The earliest cutters for pastries and cookies, or "biscuits" as they were called in England, imprinted designs on the surface of dough. These “imprint cutters,” first made in Italy, were used in England kitchens starting in the 1400s to make gingerbread figures in the shape of celebrities like Queen Elizabeth I or Lord Wellingtion the First. These were followed by outline cutters, made from a flat piece of bent wood like pear, walnut, or beech, with a cutting edge and handle.

Beginning in the 1600s, Dutch and German settler housewives in Pennsylvania were known for producing large batches of cookies around Christmastime. Their wide array of cookie shapes included doves, cockerels, human figures such as Belznickel (a pre-Santa character), and the bald eagle.

Pennsylvania Germans also brought their honey cakes, marzipan, and gingerbread to America. They patterned their cake dough and almond paste with “springerle” or hand-carved marzipan molds that are minor artworks in and of themselves. Cheaper handmade tin cutters were offered by rural tinsmiths in commons shapes of people, animals, stars, spades, and hearts. The more unusual the shape, the more collectible the cookie cutter, like those in the form of reindeer, mounted figures, and clowns.

Old tin can be identified from modern metals as it is relatively heavy and thick, usually darkened in color. These cutters make 3/4-inch to 1 1/8-inch deep cuts. The back of antique cutters are flat and may or may not have strap handles. Because tinsmiths tried to conserve every possible inch of metal they could, older backs are more or less cut to the shape of the cutting edge. These also have “air holes” or “push holes,” which helped detach the cookie dough from the cutter.

In the mid-19th century, metal cookie cutters were mass-produced, and by the mid-20th century, they were also made of plastic. Vintage cookie cutters from the last century may have handles made of wood, metal, or plastic. Aluminum cutters can date to 1900, but are far more common from the 1930s. Metal cookie cutters with “bullet” handles are especially sought after by collectors. In general, figurals like chickens and elephants tend to be more valuable than geometric shapes.

Cookie cutters in the shapes of the four suits of playing cards were often sold as sandwich cutters—which have deeper edges than regular cookie cutters—designed to add whimsy to a poker or bridge party. Some of the more clever cookie cutters, like the “In-Genia Rotating Cutter” from West Germany, made several different designs with one rotating tool.

In England, Tala first offered its pastry-cutter sets in the early 1930s in painted tins. These tins can be dated by their colors: In the 1930s, they came in pastels, while the o...

Plastic cutters from the 1940s make deep cuts and come in transparent red and green colors. Opaque plastic cutters didn’t really show up until the 1960s, and they tend to make shallower cuts. Shapes include Santas and bunnies for Christmas and Easter, popular cartoon characters, flags for the Fourth of July, and profiles of the Statue of Liberty. Licensed cookie cutters from more recent decades include Looney Tunes, Mario Brothers, Barbie, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Top American makers of cookie cutters are Ekco, Midwestern Home Products, and Hallmark, whose cutters from the late '70s and early '80s are relatively collectible.

Recently, collectors have gravitated toward plastic cutters that advertise businesses. The vintage American cutters are marked “Made in the U.S.A.,” while new ones are generally made in Hong Kong.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Feeding America

Feeding America

This archive of 76 influential American cookbooks from the late 1700s to early 1900s, assembled by the Michigan St… [read review or visit site]

Tupper Diva

Tupper Diva

Kristian McManus’ fresh, airtight collection of Tupperware catalogs and related ephemera from the 1950s and 6… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Strike Industries "cookie Cutter" Muzzle BrakeMartha Stewart Martha By Mail Set Of 3 Copper Snowflake Cookie Cutters In BoxHuge Early Old Tin Folky Large Heart Cookie Cutter Patina Aafa #1 Knob HandleEarly Old Tin Folky Heart Cookie Cutter Patina Aafa #4 Closed Flat BackAntique Primitive Pa Tin Cookie Cutter Eagle Flatback Spread Wings Folk ArtPrimitive Germany Soldered Tin Flat Back Santa & Christmas Tree Cookie CutterBrown Bag Cookie Paper Mold 2001 Scottie Dog - Rare Pristine Condition NwtHuge Early Old Tin Folky Large Heart Cookie Cutter Patina Aafa #2 Flat BackMartha Stewart By Mail Cookie Cutter Turkey And Pumpkin Set Original Box RetiredPrimitive Antique Early Cookie Cutters Lot Of 14Exceptional Rare Antique Crow Bird Cookie Cutter With Wooden Back..aafaHuge Early Old Tin Folky Large Heart Cookie Cutter Patina Aafa #3 19th CVintage Copper Cookie Cutter Flag Martha Stewart By MailStrike Industries "cookie Cutter" Muzzle BrakeLot Of 14 Vintage Jadeite Green Kitchen Utensils Rolling Pin, Cookie Cutters Martha Stewart By Mail Cookie Cutter Hearts Collection With Original BoxHeart Tea Coffee Cup Retired Copper Cookie Cutter By Simon's John Newton Coa NipHeart Tea Pot Copper Cookie Cutter By Simon's Retired Artist John Newton Coa NipVintage Antique Rare Tin Egg Baking Powder Advertising Biscuit Cooker CutterBrown Bag Cookie Paper Mold Shaker Tree Am Folk Art Series #6 Collectable Lot Of (4) Different Hallmark - Cookie Cutter Christmas Ornaments #1-4 - MibBunny Rabbit Easter Cookie Cutter Nut Tree Vacaville Hwy 40 ~ Made In Sweden~vtgBrown Bag Cookie Paper Mold 1995 Water Lily - Another Difficult To Find Brown Bag Cookie Mold 2002 Sea Shell - Another Difficult To Find , 1 Sold $150+Early Antique Tin Tinware Cookie Cutter EagleRailroad Train Locomotive Cookie Cutter Nut Tree Vacaville ~ Made In Sweden ~vtgVintage Cookie Cutters Aluminum Tin Animals Antique Tiny Small Chef Retro Lot Lot Of 17 Vintage Copper Cookie Cutters With Recipe Book Made By Mirro AluminumMartha Stewart Chubby Pumpkin Copper Cookie CutterBrown Bag Cookie Paper Mold Suffolk Sheep Am Folk Art #4 NwtBrown Bag Cookie Paper Mold Meadow Lark Am Folk Art Series #2 Jamberry Full Sheet Nail Wrap Classic Juniors Cookie Cutter Hearts & Blue PolkaAmerican Girl Accessories,5 Cookie Cutter Set W/ Cookies3 Pcs Dinosaur Cookies Cutter Biscuit Pastry Fondant Cake Decor Mold Mould Tool4pcs Car 3d Cookie Plunger Cutter Mold Set Biscuit Hand Baking MoldSpaceship Cookie Cutters - Lot Of 4 StylesClover Leaves Stainless Steel Chocolate Cookie Cutter Fondant Cake Mold Ice Cream Stainless Steel Cookie Cutter Cake Baking Mould Biscuit X'masMartha Stewart Buffalo Copper Cookie Cutter Martha By Mail 4.25" TallBrown Bag Cookie Paper Mold 1986 Walrus - Rare To Find NwtBrown Bag Cookie Paper Mold 1989 Rabbits Under A Tree In A Heart Brown Bag Cookie Paper Mold 1998 Teapot W/bees "second" NwtMartha Stewart By Mail Cookie Cutter Hatching BunnyMartha Stewart By Mail Cookie Cutter Barnyard Hen RetiredBrown Bag Cookie Paper Mold 1991 Dapple Horse Nwt4pcs Cake Biscuit Cutter Baking Mold Fondant Cake Chocolate Decoration Q5Sanrio Hello Kitty Cookie Biscuit Pastry Cutter Japan F/s Brown Bag Cookie Paper Mold Pooh Cut Apart For Paper Tags Disney Hard To Find6 Antique Primitive Cookie Cutters ~ Metal Tin Soldered Flat Back ~ Assorted LotLarge Martha Stewart Copper Cookie Cutter-hatching BunnyVintage Girl Scout Cookie CutterVintage Lot Hallmark Amscan Wilton St. Patrick's Day Cookie Cutters! 6 Different4pcs Cake Biscuit Cutter Baking Mold Fondant Cake Chocolate Decoration Q2Stainless Steel Cookie Cutter Cake Baking Mould Crown Pastry Diy Mould ☆Coloful Cake Cookie Mold Biscuit Maker Edge Cutter Fondant Biscuit 1set G1438Stainless Steel Cookie Cutter Cake Baking Mould Biscuit Diy Owl Mould♫Large Martha Stewart Copper Cookie Cutter-barnyard HenBrown Bag Cookie Paper Mold 1993 Cat W/heart Collar NwtBrown Bag Cookie Paper Mold 1990 Daffodil Heart - Like The Tulip Heart Hard FindBrown Bag Cookie Paper Mold 1994 Sun & Moon