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    

1988 Brown Bag Stoneware Art/craft Cookie Cutter/mold - Halloween Witch Cat NwtMartha By Mail Halloween Cookie Cutter Set Ii 2 Original Box 7 Cutters BookletMartha By Mail Halloween Cookie Cutter Set 1 Original Box, 7 Cutters, BookletVtg 1950s Walt Disney's Alice In Wonderland Cookie Cutter On Card Nip Moc * 1951Set Of 12 - Martha Stewart - Hearts Cookie Cutter Collection - Copper3 Pcs Dinosaur Cookies Cutter Biscuit Pastry Fondant Cake Decor Mold Mould ToolOld River Road Copper Handle Cookie Cutter Large Reindeer Christmas KitchenVintage Martha Stewart Copper Star Light Star Bright Cookie CutterHallmark 2016 Cookie Cutter Christmas Ornament 2 Pampered Chef Cut-n-seal 3 & 4” Crimpers Biscuit Cutters Lot Of 2 EucPro Cookie Clever Cutter 2-in-1 Knife & Cutting Board Scissors As Seen On Tv UsDiy 26pcs Biscuit Cake Mold Cutter Letters Alphabet Shape Mould Fondant CookieVintage Cookie Cutters Mirro Bridge Club Spades Hearts Diamond Poker *sealed BagLot 26 Vintage Folk Art Tin Aspic & Hors D'oeuvre Cookie Cutter Molds Grater YqzLot Of 17 Wilton Metal Halloween Cookie CuttersVintage Hallmark Halloween Snoopy Pumpkin Plastic Cookie Cutter PeanutsFlying 5" Witch Blue Metal Cookie Cutter Halloween Black Wood Handle R-10Birthday Card *girl Bakes Gingerbread Man Cookie* Cutter Attached + Recipe!Vintage Tin Tinsmith Made Homemaker Maid Serving Cookie Cutter1 Set Flower Lace Fondant Cookie Cutter Plunger Press Tool Cake Mold DecorationStrike Industries Cookie Cutter CompCookie Cutter Muzzle BrakeVintage 4 1/2 Inch "shoe Of St. Nicholas For St. Marks" Tin Cookie Cutter Dated?Old River Road Santa's Sleigh Copper Cookie CutterCopper Mighty Acorn Cookee Cutter Large Or Christmas Bell Or Wedding BellAntique Primitive Nesting Tin Cookie Biscuit Cutter Heart Corrugated 3 Sizes Vintage Snowflake Cookie Cutter By W. Roberts Tin/metal Soldered Back & HandleVintage Hallmark Cookie Cutters Bunnies, Lamb, Flowers & 2 Pins Disney Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs Play-doh Molds Playdough Cookie CuttersAntique Heavy Tin "c. R. Laderach" Signed Club-shaped Cookie CutterNip "off The Beaten Path" Sew Special "foose" Cookie Cutter Set! Recipe Too!25 Vintage Tin Aluminum Christmas Cookie Cutters Plus OthersCopper Fleur De Lys Cookie CutterVintage 1972 Signed By Artist Ccr Silver Metal Gingerbread Man Cookie Cutter PinJurassic Park Dinosaur Fondant Cake Cookie Cutter Biscuit Baking Mould Mold 5pcs Cloud Shape Fondant Sugarcraft Cake Cutter Plunger Pastry Cookie Mold1x Animal Giraffe Cookie Biscuit Cutter Cake Pastry Bread Mould Mold Baking ToolDiy Fondant Sugarcraft Cake Rose Flower Paste Decor Tool Mold Cookie Gum CutterVintage Martha Stewart Copper Star Light Star Bright Cookie CutterVintage Rare B Cukla Cookie Cutters..american Tin Hand & SheepPampered Chef 3" Cut N Seal Cutter Crimper - Dough Pasta CookieChristmas Cookie Cutters Vintage Red Usa, Nativity SetSet Of 4 Peanuts Plastic Cookie Cutter Charlie Brown Lucy Linus & Snoopy6 Miniature Halloween Cookie Cutters R&m 1997 In TinVintage Tin Smoking Pipe Flat Back Cookie Cutter Reminiscent Of MagritteNip Disney Mickey Mouse Metal Cookie Cutters! Face Hand & Star! Vintage Tin And Copper Cookie Cutters Lot Vintage Cookie Biscuit Cutter Metal Scallop Edge Handles6 Pack Pastry Round Cutters Biscuit Cookie 10cm 9cm 8cm 7cm And 6cm Diameter4pcs Cake Fondant Lace Cutter Mold Sugarcraft Cookie Edge Frill Plunger Baking 8 Vintage Hand Made Cookie Cutters, Antique 19th Century Tinware, Primitives Rare Gumby Cookie Cutter Prema Toy Co. Domino Sugar 1997 Vintage Tin 19th C. 3" Star Cookie Cutter Pennsylvania Soldered 1 Vent HoleMixed Lot Of 8 Round Cookie Press Cookie Cutters ~ Santa, Bat, Star, SnowflakeVintage Hrm Pink Plastic Cookie Cutter Turkey Pink Crown Vintage Kitchen RareAluminum Vintage Girl Scout Soap Box, Collapsible Cup & Cookie CutterDonut Hole Cutter 5 Hole Rochow Of Rochester, Ny 14610Ant. Primitive Pa Tin Cookie Cutter Flatback Man Boy Folk ArtLot 3 Vtg Hallmark Cookie Cutter Fall Leaves/leaf Maple/oak & Mini! Antique Soldered Tin Cookie Cutter American German Rare Lot Of 5