Colorful Tins Delight Collectors

I’ve always liked colorful old tins, especially the ones with interesting scenes as decoration. Vintage tins are attractive and convenient — a perfect place to store all the stuff that we accumulate.

Many are available, both old and new, from merchants of yesteryear. I remember the first tin that I bought. It’s shown in the column and features a medieval scene that looks like a carnival.

It’s perfect as a small jewelry box which is what I’ve use it for. It sits on my dresser alongside other small boxes of porcelain and metal.

Lithographed advertising tins are a popular collecting category. Examples of products that were sold in tins like these include everything from coffee and tobacco to other beverages and food products.

Attractive tins are easy to find and perfect to collect since there are so many themes to shape a collection around.

For example, you could focus on Made in Holland tins that frequently can be found at antique shops and often feature a floral theme. My mom left me several of these and I still use them in the kitchen for holding tea bags and crackers.

I also have several big round Hostess tins that are useful for storing cookie cutters, another kitchen collectible. These originally held fruit cakes.

Or you could go with Made in England tins that also are plentiful and stick with this country of origin. Even talcum powder and toiletries were packed in tins so there are many sizes and shapes available.

According to Schroeder’s Antique price guide books, after 1880, can companies began to decorate containers by the method of lithography. Though colors were still subdued, intricate designs were used to attract the eye of the consumer.

Then in 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Administration began to require that the manufacturer and brand name had to be printed on the label. Color became more important and eventually the tins began to be designed for reuse by the consumer, for example as canisters or lunch boxes.

Seems so much better than today’s extensive product packaging that is throw-away and burdening society with too much waste. Tins also are a great alternative to plastic storage containers, which I dislike.

Tobacco and coffee tins are usually the most sought after tins by collectors, by the way. I’m not sure why since these are not my favorite tins! I like the pretty ones that can double as canisters in the kitchen or trinket boxes on the dressing table.

Tins, like so many collectibles, have fallen in prices over the years since the 1970s, but still maintain a strong interest with antique enthusiasts. I think this would be a good collectible to attract young collectors, too, since the “green” movement encourages reuse and recycle.

And here’s a helpful hint from Kovels Antiques that suggests that you can remove rust from old tins by using an ink eraser, even the kind that come on a ball point pens. I haven’t heard of this before but I’m going to give it a try and see how it works.


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