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 By Mail Abc Alphabet Copper Cookie CuttersMartha Stewart By Mail Vintage Blooming Flower Copper Cookie Cutter CollectionVintage Antique Tin Cookie Cutter - Running HorseAntique Pennsylvania Handmade Tin Woodpecker Cookie Cutter Great Detail LargeMartha Stewart Copper Cookie Cutters Winter Birds Cardinal Rare HtfHoge Lot Play-doh 150+ Food/cookie Cutters/tools/playsets+Antique Tin Dove Cookie CutterVintage Antique Tin Cookie Cutter - Folk Lady GirlAntique/primitive Tin Girl Gingerbread Cookie CutterAntique Pennsylvania Handmade Tin Elephant Cookie Cutter Great Detail LargeMartha By Mail Holiday 1997 Catalog Martha Stewart Cookie Cutters Food OrnamentsMartha Stewart Large Copper Cookie Cutter - Sugar SquirrelVintage Antique Tin Cookie Cutter - Folk Art HandMakita Plate Joiner Model 3901 Biscuit Cutter In Hard CaseLot Of 15 Wilton Comfort Grip Cookie Cutters Halloween Easter Christmas SpringAntique Pennsylvania Handmade Tin Pig Hog Cookie Cutter Great Detail Large2 1/16" Perfect Cookie Cutter Marion Florida Indian Fossil Chert ArrowheadAntique/primitive Tin Girl Gingerbread Cookie CutterTransogram Animal Cookie CuttersMartha Stewart Large Copper Cookie Cutter - Little HouseMartha Stewart Large Copper Cookie Cutter - Prancing ReindeerAntique Heart Old Miniature Deep Tin Cookie Cutter Vintage Canape Biscuit12 Vintage Red Green Handle Cookie Cutters Coffee Adv. T-pot Tea Strainer & MoreVintage Advertsing 1971 Betsy Mccall Pub Co Cookie Cutter/orig Plastic/w/ RecipeHuge Easter " Hatching Bunny" Solid Copper Cookie Cutter, Martha Stewart's BunnyVintage Set Of 12 Childrens Aluminum Animals Child's Old Toy Cookie Cutters1989 Brown Bag Stoneware Cookie Art/craft Cutter/mold - CowSet Of Four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cookie CuttersVintage Martha Stewart By Mail Barnyard Hen Copper Cookie Cutter - Wow!Vintage Metal Cookie Cutters/large Lot Of 111 Cutters/nice & CleanLot Of 27 Vintage Aluminum Cookie Cutters Red Green Handles23 Piece Ateco Square Oval Fluted And Non-fluted Cookie Cutter Sets1996 - Brown Bag Stoneware Cookie Art/craft Cutter/mold - Heart In Hand2pcs Cartoon 3d Mickey And Minnie Mouse Cookie Biscuit Fondant Cake Cutter MoldVintage Antique Tin Cookie Cutter - Pig / HogVtg Antique Tin Cookie Cutter Lot (4) Primitive Goose, Chicken, Pig, Dog20 Tin Cookie Cutters Kangaroo, Dolphin, Dinosaur, Tulip Flower, Eagle & OthersAntique Tin Bird Cookie CutterLot 9 Easter Metal Cookie Cutters Bunny Tulip Egg Hearts Butterfly Cutter WiltonVintage Martha Stewart By Mail The Man In The Moon Copper Cookie Cutter - Wow!Vintage Loma Prince Charming Cookie Cutter | On Card Walt Disney Red Clear Plast Antique Tin Mold Fleur De Lis Wheat Maple Butter Cookie Cutter Vintage 1950s Aunt Chick's Happy Days Cookie Cutters W Original Box . Four Mcb'sVintage Aluminum Cookie Cutters 6 Green & Red Handles 4 Wood HandlesVintage Aluminum Cookie Cutters 50 + 3 MoldsVintage Made In Germany Tin Cookie Cutters Halloween Easter #304 & #115 Lot RareLot-e 54 Piece Vintage 1900's Tin Cookie Cutters~jello Molds~no Reserve AuctionWilton Comfort Grip Cookie Cutters - Flowers, Tulip, Butterfly, StarVintage Childs Aluminum Plastic Tin Cookware Bake Set Cookie Cutters Bowl Sheets3 Greenfield Village Whale Tin Cookie CuttersLot Of 13 Hallmark Cookie Cutters Easter Apple Butterfly Sunbonnet Sue Boy Girl16pc Wilton Spring Holiday Cookie Baking Kit Cutters, Easter, Bunny,tulips,eggs3 Vintage Tin Cookie Cutters W/red Wood HandlesVintage Kenmore Man Cookie Cutter. Get More Save More With Kenmore. No Reserve!Vintage Antique Tin Cookie Cutter - Stocking / LegStainless Steel Wilton Comfort Grip Pink Easter Bunny Rabbit Cookie Cutter Dinosaur Cookie Cutter Set With Storage TinVintage Tin Biscuit Cookie Cutter Childs Cup Calico Pot HolderWilton "easter Treats" Cookie CuttersVintage Hallmark 1981 Smiling Easter Egg W Bow Cookie Cutter!