If you're like many of us, your parents or grandparents had a selection of cookie and tea tins in their kitchen when you were growing up. These antique tins, usually printed with sweet pictures, offered a perfect storage option for anything dry. That's because dry good manufacturers in the early 20th century used them to advertise their products. They were basically the "free gift" that came with a purchase of tea, coffee, cookies, nuts, marshmallows, you name it.
Today, these old tins are actually really collectible. They're the rare vintage item that's pretty and useful at the same time, so they are a hot item for storing things around the house or packaging a gift for a friend. Some antique tins may be worth more than you expect, too.
Tips to Identify and Date Vintage Tins
Manufacturers still package a few things in cute tins (hello there, Altoids), so how do you tell whether you have a vintage one? Tins actually have a wealth of information to help you date them, since they are printed with details about the business that sells the product they contain. There are a few important clues to look for as you're browsing in antique shops or online.
- Patina - Modern manufacturers rarely go to the trouble of making a tin look old. If you see a little rust or some scratches and dents, you're probably holding something vintage.
- Copyright symbol - The copyright symbol didn't come into use until 1914, and it wasn't widely used until 1954. This means that if there's a copyright symbol on your tin, it's likely it was made after that time.
- Text style - The font or style of text on the tin can be a clue about its age. Block lettering was popular in the 1930s and 1940s, and space-age, futuristic fonts dominated in the 1950s and 1960s.
- Color and motifs - Tins from the 1920s have geometric, Art Deco designs, while those from the 1950s have lots of cartoonish decorations. Orange was a hot color in the 1930s, and turquoise was super popular in the 1950s.
- Zip codes - Many tins have a zip code printed on them, and it actually offers a lot of help in dating them. Five-digit zip codes didn't happen until 1963, so if the tin has one, it's newer than that.
Values of Antique Tins
Antique tins can actually be worth quite a bit of money, especially since most of them started out as something free. Expect any vintage tin to be worth at least a few dollars, and some have values in the hundreds. Most vintage tins are worth $20 to $50.
The value of old tins depends on their condition and age, but it's mostly about charm. The cuter or prettier the tin is, the more it's worth. Something with a unique design and tons of personality will be worth the most.
Vintage Cookie Tin Values
Most cookie tins are larger than other examples, perfect for holding a sewing kit, your collection of hair accessories, or all those spare cords for random appliances. The most valuable ones are unique or kind of funky in their style, but most sell in the $25 range.
For example, a vintage Sunshine Biscuit Company cookie tin in the shape of a carousel sold for about $25. It was in very good condition, with bright colors and no major dents.
Vintage Tea Tin Values
Tea tins can be worth quite a bit more, especially if they are rare. They usually have a taller shape and are great for storing craft supplies, jewelry, and, of course, tea. They average around $30, but they can be super valuable if they have something extra charming going on.
For instance, a Red Rose brand tea tin with a sweet rose design on it sold for about $130. The colors were bright, and the rose motif was clear and clean.
Antique Oyster Tin Values
A super-valuable antique tin style is the oyster tin. The bucket-shaped tins are usually about one gallon in size and originally contained oysters. They are really charming with nautical or seaside designs, and they're perfect for storing things or just displaying. They can be worth hundreds of dollars if they're in good condition.
A Liberty oyster tin with its original lid sold for about $800. It had a little rust and a few dents, but it was in really good shape overall.
You can preserve an antique tin by taking care of it properly. Start by keeping it dust-free and dry. Don't store it in a humid room like a bathroom or outside.
Fun and Functional Antiques
There are so many ways to use antique tins in your decorating and around the house. From storage for little things like craft supplies and toys to decorations that show off your vintage vibe, they are super fun and functional at the same time.