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    

Antique Soldered Primitive Tin Cookie Cutter Reindeer Deer Vintage Kitchen OldGraniteware- Enamelware Early American Cookie CutterAntique Soldered Primitive Tin Cookie Cutter Lg Turkey Bird Vintage Kitchen OldMartha Stewart By Mail Copper Cookie Cutters - Barnyard Hen Rooster ChickenAntique Soldered Tin - Flat Back Cookie Cutter - Stag / Reindeer! - 19th Cen.Primitive Tin Cookie Cutter Antique Soldered 5 -1/2" Person Late 1800's KitchenAntique Soldered Primitive Tin Cookie Cutter Peacock Bird Chick Vintage KitchenAntique Multi Pattern Christmas One Piece Tin Cookie Cutter- 11 Inch OvalNice! Antique Early Pa Tin Flatback Squirrel Cookie CutterVintage Martha Stewart Copper Cookie Cutter Set Noah's Ark #2 Martha By MailVintage Aluminum Cookie Cutters W/red Handles ( Lot Of 8 )49 Pc Vintage Red Aluminum Childs Cookie Cutter Tiny Pressure Cooker Green Set 3color Journey To The West Cookie Cutters Sugarcraft Tools Fondant Cake MoldMartha Stewart By Mail Copper Cat Breed Cookie Cutters Persian Martha Stewart Copper Large Cookie Big Heart ValentineMore Antique Flatback Cookie Cutters LotAafa Antique Pennsylvania Tinsmith Tin Cookie Cutter Heart In Hand W/ Heart #16Vintage Scooby Doo Cookie Cutter -nip- 19783pcs Cute Diy Holly Leaf Cupcake Cookie Fondant Cake Decor Plunger Cutter Mold9p Digital Diy Stainless Steel Chocolate Cake Candy Ice Soap Mold Cookie Cutters4pcs Stainless Steel Round Circle Fondant Cake Cookie Cutter Baking Mold #tbPr Of Vtg Primitive Soldered Tin Cookie Cutters May Have Had Handles "a" & FishVtg Primitive Tin - Flat Back Cookie Cutter - Rooster -pennsylvania Dutch DesignMartha Stewart Copper The Man In The Moon Large Cookie Cutter 6.25"12x Stainless Steel Cake Cookie Egg Fondant Mould Mold Sugarcraft Cutter Xmas1pcs Plastic Baking Tool Diy Cookie Pie Pizza Pastry Lattice Roller Cutter Craft4x/set Snow White Multicolor Fondant Cake Craft Cookie Plunger Mold Tools CutterRare Martha Stewart By Mail 5 Copper Dog Cookie Cutters BiscuitAntique Soldered Primitive Tin Cookie Cutter Goose Swan Bird Vintage Kitchen OldPrimitive Tin Cookie Cutter Antique Soldered Christmas Tree Made In Germany OldVintage Reddy Kilowatt Dining PlateAmerican Girl Christmas Cookies And Cookie CuttersMy Little Kitchen Fairies Cookie Cutter 2002Primitive Tin Cookie Cutter Antique Soldered Clown Or Cowboy Person Late 1800'sPrimitive Antique Burl Wood Carved Biscuit Cutter? 4.5" Vintage Peanuts Christmas Cookie Cutter Set Snoopy Charlie Brown Linus LucyBone Dog Stainless Baking Sugar Cake Biscuit Cookie Cutter Decoration Mould MoldPampered Chef Cut-n-seal Biscuit Cutter. Cookie Plunger3pcs Flower Arts Set Fondant Biscuit Sugar Cake Tools Mold Cookie Cutter4pcs Quadrilateral Biscuit Sugar Arts Set Fondant Cake Tools Mold Cookie CutterAntique Primitive Tin Cookie Cutter Double Tulip Handmade Folk Art PaLot 29 Vintage Metal Tin Cookie Cutters Christmas Holloween Lion Horse CamelMartha Stewart By Mail Copper Cookie Cutters - Barnyard Hen Rooster ChickenMalamute/husky Cookie CutterCute Alphabet Letter Number Fondant Cake Biscuit Cookie Cutter Mold Set 10pcs Halloween Fondant Cake Cookies Biscuit Cutter Mold Big Bat Batman Vampire Mould!Popular Plastic Kitchen Bakery Tool Cookie Pie Pastry Lattice Roller Cutter4pcs/set Elmo Cookie Biscuit Plunger Fondant Cake Cupcake Craft Mold Cutter ToolVintage Reddy Kilowatt Salad PlateSnoopy Cookie Cutter LotWilton Comfort Grip Diamond Shape Cookie Cutter Retired Rare Stainless SteelAntique Primitive Tin Cookie Cutter Handmade Pa DutchAntique Soldered Tin - Flat Back Cookie Cutter - Bell, Liberty - 19th CenturyVintage Santa Cookie/pastry/biscuit Cutters Aluminum Wooden HandleMickey Mouse And Minnie Mouse Baking Biscuit Cookie Cutter Metal Set 53426pcs Purple Alphabet Letters Fondant Plastic Cake Cookie Cutters ToolWilton Wedding Shower Cookie Cutter SetFive Wilton Leaf Bell House Egg And Clover Comfort-grip Cookie CutterRound Circle Baking Sugar Cake Biscuit Cookie Cutter Decoration Mould MoldRare Vintage Heart Cookie Cutter Nut Tree Made In Sweden Jumbo Size 5x4 1/2 In