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    

Graniteware- Enamelware Early American Cookie CutterMartha Stewart By Mail Copper Cookie Cutters - Barnyard Hen Rooster ChickenMartha Stewart By Mail Copper Cat Breed Cookie Cutters Persian Aafa Antique Pennsylvania Tinsmith Tin Cookie Cutter Heart In Hand W/ Heart #16Halloween Fondant Cake Cookies Biscuit Cutter Mold Bat Vampire Cake Decor MouldPrimitive Antique Burl Wood Carved Biscuit Cutter? Martha Stewart Copper The Man In The Moon Large Cookie Cutter 6.25"Large Martha Stewart Copper Cookie Cutter My Heart In Your Hand - Discontinued3color Journey To The West Cookie Cutters Sugarcraft Tools Fondant Cake MoldRare Martha Stewart By Mail 5 Copper Dog Cookie Cutters BiscuitWilton Comfort Grip Diamond Shape Cookie Cutter Retired Rare Stainless SteelDiy Letters Alphabet Mould Symbols Number Cookie Cake Cutter Mold Tool Kitgbng4pcs/set Snow Man Fondant Cake Cupcake Plunger Mold Cookie Biscuit Cutter Tools4pcs/set Leaves Fondant Cake Cookie Plunger Sugarcraft Cutter Tools Diy MoldMartha Stewart Copper Large Cookie Big Heart ValentineVintage Reddy Kilowatt Dining PlateAntique Large Tin Soldered Back Folk Art ~rooster~ Cookie Cutter Use Or DisplayVintage Santa Cookie/pastry/biscuit Cutters Aluminum Wooden HandlePopular Plastic Kitchen Bakery Tool Cookie Pie Pastry Lattice Roller Cutter4pcs/set Cookie Plunger Fondant Cake Sugarcraft Muld Cutter Chocolate Tools4x/set Snow White Multicolor Fondant Cake Craft Cookie Plunger Mold Tools Cutter4x/set Snow White Multicolor Fondant Cake Craft Cookie Plunger Mold Tools CutterWinnie Shapes Biscuit/cookie/cake/jelly Metal Cutter Tin Mould Baking Diy ToolAmerican Girl Christmas Cookies And Cookie CuttersAntique Primitive Tin Cookie Cutter Double Tulip Handmade Folk Art PaWonderful 19th C. Antique 2 3/4 " Tin Cat Cookie Cutter4.5" Vintage Peanuts Christmas Cookie Cutter Set Snoopy Charlie Brown Linus Lucy4pcs/set Leaves Fondant Cake Cookie Plunger Sugarcraft Cutter Tools Diy Mold4x/set Christmas Multicolor Xmas Party Cookie Biscuit Plunger Cutter Mold ToolsNoah's Ark Cookie Cutter Kit Set Copper Animals In Original Box PapersRare Vintage Heart Cookie Cutter Nut Tree Made In Sweden Jumbo Size 5x4 1/2 InVintage Reddy Kilowatt Salad PlateMartha Stewart By Mail Copper Cookie Cutters - Barnyard Hen Rooster ChickenMalamute/husky Cookie CutterVintage Lot Of 16 Metal Cookie Cutters26pcs Purple Alphabet Letters Fondant Plastic Cake Cookie Cutters ToolBiscuit Cookie Cutter Press Cake Mould Alphabet Letter Number And SlatsFruit (colours) Fondant Cake Cookie Biscuit Plunger Cutter Tools Toppers Moulds5pcs Heart Metal Biscuit Cake Cookies Candy Muffin Mold Cutter Baking M17Cute Alphabet Letter Number Fondant Cake Biscuit Cookie Cutter Mold Set 10pcs 4pcs/set Easter Multicolor Cookie Cupcake Biscuit Gum Pastry Plunger Mold Cutter4pcs/set Baby Carriage Fondant Cake Sugarcraft Mold Cookie Party Plunger Cutter4pcs/set Multicolor Message Fodant Cake Gum Pastry Plunger Cookie Mold Cutter3pcs Diy Flower Shape Chocolate Fondant Cake Biscuit Cutter Mold Kitchen ToolsAluminum Vtg Kitchen Utensils Funnel Press Shaker Grater Biscuit Cookie CutterWestern Themed Copper Cookie CuttersAntique Primitive Tin Cookie Cutter Handmade Pa Dutch Vintage Plastic M G M Cookie Cutters,cartoon Figures,tom And Jerry,droopy,etcSmall 4 " Metal Christmas Cookie Cutters Set Of 20 .Easy Bake Oven Accessories Pusher Cookie Cutters Pop Tarts Snack Truffles MixesRetired Wilton Comfort Grip Tulip Metal Cookie Cutter!Wilton Rubber Comfort Grip Stainless Steel Pumpkin Halloween Ghost Cookie CutterWilton Rubber Comfort Grip Christmas Tree Gingerbread Man Cookie Cutters Vintage Hrm Red Plastic Girl Scout Brownie Cookie CutterWilliam Somoma Dinosaur Cookie Cutters In Carrying Case4pcs/set Elmo Cookie Biscuit Plunger Fondant Cake Cupcake Craft Mold Cutter ToolAvon 2nd Annul Christmas Tree Pin Brooch 2005 Cookie Cutter Cut/out RhinestoneDog Pug Cookie Cutter Puppy Logo 2.5 Inches, RedAtomade Dog Pug Cookie Cutter Puppy Logo 2.5 Inches Original Designed, Green Stainless Eiffel Tower Kitchen Cake Decor Cookie Jelly Fondant Cutter Mold Mould