings range from the whimsical to the downright scary. Movie monster figures, dolls and build-your-own-creature model kits have long been popular with Halloween-focused collectors. The material has evolved from toys built by and played with by children to purpose-made holiday keepsakes that can bring hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars at auction.
Horror movies often serve as the inspiration for Halloween collectibles. Many companies have released merchandise based on film classics such as Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolfman as well as modern horror franchises including Halloween, The Nightmare on Elm Street and Hocus Pocus. In some cases, collectible character figures look strikingly similar to their big-screen counterparts, while others amount to highly stylized interpretations rather than attempts at accuracy.
One company noted for pleasing discerning fans is Sideshow Collectibles, which began making figures in 1994. Many on its staff of sculptors, model makers and painters previously worked in the film industry, including modeler Mat Falls, who worked under the well-known Hollywood makeup and special effects artist Rick Baker.
Cortland Hull, founder of The Witch’s Dungeon, a museum in Plainville, Connecticut that is open year round, began collecting Aurora movie monster model kits as a child, and he’s loved Halloween and Hollywood-inspired collectibles ever since. His largest collection of movie monster figures are those made by Sideshow. Hull estimates he has about 40 Aurora figures, ranging from the standard eight-inch size to 12-inch figures. He also has a few of what are called “premiere” 18-inch figures that the company gave him for display in his museum. “The Sideshow figures really were the finest that were made over the years,” he said. “Sideshow figures were always dead-on perfect. They looked like the actor and the character that the actor portrayed, that’s what made them stand out.”
One of the first companies to capitalize on the keen interest in Universal’s beloved classic movie monsters was Aurora, which began producing model kits in the 1960s, starting with Frankenstein in 1961. The Frankenstein kit was an instant hit with both children and grown-up buyers, and Aurora proceeded to offer a dozen more monster kits during the years that followed, including Dracula, the Wolf Man and the Hunchback. A complete, unopened vintage set of 20 Aurora monster model kits achieved $39,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2021 at Heritage Auctions.
Remco Industries, known early on for remote control toys (hence its name), came out with several pop culture-themed toy lines, from the Beatles to TV shows such as Lost in Space and The Monkees. In the 1980s, it introduced the Monster-Crush series of action figures, based on Universal movies. The toys were a hit and they remain collectible today. A fully posable Remco action figure of the Phantom of the Opera that glows in the dark brought $814 plus the buyer’s premium in March 2020 at Hake’s Auctions. Remco released this nine-inch tall figure in 1981, also issuing the Creature from the Black Lagoon that year.
Horror-inspired figures have only grown in popularity as the decades have passed. Mezco Toys, founded in 2000, is among the companies leading the new generation of Halloween-friendly makers. It is perhaps best known for its Living Dead series of dolls that were initially handmade in the late 1990s by Ed Long and Damien Glonek. Mezco Toys began commercial production of the Living Dead line in the year the company launched, offering 10-inch dolls packaged in distinctive boxes that took the forms of coffins. Early examples came wrapped in tissue paper, but newer ones are housed in blister packs to keep the doll’s appearance standard and perfectly coiffed. Before the advent of blister packs, the Living Dead doll’s hair sometimes got matted or mussed up, requiring rubber bands to hold it in place. A buyer got a good deal on a set of four dolls that brought $140 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2022 at MiddleManBrokers Inc. Individually, new dolls can bring $60 to $80 apiece online. Die-hard fans are loyal to these dolls, and the secondary market has seen some listed for sale at a few thousand dollars each.
Halloween collectibles can be terrifying, but they need not always be. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a folksy Halloween witch doll by Nicole Sayre, measuring 19in tall, which went for $300 plus the buyer’s premium in June 2021 at Frasher’s Doll Auction. Sayre began sewing as a child and created her first doll then. Throughout the years, her Victorian-styled papier-mache and fabric dolls have been eagerly collected and have sold for strong prices, as the 2021 result shows.
Whether your Halloween tastes favor the gruesome and gory or the mischievous and whimsical, there are vintage items aplenty for you to scare up on the auction market.