Antiques & Collectibles: Easter holiday has hatched a variety of collector's items

lefton rabbit.jpg
Lefton Rabbit Thora Mae's Timeless Treasures, Cannon Falls.

We know that the real symbol of Easter is the egg, a symbol of new life, but the bunny rabbit has long been part of Easter festivities, since at least the early 20th century.

The bunny rabbit can be found in cement and stone, cards and postcards, candy containers, toys, and books. He is found stuffed and unstuffed as a ceramic, paper-mache or chalkware.

In the early to mid-1900s, many collectibles were made of paper-mache, celluloid and chalkware imported from Germany and other countries. In the 18th to 20th centuries, chalkware bunnies typically were considered a serious piece of art — a figurine made from gypsum or plaster of Paris formed into a mold, and then hand-painted in oils or watercolors.

Chalkware later became more popular during the Great Depression and was considered to be a carnival collectible. These are the bunnies you may have won at the carnival popping balloons, tossing the ring on the bottle or shooting at the star.

Vintage stuffed rrabbits were made of mohair, felt and velveteen, often filled with cotton, straw and other fibers. Today, most collectors on a budget have handcrafted Easter collectibles in their collections, done possibly by a local artist found at craft and art fairs, online or from local shops.


Contain(er) your enthusiasm

When you first think of Easter, what else comes to mind? Chocolate bunnies, of course! And what of the beautiful box or tin that holds this candy? I bet you never thought of the container as a collectible, other than for sentimental value. Small advertising tins are sought-after as collectibles. Some companies have beautiful tins, including Russell Stover, Whitman and Fanny Farmer, to name a few.

Fanny Farmer is a good collectible, most desirable and tends to be reasonably priced, at $10 or less. These older collectible tins were costly when new, but can be found today at thrift stores, flea markets and antique shops, and are still of great value. The collector loves to find them and seek out the origin, history and age.

Keep in mind that once the candy was eaten, the boxes were often discarded, and since some boxes were not always tin, few have survived to this day. During the 1940s, tin was replaced with cardboard, and during other periods was substituted with wood.

Going from shop to shop, you can see similarities in product and price range. Sarah Kieffer, owner of Sarah's Uniques, St. Charles, said, "The bunnies I have are the old paper-mache, fuzzy plastic and some Fenton glass bunnies ranging in price from $12 up to $65. I also have a lot of the vintage German paper-mache eggs that come apart, very bright and colorful, priced accordingly, that once held candy."

Varied prices

Down in Hokah, Debra Olson, owner of Uncommon Place, said, "I've collected bunnies for several years and now offer them up for sale. The bunnies are made of plaster, glazed china, cloth and lithographed tin. Even tin chocolate molds at $65 on up. The cloth bunnies vary in price."

In Cannon Falls, Kara M. Gates, owner of Thora Mae's Timeless Treasures, said, "We have random rabbits from paper-mache, Knickerbocker yellow plastic bunny, Chein metal bunnies, to Napco, Lefton and Goebel bunnies that range in price from $8.50 on up to $200."


We must not forget the nursery ware, such as the Royal Doulton's Bunnykins child's breakfast set designed by Barbara Vernon Bailey, 1934, that can be found for around $50 on up.

One of the most notable works in children's literature is Beatrix Potter and "The Tale of Peter Rabbit," found not only in book form, but on dishware, posters and fabric.

And speaking of children's books, Kieffer said, "Vintage Easter bunny cards and the Little Golden Books are always a great display with memories of those younger days."

Golden Books

Remember those Vintage Golden Books with Bugs Bunny? The little books were quite affordable, at 25 cents. The books were sturdy, with a side-staple binding, enjoyably illustrated and available to all children — not just the privileged — and are still available today. According to the 2014 Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide, more than 800 million Little Golden Books have been sold in some 42 countries. In 1986 the one billionth book was printed in the United States.

Today, some of those first Golden Books from the early '40s and '50s can go as high as $200 at auction. Kathy Gray, owner of LARK Toys, Kellogg, said, "We have the new Little Golden Books, which are very appealing in size to children and the pocket book, selling not at 25 cents but at a reasonable price of $2.99. During the year we generally carry two to three dozen different Little Golden Book titles. The art is terrific and, like many of our books, the stories are timeless."

Easter is an excellent time to start collecting cookie cutters of bunnies in all shapes and sizes. In this area, cookie cutter collector Joyce Moorhouse, of Cannon Falls, along with her husband Al, who makes cookie cutters, own ASM Cutters & Things.

"I became very interested in cutters when the Hallmark Company started issuing plastic cutters like their Easter collection," Joyce Moorhouse said. "These days, purchase prices on cutters can be high but they can still be found almost anywhere for as little as 5 cents at a garage sale to 25 cents at thrift shops. My mother's aluminum rabbit cutters and an HRM red plastic cross cutter were some of my first in my personal collection. HRM started around the 1940s, manufacturing the popular hard plastic cutters, but they didn't replace my tin cutters, they just added to my collection. In 1954, I was given my grandmother Alma's cookie cutters. I had approximately 400 cutters before I knew I had become a collector."


Sandy Erdman is a Winona freelance writer, antique dealer, speaker on antiques and collectibles and workshop appraiser. If you have an antique shop, make a hobby of collecting, make or restore antiques or collectibles and you want to share in this column, contact Sandy at

What To Read Next
Get Local