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    

Martha Stewart Martha By Mail Seashore Copper Cookie Cutter Set In BoxDewalt Dw682 Corded Biscuit Cutter With Case In Very Good ConditionMartha Stewart Martha By Mail Diamond Copper Cookie Or Biscuit Cutter Set In BoxMartha Stewart Martha By Mail Eggs Copper Cookie Cutter Set In BoxMartha Stewart Martha By Mail Alphabet Cookie Cutter Set Complete With BoxMartha Stewart Martha By Mail Hearts Copper Cookie Cutter Set In BoxMartha Stewart Martha By Mail Square Cookie Or Biscuit Cutter Nesting Set In BoxMartha Stewart Martha By Mail Round Cookie Or Biscuit Cutter Nesting Set In BoxMartha Stewart Martha By Mail Baby Copper Cookie Cutter Set In BoxMartha Stewart Martha By Mail Patriotic Copper Cookie Cutter SetMartha Stewart Martha By Mail Victorian Ornaments Copper Cookie Cutter SetMartha Stewart Martha By Mail Beautiful Bugs Copper Cookie Cutter Set In BoxVintage Antique Metal Cookie Cutters Deer Signed K. DunwoodyVintage Martha Stewart By Mail The Man In The Moon Copper Cookie Cutter - Wow!Vintage Springerle Cookie Mold Press 4 3/8" X 7 7/8" Metal On Wood BlockAntique Unique Primative Tin Double Heart Cookie Cutter C 1850 AafaMartha Stewart Martha By Mail Butterfly Cookie Cutter Set In Box5 Large Old Tin Cookie Cutters Hand And EagleAntique Garland Stoves And Ranges Tin Cookie CutterVintage Antique Metal Cookie Cutter Angel Signed "k. Dunwoody"Huge Vintage Tin Heart W/ Tulips Flatback Cookie Cutter Folk Art Signed DatedSweet Primitive Vtg Metal Tin Tree W Heart Cookie Cutter! Lot Of 30 Large Size Copper Color Cookie Cutters Kitchen CollectablesLot 64 Cookie Cutters Holiday Christmas Halloween Valentine Wilton Hallmark SoftLot Of 18 Vintage Metal Cookie Cutters Green Red Wood Knob Handle + More16pcs/set Love Stainless Fondant Cake Cookie Cutter Sugarcraft Decor Mold MouldVintage 1940's Set 5 Plastic Circus Cookie Cutters Elephant Clown Camel Donkey12 Vintage Aluminum Red & Green Wood Handle Cookie Pastry CuttersAntique Primative Tin Heart Cookie Cutter C 1850 AafaAntique Christmas Tree Cookie Cutter-6 Inches TallVintage Bunny Commercial Cookie Cutter By D&e Spec. Sweet Primitive Vtg Metal Tin Sheep / Lamb Cookie Cutter! Lot Of 54 Antique/vintage Aluminum Cookie Cutters Christmas/scottie/witch + MoreMartha Stewart For Macy*s Cookie Cutter Set - GardenMichael Bonne Copper Cookie Cutter Ice SkateWilton Animal Pals 50-piece Cookie Cutter SetDaiso Japan Stainless Steel Cookie Cutter 3pcs Set Squirrel, Dog & Cat F/s Large Handmade 7 1/2" Chicken Cookie Cutter Or Wall HangerMartha Stewart For Macy*s Cookie Cutter Set - NumbersVintage 1960's Cookie Biscuit Cutter Lot Santa Heart Clover Aluminum Wood HandleTin Cookie Cutter W/handle-bird-vintage/antique-folk Art-rural PaVintage Wilton Disney Mickey Mouse Cookie Cutter-metal-full BodyMichael Bonne Copper Cookie Cutters Giant Starfish And LighthouseVintage Hrm Nursery Rhymes Cookie Cutter Solid Blue Christmas TreeVintage Retro 1970s Dr Oetker Boxed Plastic Animal Cookie Cutters Near MintTin 12 In 1 Vintage Cookie Cutter Christmas MotifVintage Aluminum And Tin Pastry Cookie Cutters, Biscuit Cutters, 56 PiecesVintage Child's Toy Cooking Utensils & Cookie Cutters(7 Pieces) Little Fox Cookie Cutter9p Digital Diy Stainless Steel Chocolate Cake Candy Ice Soap Mold Cookie CuttersVintage Mirro Cooky Cookie & Pastry Press 12 DiscsDisney Snow White & 7 Dwarfs Prince Queen Cookie Cutters Or Play-doh Playset Vintage Turkey Cookie Cutter Nutree Made In SwedenOld Vintage Chocolate Cookie Cutter Candy Half Molds Tin Metal Lot Of 22Vintage Small Bunny Rabbit Tin A & J Cookie Cutter Green Wood Handle KnobAntique Primitive 3.25x1.38 In.tin Running Rabbit Cookie CutterSet Of 4 Australian Themed Cookie Cutters Crocodile, Kangaroo, Koala, AustraliaVintage Halloween Trick Or Treat Cookie Cutters In Original BoxAntique Vintage Transogram Rooster Chicken Cutter | 2 1/8" X 2 1/8" Yellow Metal 2- U.s. Handmade Farm Animal Wooly Sheep Standing Lamb Cookie Cutter Cutters