1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Admittedly, a lot of this candy’s No. 1 ranking has to do with the classic yellow-and-orange wrapper. Combined with the crimped black paper nestling each individual cup, it’s the candy that truly exemplifies the holiday. The taste is good too — the grainy, slightly salty peanut butter in each cup comforts in a way normal peanut butter can’t. (Have you ever had artisanal peanut butter cups? They just don’t do the trick.)
Additionally, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have high trade value. A full-sized cup might yield you a Snickers and a Kit Kat, four Dum Dums or a handful of lesser candy.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 2
2. Kit Kat
I don’t love Kit Kats as a rule and find them to be slightly above-average candy bars. But around the Halloween season, they’re infused with special powers, as with hot dogs at a baseball game. The chocolate tastes a little sweeter; the wafers are a little crispier. The best way to eat them, of course, is to peel each layer away with your teeth, one by one.
I could make the obvious cat connotation with the name — cats are a particularly Halloween-esque animal — but that’s pushing things. Trade value on Kit Kats is decent, not exceptional.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 12
We all like Butterfingers, and I think a big part of that has do with the fact that there isn’t too much chocolate — these candy bars are primarily the flaky, peanut-brittle-like interior with just the thinnest of outer coatings. Your kids will thank you for buying these (after they burst into tears when you tell them they can’t go trick-or-treating). An unimpeachable choice, and very good trade value.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 5
Caramel, cookies and chocolate are an unbeatable combination any way you slice it. I also appreciate the fact that full-sized Twix are split into two bars, allowing you the self-delusion that you’re somehow not eating an entire candy bar.
Is Twix an empirically better candy bar than, say, a Snickers? No, but I was always more excited to get a Twix in my bag at Halloween: They were slightly less common and the crunchy, crumbly texture mixed things up a bit.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 10
5. Starbursts and Hi-Chew
When I was in high school, there was a girl I liked in calculus class, and every day I would buy a package of Starbursts and sit there in class and make her small paper boats, one by one during the course of 42 minutes. Sweet, huh? I also came very close to failing that class.
These and Skittles go into the extremely important “Chewy Fruity” category, but I stand by the excellence of Starbursts and Hi-Chew, the superior Japanese version of Starbursts, because 1) they don’t have the unnecessary candy shell; and 2) the flavors taste closer to the fruit that they purport to be.
For the record, the proper subranking of original Starburst candies, from best to worst, is: strawberry, cherry, lemon, orange.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 18
M&M’s lost something for me when they eschewed the traditional fall colors and added the color blue, of all things. What was the point? The beautiful reds, yellows, greens and browns truly captured the changing of the seasons.
For the record, peanut M&Ms are the only kind worth eating — let’s be real, people. These packs have very good HTV.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 4
I am a Whoppers apologist. Some people don’t like these waxy little balls, but how often, if ever, do you get to enjoy the flavor of malt?
Malt, or malted milk powder in this case, is itself a funny idea. It began when two Wisconsin-based Englishmen created what was intended to be a health supplement for babies in the late 1800s. Eventually, people caught on that it tasted super good in ice cream and different desserts.
Malted barley is what gives Whoppers, Ovaltine and malted milk balls their distinct flavor — a little toasty and nutty, giving depth and roundness to sweet flavors, particularly chocolate. Delicious (in my opinion), but people usually fall pretty firmly on one side of the fence or the other with these.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 21
It’s tough to mess with a classic. The standard-bearer of candy bars always comes through during Halloween, and having one of these tossed into your bag never, ever disappoints. Snickers is the candy that introduced me to the word “nougat,” a funny-sounding word that apparently comes from nux, the Latin word for nut.
Peanuts, caramel and chocolate taste great together, and a Snickers is even better when it’s been in the freezer. Snickers have wide appeal and therefore good trade value, and can be traded one-to-one for nearly any item you could desire.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 8
9. Tootsie Pops
It’s the eternal question: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Like many of life’s mysteries — Is light a wave or a particle? What existed before the universe? How did “Two and a Half Men” run for 12 seasons? — we’ll never know the complete truth.
Mr. Owl, of course, licked three times before biting the entire thing off and pronouncing the answer: Three.
Tootsie Rolls are one of the weaker Halloween candies but somehow Tootsie Pops are strong — the addition of a candy shell that sometimes lacerates your tongue makes all the difference. These have good HTV.
Halloween Trade Value ranking: 7
Taste the rainbow! In addition to a good tagline, Skittles have an interestingly murky origin story. Currently owned by Mars Wrigley, the fruity candy has been manufactured in the United States only since the 1980s. A cached page on the Mars website merely alludes to “a company in England” regarding the origin of Skittles — and I can’t find any concrete information as to who actually invented them, and when.