We know spring lies just around the corner when eggs, rabbits, baskets, candy containers, small porcelain figures and other Easter collectibles start hitting shelves. For the curious, the word “Easter” comes from “Eostre,” a goddess of spring whose festival was celebrated in April. It wasn’t until 325 A.D. that the Council of Nicaea set the first Sunday after the full moon appearing on or after March 21 as the date to celebrate Easter. This year it falls on April 21.
European immigrants brought traditions with them to the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, including the concept of an egg-laying rabbit. By the late 1800s, the tradition of children hunting for hidden Easter eggs had taken root – 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes hosted the first official White House egg roll in 1878 – and American companies made all kinds of Easter keepsakes to profit from the holiday.
Easter items such as vases, plates, candy containers, toys, baskets, puzzles and decorative eggs typically featured images of children, rabbits, chicks, flowers, and other themes of springtime. These objects often depicted animals celebrating the holiday as any middle-class American might: shopping for eggs, eating a meal or sending packages to their loved ones.
The most popular Easter items are from Germany, made during the Victorian period through the 1950s. Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom have also produced collectible items dating prior to 1960 that are of interest to many collectors.
Items such as toy rabbits or “hares,” celluloid candy containers and small porcelain figurines that feature Easter themes and are well-marked with the country of origin are popular. Most value-conscious collectors are looking for items produced after 1930 that are cute and affordable.
The early German pieces dating from the turn of the last century are difficult to find. If you have a paper mâché rabbit container with a removable head, it could easily sell for $100. If your rabbit happens to be standing on four legs pulling a cart filled with vintage eggs, you could triple that figure.
Most people have a plastic Japanese rabbit or bunny or a tin egg left over from their childhood stashed away in a collectible memory box. Others have mid-century glass rabbit candy containers, eggs, post cards, or even a special pamphlet from Sunday school that might be worth a few dollars.
However, the most popular and plentiful item on a collector’s shelf is the egg, the symbol of fertility and new life. There are literally thousands of dyed, etched, painted, carved, wax, glass, metal, jeweled and crystal eggs for a collector.
The egg wins hands down as the most popular item on a collector’s shelf. I bet you have at least one lying around that is special to you.
— Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write Ask the Appraisers, c/o Jeffrey Pearson; 5525 North 12th St., Phoenix, AZ 85014.