Collecting Folklore: The Easter Bunny

As a child, I always wondered how the Easter bunny knew that my favorite candy was chocolate malted eggs, and regularly left more than enough in my basket. (Really I think he was leaving enough for family to eat their fair share well)  As an adult, the Easter bunny rarely makes an appearance at my house, but that’s really ok since my cat likes to eat the Easter grass anyway. Lucky for me, there are thousands of Easter bunny collectables on the market!

Mad # 276 Cover Painting Original Art (EC, 1988). Acrylic on Canvas.  Sold November 14, 2008, $ 4,750

Mad # 276 Cover Painting Original Art (EC, 1988). Acrylic on Canvas.
Sold November 14, 2008, $ 4,750

The Easter Bunny, the quintessential non-religious symbol of Easter, or perhaps more appropriately of Spring, has appeared in all sorts of collectables, dating even as far as back as the 19th century.  Of varying sizes, sometimes wearing cute outfits and sometimes not, he is the bringer of Easter baskets filled with toys, jelly beans and chocolate eggs, and the hider of those brightly colored eggs that were prepared and set out for him on Easter eve.  This furry egg bearer makes his first appearance in De ovis paschalibus (About the Easter Eggs) by Georg Franck von Frankenau (1643-1704) who recounts a German tradition of a hare bringing eggs to children on Easter. It was these Germans in the 18th century that brought the tradition of the Osterhase (Easter Hare) to America, where children would make nests in the hopes that the hare would visit and leave eggs in them overnight. In more modern times, the Easter Bunny has appeared even at Christmas time, including the cover of Mad magazine in 1988, the original painting of which sold for $4,750 in 2008. And who can forget the scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie dresses up in the bunny suit?

7" Easter Bunny Chocolate Mold #4602 Sold in 2007 for $40

7″ Easter Bunny Chocolate Mold #4602
Sold in 2007 for $40

With the Easter Bunny’s association with candy and treats, it is not surprising that he played a large role in the kitchen appearing mainly in sweet treats such as cake, chocolate or ice cream molds.  These molds, dating to the 19th and early 20th centuries aren’t very popular these days, and most can be had on the auction market  for under $100. They come in all forms; standing Easter bunnies, the Easter Bunny in a car, the Easter Bunny in a hot hair balloon, the Easter bunny with a chick, and so on.   Victorian Chocolate Molds.Com has an absolutely amazing group of Easter bunny chocolate molds, including one that is 27″ high! I’ve never used an antique chocolate mold, but it doesn’t seem that difficult if you have a piece in good condition.  Check out Dads Follies.com for information on how to use an antique chocolate mold to make your own homemade bunny chocolate figures.

German Bisque Doll c.1910. Sold in 2009 for $400

German Bisque Doll c.1910. Sold in 2009 for $400

The Easter Bunny is also known to bring toys in those Eastern morning baskets and his appearance in wind-up tin lithograph toys, stuffed animals, and even bisque dolls is common even today.  German, French, and American companies often put small bisque or hard plastic dolls into decoupaged Easter eggs, with the doll dressed as the Easter bunny or with a stuffed Eastern bunny.

Animated Easter Pull Toy Sold in 2004 for $950

Animated Easter Pull Toy
Sold in 2004 for $950

These Easter egg dolls are highly collectable and sell anywhere from $400-$3000.  Some of the most popular Easter themed vintage toys are pull toys, like the one pictured here that sold in 2004 for $950! The Eastern bunny is also depicted in tin lithograph wind up toys, celluloid figurines, banks, and stuffed animals, most selling for under $200, even in excellent condition.

Emile Gallé, Nancy. Lidded vase, c. 1900-03. Sold in 2006 for 2,200 euros

Emile Gallé, Nancy. Lidded vase, c. 1900-03.
Sold in 2006 for 2,200 euros

The Easter Bunny makes an appearance in the decorative arts as well, such as this lidded egg shaped vase by Emile Galle. In it, a bunny is crouched over a nest of eggs, although I’m not exactly sure what its doing with those eggs, but someone out there did, and it sold for in 2006 for  2200 euros ($2800 in todays dollars).  A Jugenstil Easter watercolor by Heinrich Lefler depicting a young girl in the snow talking to the Easter bunny sold for $1200. The Easter bunny is also frequently featured in ephemera such as postcards or candy advertisements.

Heinrich Lefler (1863-1919). Beim Osterhasen. Watercolor. Sold in 2008 for $1,200

Heinrich Lefler (1863-1919). Beim Osterhasen. Watercolor. Sold in 2008 for $1,200

Just like the bunnies themselves, Easter collectable are reproduced at a rapid rate, and there truly is something for everyone; figurines, dolls, toys, ephemera, and cooking tools. Its easy to find a design that is pleasing, at a price point that is even more pleasing! So this Easter go out, find yourself an Easter bunny collectable, and remind yourself of waking up on Eastern morning to a basket full of toys and candy that you happy devoured while searching for those carefully hidden eggs.

Happy Easter Everyone!

Have a great Easter collectable or story to share?  Post it in our forum!

 

About Renee Corbino
Renee Corbino has a decade of experience in the auction industry. Her expertise covers a broad spectrum of fine and decorative arts and antiques including: paintings, silver, ceramics, furniture, netsuke and more. She received her Bachelor’s degree with a double major in classical studies & art history from the University of Maryland, College Park and her Master of Decorative Arts from the Smithsonian & George Mason University.

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