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    

Tin Litho Wolverine Strawberry Toy Canisters + Cookie Cutters A & J Mixer DishesVintage D & E Spec Co Mickey Mouse Metal Cookie Cutter | 4.5" Wood Handle DisneyAmbassador Vintage Hallmark Number Set New Cookie Cutter Hard Plastic 4" 0-9!!!3 Tupperware Disney Cookie Cutters | Mickey Mouse Minnie Mouse Donald DuckVintage Pennsylvania Tin Cookie Cutter Angry Standing BearHuge Lot Of Cookie Cutters Euc And Color Mist Sprays! Christmas Fall Halloween!Brown Bag Paper Art Mold Koi Fish 1983 Hill Design Stoneware Cookie Cutter GucVintage Metal Snoopy D & E Spec Co Cookie Cutter | 4.75" Wood Handle PeanutsVintage D & E Spec Co Heart W/ Arrow Metal Cookie Cutter | 3.75" Wood HandleRare Camp Fire Girls Cooky Cutters Flame & Bird Wilton Quality Solid Copper Cookie Cutter's(set Of 5)ÀVintage D & E Spec Snoopy On Doghouse Cookie Cutter | Wood Handle 4.25" PeanutsOld Large Hallmark Peanuts Snoopy With Pumpkin Cookie CutterAntique Flatback Cat, Dog, And Flower Folk Art Cookie Cutters Primitive Vintage Penis Cookie Cutters/ Adult Cookie Cutters/ Bachelorette PartyWilton Comfort Grip Stocking Cookie Cutter Martha Stewart Copper Heart Cookie Cutter Huge, 8 Inches, By Michael BonneWilliams Sonoma Marvel Avengers Cookie CuttersAntique Primitive Tin Amish Man And Woman Cookie CuttersLarge Copper Cookie Cutter Giant Frankenstein Monster Halloween AutumnVintage Pennsylvania Tin Cookie Cutter Standing HorseDisney 1970's Retired Loma Pluto Donald Minnie Cookie CuttersAlphabet Letter Cookie Biscuit Fondant Cutter Set Cake Decorating 26pcs PlungerVintage Cooky And Donut Maker CutoutsHoupt Pastry/donut Long John Cutter 1 1/2 X 5 1/2Antique 19thc Tin Cookie Cake Cutter Pa. German Primitive Man Riding HorseLarge Metal Cookie Cutter Alphabet Set Martha Stewart Endless Possibilities!Antique Vintage Hansel And Gretel Cookie Cutter Set Christmas In BoxVintage Hallmark Scooby Doo Plastic Cookie Cutter Hanna-barbera 1978 Yellow DogWilton Comfort Grip 6 Cookie Cutters Lot Holiday Christmas Flower Butterfly BearGreat Lot Wilton & Other Cookie Cutters - New & UsedVintage 1950's Reddy Kilowatt Cookie Cutter In Box + Tiny Enamel Reddy PinLot Of 2 Vintage Mirro Cookie Presses 13 Disks & 2 Tips ~ 1 Copper ~ 1 Black3d Bear Toast Bread Sandwich Cookie Mold Cutter Gum Paste Mould Decorating ToolChristmas Cookie CuttersHuge Pewter Dish Set. Crown Castle, Wilton. 125 PieceLot Of 14 Baby Shower Themed Metal Cookie CuttersVintage Aluminum Metal Camel Shaped Cookie Cutter With HandleVintage Hallmark Disney Mickey Mouse Cookie Cutter - 3 1/2"Vtg Lg Glass Peter Pan Smooth Peanut Butter Jar 13 Vtg Aluminum Cookie CuttersWilton Comfort Grip Cookie Cutters Lot Of 4 Stainless Steel RubberAntique Metal Cookie CutterMickey Mouse Cookie Or Sandwich Crust Cutter Large Durable4 Wilton Cookie Cutters Nintendo Luigi Mario Spiny Koopa Troopa 1989 1 Bonus Wilton Plastic Cookie Cutter Vintage 1994~ Disney Winnie The Pooh ~ Eeyore1999 Play Doh On The Go Stoarge Container & Cookie Cutters/rolling Pin/ Scissors4"- Hot Air Balloon Cookie Cutter Tin New !!!!!8 Vintage Metal Cookie Cutters With Side Ridges Circle Spade Star Diamond & MoreHallmark Cookie Cutter, 1979, Black, Vintage "silly Halloween Cat" Vintage Lot Of 133 Small Metal Cookie Cutters Cake Making Fondant Christmas CraftLarge Marijuana/weed Pot Hemp Leaf Cookie/biscuit/pastry Cutter Stainless Lot Of Vintage Metal Cookie Cutters With Wooden HandlePorcelain & Wood Cake Pastry Cookie Cutter Butter Dough Mold Roller Scraper ToolVintage Plastic Cookie Cutters Wilton Set 40 Pcs. Cookie Doughnut Biscuit Cutters Gingerbread Men + Amish Dutch Boy & Girl NibHello Kitty Cookie Cutter(body Shape) Toast Maker Mold Snack Mould Cutter BentoTeapot Cup Clock Biscuit Shape 4 Different Design Plastic Cookie Cutter Stamp Alphabet Letter Cookie Biscuit Fondant Cutter Set Cake Decorating 26pcs PlungerUnused Pampered Chef Kid's Cookie Cutter Set Measuring Cups+recipe Cards+tote