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Remember the Halloween parade in the first grade? All of the big kids were in cool homemade costumes. Like the kid wearing a tin foil covered box that was supposed to be a robot. There was that girl covered in purple balloons to resemble a bunch of grapes. And don’t forget the old standbys - sheet over the head ghost, or your mother’s bathrobe and slippers. Nothing so neat for you of course, your mom put you in the K-Mart special - one polyester jumpsuit with plastic (unbreathable) face mask. You remember the kind with the tie string at the neck, and how come the eyeholes were always too wide for your face? Actually, those basic Halloween costumes have been a dime store staple for 30 years and what makes them such hot sellers? Licensing. A silver astronaut suit is a blast, but slap a Lost in Space Logo on the front and you’ve got a costume that soars off the shelf faster than you can say Danger, Will Robinson.

In the 1960’s the Ben Cooper company turned out some of the most collectible costumes. Almost any of his costumes, complete and in the box will bring at least 70 to 100 dollars and a few are priced way above. Let’s take a look at some of the prime properties.

The Lost in Space costume was a big hit in 1965. Cooper took a generic astronaut costume and added a flying Jupiter II, with the show’s title, to the shoulder. The silk-screened touches include a ray gun tucked into the drawn on belt. The mask is very unusual. It resembles a space helmet with the eye holes cut in a blank face plate. The popularity of Lost in Space items keeps this costume in the 200 to 250 range.

In 1968, Ben Cooper produced three styles of Land of the Giants costumes. One is made to resemble the flight suit of Spindrift pilot Steve Burton. The other two are bizarre hybrids known as the Giant Scientist and the Giant Witch. Both of these were made with extra large masks that had the eye holes cut in the mouth. The suit on the Scientist depicts a shirt and tie with a Land of the Giants tie clip, giant glasses, giant pens and two tiny figures silk-screened on the front. The witch is really a typical witch costume that resembles nothing ever seen on the show.

Collegeville was the manufacturer of the Outer Limits costume. This suit featured monsters on the suit and a monster mask. Considering that the show was marketed to adults, it’s hard to imagine a child asking for this one by name. Expect the high 200 range for this one.

Collegeville also released the Mr. Spock, Star Trek costume in 1967. The suit has some resemblance to the starfleet uniform except it has a sketch of the Enterprise emblazoned on the front. The mask is pretty accurate, pointed ears and all. Although it seems odd, Spock appears to be the only costume marketed in the 60’s. A full line of character costumes was produced in the 70’s for the original Star Trek movie. These costumes are valued at under 100 dollars.

Also in the under 100 category are the line of Star Wars costumes. Figures of Darth Vader, Chewbacca and C3-PO are some of the most interesting, but likenesses of Luke, Leia, and Han were also produced.

Fitting in with the Halloween theme, Cooper released a set of Addams Family costumes in 1965. The Lurch costume looks like a tux with Lurch’s face and "Thing" silk-screened on the front. The Morticia suit was made in purple and featured a bat necklace and a spider web pattern on the skirt. I haven’t seen them, but I would surmised that costumes of Gomez and Uncle Fester were made also. The Munsters also made it to costume form with a Herman costume that comes with a rather girlie looking mask. Again, Lily is probably out there too, along with Little Eddie.

When examining a costume, the most common flaws are cracks in the brittle plastic masks, and tears in the costumes. Tears are generally fixable if they are not in an obvious spot. Mask damage severely lowers the value of the costume. Although most Cooper costumes came in a generic box, the box still adds value. Over the years, most boxes have smashed or have had there plastic windows torn out. Again, the closer to mint you get, the higher the price.

Once you take your costume home, you may want to put it on display. A good option is to buy a large plastic box frame from your local craft or framing store. Remove the cardboard insert and position the body of the costume using straight pins to hold the costume in place. Wrap arms and legs across the back and secure with more pins or masking tape. Push the insert back into the frame. Hang the box frame on the wall with the mask above it. One caution, pins do rust with time and will leave pin holes or stains on the costume so use them sparingly and let the frame itself hold the bulk in place.

These days you can find very sophisticated Sci-Fi costumes at your local Halloween Shop. Full replica Star Trek uniforms and rubber Star Wars masks still sell well year after year. For the right price you can dress yourself up as The Terminator, a Power Ranger, or the very latest Batman style. Still, if you take a stroll through your local five and dime, you will still find those scratchy polyester numbers with the 90’s most popular TV characters peering at you from the box. By a few, they’ll be collectable another 30 years from now.