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    

Egg Baking Powder Advertising Tin Biscuit Cookie Cutter Antique Kitchen Sign JarAntique Garland Stoves Ranges Advertising Cookie Cutter Pressed Tin MetalNice Antique Primitive Tin Cookie Cutter Crimped Edge, Heart, Pa Folk ArtMartha Stewart Copper Cookie Cutters X-large Special Occasion Perfect Cup Of TeaLot Of 10 Early Antique Primitive Pennsylvania Tin Cookie CuttersMartha Stewart Large Copper Cookie Cutters Little House & Oh Christmas Tree 7"1800s Tin Double Pastry Cookie Doughnut Biscuit Cutter Antique EarlyVtg 7pc Christmas Cookie Cutter Set | Brandy Bottle Angel Reindeer Gift Holly +Vintage Gingerbread Woman & Man Cookie Cutters | Hard Plastic 3" No IdVtg Aunt Chick's Cowboy & Angel Cookie Cutters | W/directions Marbled PlasticWilton Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Cookie Cutter Set AuctionEstate Lot Of 38 Primitive Pa Dutch Folk Art Antique Flat Back Cookie CuttersRare Lrg 8.5" Antique Primitive Tin Heart Flatback Cookie Cutter 19thc Pa Dutch 4 Vtg Quaker/religious Family/amish Tin Cookie Cutters | Mum Dad Child & GiantHallmark Ornament Collectors Club Train Cookie Cutter | 1989 Black Variant 3 3/82 Vtg Animal Cookie Cutters | Cow & Pig Hard Red Plastic No IdRanger Bud's Baby Sasquatch Cookie Cutter | Burgerville 2004 Nw Adventures 3"Quickutz Nutmeg Classic Complete Cookie Cutter Alphabet SetLot Of Vintage Aluminum Copper Plastic Tin Cookie Cutter Cutters Dixie Crystals Marvel Comics Cookie Cutters Avengers Captain America Hulk Iron Man Spider ManAntique Group Of Flour Sifters Weighters Biscuit Cutters & More Kitchenware ToolVintage "three Little Bunnies" Aluminum Cookie Cutters Lot Of 3 Adorable3 Vtg Gingerbread Man Cookie Cutters | Mirro & Enterprise Aluminum 6"3d Rose Flower Fondant Cake Cookie Chocolate Mold Cutter Modelling Tools F0130Seashell 3d Fondant Cake Cookie Sugarcraft Chocolate Plunger Cutter Tools MouldMinecraft Cookie Cutters *set Of 5*Wilton Crinkle Square Black Comfort Grip Cookie Cutter6pc Animal Cookie Cutter Lot | Puppy Mouse Frog Bunny Rabbit Lion Pig4 Hallmark Cookie Cutters/shapers | Oak Leaf Hippo Snowman Gingerbread WomanVintage,tin Pastry Cutters, 4 Sets Nested In Canisters, Jb Prince, Matfer, AtecoBob The Builder Cookie Cutter | 2001 Hit/kchapman 3.5" Blue PlasticOne Smart Cookie Star Cookie Cutter | 4.35" X 4.5" Yellow Plastic Rectangle GripPrimitive Antique Small 2- Piece Rolling Pin/ Cookie Cutter ~salesman Sample?Vintage Mirro Cookie Press, Recipe Book, And AttachmentsM&m's Baking Set Pot Holders Spatula Measuring Spoon Cookie CutterVintage Bell Commercial Cookie Cutter, MetalVintage Fox Run Nutcracker Soldier Cookie Cutter | In Box 7.5" X 4 3/8" X 15/16"Gingerbread Man W/heart Cookie Cutter | 3.5" Hard Red Plastic Trapezoid GripCartoon Robot Cookie Cutter | 3" Yellow Plastic No Id6 Wilton & Ekco Cookie Cutters | House Roller Skate Spade Tooth Apple Maple Leaf9 Martha Stewart Martha By Mail Copper Cookie Cutter Noah's Ark #1 Animal SetWilton Comfort Grip Stainless Steel Wedding Tier Cake Cookie Cutter DiscontinuedHammer Song/b.cukla Tulip Heart Cookie Cutter/tin/ Limited RunVintage Kenner Easy Bake Oven, 4 Pans,spatula, Bunny Cookie Cutter LotWilton Cookie Cutters -teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles- Turtle And Throwing Star10 Vintage Candy/cookie CuttersVintage Mirro 16 Piece Cookie Pastry Press M-0358-22Antique Tin Cookie Cutter - Pa Dutch TulipsStonerware Marijuana Pot Leaf Cookie CutterVintage Cookie Cutter With 5 Interchangeable Cutters Made In SwedenBest 10pcs Number Plastic Fondant Cake Cookie Cutter Set Birthday Diy Mold #tbVintage Aluminum " Star " Cookie Cutter W/ Red HandleKermit The Frog Cookie Cutter Hallmark Be Mine Valentines Vtg 1980s Hard Plastic1930’s Tin And Green Wood Handled Cookie Or Biscuit CutterAnimal Giraffe Cookie Biscuit Cutter Cake Pastry Bread Mould Mold Baking ToolsMarie Cat Cookie Cutters Fondant Cake Sugarcraft Cut Out Chocolate Gum Mold ToolLovely Flower Cookie Cutter Biscuit Fondant Sugarcraft Molds Metal Cooking ToolsMartha By Mail Noah's Ark Copper Cookie Cutter Kit Set #1Vintage Witch Commercial Cookie Cutter, MetalVintage Snoopy Charlie Brown Peanuts Play-doh/cookie Cutters