Claire M. Lavin “Timeless Halloween Collectibles: 1920-1949” (2005). Vintage Beistle reference guide.

Lavin’s Beistle Book

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Beistle’S Vintage Halloween

It is the way of the world – some things just get more volume while others exist far from the maddening roar. Yet, speaking personally, it is often those quieter places where one finds the most amazing treasure, and this seems to hold true for contemporary survey books on the topic of vintage Halloween collectibles. While one or other reference may have more notoriety, another less boisterously celebrated reference is more important over the long term. This appears to be the case with a 2005 guide which perhaps some are less familiar. This is “Timeless Halloween Collectibles: 1920-1949” by Claire M. Lavin, that together with Truwe’s catalog book, holds a lofty position among references for this archivist, librarian, and author/publisher of The Halloween Retrospect,

Claire M. Lavin “Timeless Halloween Collectibles: 1920-1949”  (2005). Vintage Beistle reference guide.

Above: Claire M. Lavin “Timeless Halloween Collectibles: 1920-1949” (2005) is still available (and affordable) from Schiffer Publishing and other vendors. This image comes from the shelves of The Halloween Retrospect archive library, that by second-hand fortuity was signed on 11/04 (somehow earlier than its copyright date).

Claire M. Lavin’s “Timeless Halloween Collectibles: 1920-1949” is a bit of an amazing feat in the world of guidebooks to this very day, even as it approaches its 20th anniversary. This is because, unlike other survey books, this one focuses on the output of a single company – The Beistle Co. of Shippensburg, PA – still in operation ( In fact, though not obvious on the cover, the book is subtitled A Halloween Reference Book from The Beistle Company Archive with Price Guide, and contains some great data from Beistle including (as per Schiffer Publishing’s description), “stock number, initial release year, and object’s proper name, […] taken directly from holiday sales catalogs and interspersed with the author’s comments. Over 350 photographs include some never-before-seen items.”

Claire M. Lavin

Based on biography information, it is known the author approached her subject matter with a great love for the holiday season. She was active as Contributing Editor to a column in “BooNews” and followed her first book with “Time for Halloween Decorations” (2006) also published by Schiffer Publishing, and continuing to offer Beistle archive information.

Claire M Lavin's Time for Halloween Decorations 2006 is a continuation of information from the Beistle archives, along with some additional content.

It is not known, by THR, what Lavin is doing twenty years later, but one might glean it is rich with artistic endeavors and personal passions. And it is this very absence that testifies to her book’s importance. She has created an enduring reference despite the fact there is no protracted blog of ongoing commentary, nor evidence of tunnel-vision cults (surrounding other publications) that one sees in the age of social media like Facebook and Instagram.

Previews and Rarities

Though I would very much like to provide for the reader some visual examples of the book’s pages (as a view to the data), it seems improper to snapshot the interior of another author’s publication. However, if one searches the listings on Ebay (to name but one second-hand market) you are bound to come across examples of the internal content. Below are some small images found when searching Google and DuckDuckGo:

Above, top: Google image search. Above, below: DuckDuckGo image search. These are but small sneak peaks of what one can expect to find in the book.

Perhaps a better exercise is to offer some examples of actual items that may be absent in other less-specific books (thus the term rarities is used here loosely). Here are a few items shown in the pages of Lavin’s “Timeless Halloween Collectibles 1920-1949” that prove how expanding one’s sources can make a big difference in one’s perspective and understanding of the vintage market. Looking through her book one becomes aware of quite a few items seen in-the-wild that are not included elsewhere.

Above: A shade by Beistle that Lavin (p. 134) identifies as Triangle Shade, with an initial release of 1938, stock number 1218. Images from The Halloween Retrospect archive, originally posted to The Sane Halloween Observer as “Halloween Mood Lighting” (May 24, 2015).

Halloween Silhouette Shade, initial release 1930, identified by reference guidebook for vintage Beistle in Lavin's Timeless Halloween Collectibles 1920-1949.

Above: A non-assembled Halloween lantern (the photo has one resting upon another) by Beistle that Lavin (p. 150) identifies as Halloween Silhouette Shade, with an initial release of 1930. She points out that there are two stock numbers (118 and 128) depending on the thickness of the cardboard. Collection of The Halloween Retrospect archive.

Halloween Lanterns (witch and black cat), release 1939, identified by reference guidebook for vintage Beistle in Lavin's Timeless Halloween Collectibles 1920-1949.

Above: A witch and cat lantern by Beistle that Lavin (p. 148) identifies as Halloween Lanterns, with an initial and apparently single-year release of 1939. Stock number 1772. Images mastered from photos courtesy of Charles Beck (originals shared via facebook group Halloween Antiques).

The Halloween Retrospect

To offer an example of how The Halloween Retrospect, Volume 1 utilized Lavin’s book, an example is yet again the article “Timeline for Witches” that explores the availability of a classic Beistle decoration (alongside another from Germany). Lavin’s book provided information on that decoration’s stock number(s), initial date of release, company description, and in this case an interesting history of witch variations with a half-dozen intriguing images.

There are now 3 volumes of The Halloween Retrospect. Below is a sample gallery (of pages – not including inserts such as posters, cards, or puzzles that come with each edition).

Here is a link to the Publications page for more info about The Halloween Retrospect (and its latest research-based guides on the vintage market of Halloween collectibles). Also, here is an offsite link to purchase a copy via Etsy checkout.

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