New Halloween lanternsBy

New Halloween Lanterns

Cardboard tab and slot jack-o-lanterns from the 1930s-1950s are holiday-related collectibles that have been reproduced. These lanterns, new and old, are made of stiff cardboard with cutouts for the eyes, nose and mouth. Those openings are backed with thin, usually colored, paper. Originals have sold for between $50-75 with extra fancy examples worth $150 and up. Old cats and pumpkins similar to the new ones shown have sold for about $60-80.

Construction of the new lanterns is virtually identical to the old. Three die-cut pieces of cardboard are held together by tabs inserted into matching slots. No glue is needed; the tabs are simply bent over once they are passed through the slots. A thin wire is run across the top as a handle. The back side of the new lanterns is the same as the front. Backs of old lanterns vary: some are the same as the front while others backs are different from the front.

Sides of new lanterns are awkwardly formed with jagged flattened curves. The bends are so abrupt that they crack the finish on the surface (Fig. 4). Curved sides on old lanterns are gradual and continuous with smooth unbroken surfaces (Fig. 5).

The cracks in the surface on the new lanterns exposes a white body below. These areas fluoresce bright white under long wave black light (Fig. 7). The white body also fluoresces where it is exposed along edges (Fig. 6).

The other feature that distinguishes new from old is that old lanterns include some device or feature to hold a candle or light bulb (Figs. 8-9). This is generally either a simple metal socket or bracket or a punched or die-cut hole. Old sockets vary widely and can appear quite crude. They are generally permanently fastened to the inside bottom of old lanterns with metal clips (Fig. 10) that are an extension of the socket itself. The new lanterns in this article do not have sockets or any other way to attach a candle or bulb.

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Fig. 1 (New) New versions of cardboard jack-o'-lanterns with tab and slot construction. Pumpkin 8″ wide by 6″ high; cat 6″ wide by 8″ high. Wholesale price was around $7.75 each.

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Fig. 2 (New) Pieces of new lanterns before assembly. Die-cut front/back in top row, long strip in middle forms body, wire handle in foreground. Note pieces of paper applied over openings for eyes, nose and mouth.

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Fig. 3 (Old) Original ca. 1940s pumpkin cardboard lantern. Made from a die-cut front and back fastened to center strip with tabs in slots (arrows). Original paper missing from eyes/nose/mouth.

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Fig. 4 (New) The curved side of the new pumpkin, shown above, is so uneven that the surface finish is cracked.

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Fig. 5 (Old) Curved side of old pumpkin is smooth and continuous. No disturbance of the surface finish.

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Fig. 6

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Fig. 7

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Fig. 8

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Fig. 9

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Fig. 10

Figs. 8-10 The bottoms of three typical old cardboard tab and slot lanterns. Fig. 8-metal socket. Fig. 9-metal socket. Fig. 10 shows clips holding socket. The new lanterns have flat, plain bottoms without sockets or holes for candles or light bulbs.