Collecting Antique Advertising Tins

These antique advertising tins have become prized collectibles to many.

A generation ago and more, many products we still use today were sold in tins. These tins have become prized collectibles to many. These product containers are now collectible advertising art. As with other collectibles, there are things to look for when buying and there are specific ways to care for your collectibles to preserve their condition.

There are as many kinds of tin collections as there are products that were sold in tins. Some collectors focus on a particular brand of goods, like Coca Cola and others focus on a type of product, like coffee. Still others take an eclectic approach and collect whatever kind of tin catches their fancy. Two particular tin collection groups are particularly pricy now; Coca Cola and medical goods. If you're just getting started, figure out what you would like your collection to look like and how you want to use it to enhance your home or your pocketbook. Some collections can become quite valuable.

The next consideration is whether you will limit yourself to containers or also add tin advertising signs to your collection. Advertising signs are very popular, especially those that tout products still available today. A new industry has cropped up selling reproduction tin advertising signs, so the collector looking for the original variety must be savvy. Reproduction tin containers are cropping up, too, but mostly seem to appear at discount department stores rather than flea markets and thrift stores.

Reproductions can usually be spotted by the brightness of their paint and their flawless condition. Genuine old tins will not have the bright-bright colors that reproductions do, due to aging and the kinds of inks and paints available at the time the tins were originally manufactured. The metal will not be as heavy gauge as the older tins, either. New tins are very lightweight.

When shopping for vintage advertising tins, good sources are flea markets and rummage sales. Rummage sales will often yield very nice pieces for very low prices. Flea markets will be pricier and antique stores and auctions can be very expensive. Let family and friends know what you're collecting, they can probably find a few things in the attic or basement for you. Be careful to be very specific about what you want though or you will soon be overwhelmed with tins that don't fit your particular collection.

Once you develop an eye for vintage versus reproduction, you'll want to look for condition. As with almost any collectible, condition is everything. Small scratches or dings can be enough to cut the value of a tin in half or more. Paints don't usually flake off but do fade easily if they are displayed in direct sunlight. You'll want to find the best you can, look for tins that have minimal scratches or dings, a cover if they were made for that tin, uniform colors versus sun damaged pieces and rust free tins.

Displaying your collection is another consideration. Find an area where they collection will be out of direct sunlight, you don't want to devalue your finds by damaging them. Display cases that are enclosed and nearly air tight will keep your cleaning chores to a minimum. I don't much care to dust a 2,000-piece collection, so glass cases were a good investment for me.

Cleaning and caring for your tins could do them damage if you don't know what you're doing. Never use abrasive cleansers on your pieces. Soaps aren't a good idea either unless they are absolutely necessary to clean up a garage sale find. Once the item is cleaned, don't touch it with soap again. Generally, a light washing with clear water on a soft, lint-free cloth is all you will need to clean your tins. Make sure they are completely dry on the inside before you replace a tight-fitting cover. Damp interiors will promote rusting. Let pieces air dry for 24 hours after cleaning them before replacing the covers.

Whatever you do, resist the temptation to try to restore a piece in less the perfect condition. If the paint is flaking, don't try to stick the flake back down with an adhesive, you'll only reduce the value of the piece. Leave it be and give it the best care you can. This usually means leave it alone! Don't try to scour away rust; you'll likely damage the piece even more.

If you choose to collect vintage tins, get a good collectors guide that helps you value pieces. One that I like is "Advertising Tins : A Collector's Guide (Miller's Collector's Guides)" by Robert Opie .

If you choose to collect contemporary tins, a good guide is "Modern Collectible Tins Identification & Values : Identification & Values" by Linda McPherson . Contemporary collections have the advantage of being less expensive to start and there is a bounty of pieces available. These tins will be the treasures of the next few generations.

Collecting advertising tins is a fun and relatively inexpensive hobby. The collection can become a focal piece to your home, and especially your kitchen, d├ęcor. It's not a collection that is likely to make you rich, but tins do have value. Take good care of them, whether you choose to collect vintage or contemporary pieces but most of all, enjoy the collecting.

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