Signs and tins are probably the two most popular areas of antique advertising collecting. We have hundreds of different tins pictured below. It is easy to see why these antique tins are popular and valuable. The colors and designs are all extremely attractive. Antique tins are fun to collect whether you are looking to spend $1,000 on a collection or $100,000.
Most all of these tins were being sold in country stores in the days before radio, television, and print advertising. If a company (tobacco or otherwise) wanted a consumer to be aware of a product, then the company’s only chance to pitch its product was at the actual time of sale. This often meant that the brightest and loudest tin would get the most attention and therefore get purchased. Some manufacturers relied less on color and more on regional or personal affiliations to hit home.
All things equal, a rare tobacco tin will be worth more money than something equally rare that is a coffee, spice, or other tin product. The collectability of tobacco tins is twofold. Most of them are a uniform size (when talking about pocket tins). Someone could conceivably collect 100 different tobacco tins all of the same size and make a beautiful display. Tobacco tins are also popular because they fall neatly in with other areas of tobacciana like signs, pipes, and store displays. You could put together a pocket tin, store bin, and sign all for the same brand. I think it is also fair to say that the tobacco market was the largest and most competitive area of many country stores. Tins came and went quickly if they weren’t selling. Some tins could be unique and others could be one of tens of thousands known to exist. There is a real thrill of the hunt associated with tobacco tins that just isn’t present with other tins. We should also mention that cigar tins are closely associated with tobacco tins. Cigar tins can be equally valuable and rare.
Non-tobacco tins can still be extremely rare and collectible. These tins are usually for coffee, spices, talc, cocoa, tea, gum, and even condoms. These aren’t quite as collectible just because the offering is too diverse. Some of the areas are just too esoteric to get a following together to make prices competitive like tobacco tins. There are also fewer reference books on the subject, so the market just isn’t quite as sophisticated.
So What’s Rare? There is no short way to list all the rare tobacco and other tins. For a tin to be valuable it doesn’t necessarily have to be extremely rare. Condition is very important. A relatively scarce tobacco tin might be worth $750 in absolutely perfect condition. The same tin in poor condition might only be worth $75. Before you try to value your tin it is important to understand the different conditions that affect value. Furthermore, especially with tobacco tins, there are varieties of the same tin that might make one especially rare and one common. Phrasings and moderate design changes are the factors that usually affect values within the same tin.
So What’s in Demand? With so many tins out there how is a new collector to know what’s valuable and rare and what’s just another tin? First, go to swap meets and antique shows so you can recognize the very common tins like Prince Albert or Sir Walter Raleigh, the medium rarity tins or common varieties of tins. Talk to other collectors and dealers to learn what the rare variations are and what people find desirable. Every collector is different and some focus on specific manufactures, themes, or can makers. Things that are always in demand: condition (top grade tins of anything except the most common always have a market), age (older tins made by companies like Somers Bros. or Ginna & Co. are always in demand), and interest of graphics (tins like the famous Taxi tin, or Game Bird tin have excellent graphics that always have collectors pulling out their wallets).
If you want to find out how much your tin is worth, then just ask us. All of our information is free and we answer emails usually within an hour or less. Just send a few pictures of your tin and we can go from there. We look forward to hearing from you.