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    

Brown Bag Cookie/craft Mold '03 Sleeping Fairy Rare - Hard To FindDisney Cookie Cutter Lot Tupperware Mickey Minnie Donald DaisyBrown Bag Cookie Art Mold - Shaker Tree - American Folk Art Series #6 - 19922017 Hallmark~ Cookie Cutter Through The Years Lot Of 6Pusheen Subscription Box Cookie Cutter From Pusheen Box Spring 2016Martha Stewart Copper Cookie Cutters Heart In Hand, Belfrey The Bat, & Wise OwlAntique Folk Art Eagle Tin Cookie CutterGive Peace Cookies A 2nd Chance! Vintage Handmade Cookie Cutter Tin - SignedChamilia 10 Charm Lot, Dog, Snowflake, Cookie, Shoe, Star, Hkiss, Murano GlassMartha Stewart By Mail Copper Cookie Cutter Barnyard HenEarly Antique Primitive Small Tin Cookie Cutter Heart Shape Folk Art Graduation Boy Girl Cap Gown Owl Diploma School Scroll Cookie CuttersVintage Cookie Cutter Lot Of 22 Green & Red Handles MetalLot Of 100~vintage Cookie Cutters~santa Witch Camel Star Boots +~christmas Tole Antique Soldered Tin Folk Art Cookie Cutter Running Rabbit Flat BackVintage Huge~large~hammered Copper Cat Cookie Cutter~well Made~very Nice~cute!!!23 Pc Lot Easy Bake Oven Accessories - Metal Pans Cookie Cutters Mixing CupsTropical Paradise Cookie Cutters, Set Of 4Lot Of 7 Vintage Aluminum Cookie Cutters..w/red & Green Knobs...l@@kTropical Paradise Cookie Cutters, Set Of 4Aunt Chick's Garden Set Cookie Cutters Red, 8 Total Tribal Cookie Cutter Set, Feather, Teepee, Dream Catcher, First Birthday, Boho 6 Vintage Antique Cookie CuttersAntique Early Old Tin Folky Heart Cookie Cutter Patina Aafa #1Antique Early Old Tin Folky Large Flower Sun Star Cookie Cutter Patina Aafa #3Vtg. Lot Kitchen Spatula, 2 Cookie CutterFreddy Krueger Cookie CutterVintage Lot Of Metal Cookie Cutters Lot, Primitive, AnimalsEight Vintage Cookie CuttersSnoopy Astronaut Cookie Cutter Peanuts CollectibleVintage Aluminum Biscuit Cookie Cutters - With Red Green Wood Handles LionVintage Cookie Cutters,over 50Oscar Cookie Cutter Copper Used Kitchen Collectables Omaha Ne UsaVintage Tupperware Cookie Cutters Pig Rabbit Turkey Lot Of 3Set Of 2 Love Sign Language Metal Cookie Cutters #nawk19Mickey Mouse Cookie Cutter House Stainless Steel Kitchen Baking Tools Home MadeRare Antique "old Salem" Farm Animal Pig Cookie Cutter2 Piece Nail Polish Lipstick Cookie Cutter Set Salon Spa CosmotologyWilton Cookie Cutter Set ~ Minnie & Mickey MouseSet Of 4 Vintage Metal Cookie Cutters Santa, Reindeer, Angel And Christmas TreeVintage Tupperware Red Canape Fondant Mini Cookie Cutter #730-3Chalkboard Plaque Cookie Cutters Wedding Place Are Biscuit Cutters - Set Of 3Wilton Summer Party/beach Time Cookie Cutter 3pc SetAntique Primitive Pa Tin Cookie Cutter Bird Dove Flatback 4 1/2" Dark TinDiy Ocean Seahorse Shell Cookie Cake Cutter Mold Biscuit Pastry Baking Mould HotVintage Lot Child Aluminum Kitchen 5 Pcs Play Set - Cookie Cutters & Baking PansAlligator Cookie Cutter !!!!!!!!4" Pineapple Metal Cookie Cutter Tropical #81015" Texas Cookie Cutter Southwest State #nc70124pcs Stainless Steel Dinosaur Shape Pastry Cookie Biscuit Cutter Cake Decor Mold5pcs/set Mickey Mouse Face Shape Stainless Steel Cookie Cutter Baking Mold ToolPlastic Baking Tool Dough Cookie Pie Pizza Pastry Lattice Roller Cutter Kitchen4pcs Set Poker Stainless Cake Cookie Cutter Mold Fondant Biscuit Baking Decor Mustache Stainless Steel Cookie Cutter Cake Baking Mould Biscuit X'mas ☆Halloween Cookie Cutters, Metal & Plastic And Ice Candy Molds, 12pc Set4pcs Cake Biscuit Cutter Baking Mold Fondant Cake Chocolate Decoration ToolMetal Silvertone 4" Maple Leaf Cookie Cutter 4 Stainless Steel Dinosaur Animal Cake Baking Mold Fondant Biscuit Cookie CutterAntique Pair Aluminum Round Biscuit Cookie Cutter, Vintage Circle Metal PressAlphabet Letter& Number Fondant Cookie Cutter Mold Chocolate Cake Embosser Mould