20+ Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Vintage Tins

Colleen O'Morrow

Posted on August 09 2019

vintage coffee tin ad

Competitive in nature. Nerdy in an antique mall...Combine these two things and you get Jeremy and I competing in an antique haul for the most unique vintage find! We recently trekked into our favorite antique mall to find tins for one of our fan faves - Vintage Coffee Tin Candles. 

Vintage coffee tins in good condition can be tricky to find and are becoming more rare as demand rises in the antiquing world. Vintage coffee tins are incredibly collectible and maybe you’ve been lucky enough to snag a tin in one of our Antique Candle Uploads! We’ve had quite the variety and these pieces are so much fun because of the traditional bold colors and adverts. Sometimes you can even get lucky enough to find a vintage coffee tin with an original grocery store pricing sticker! 

Most of the vintage coffee tins we work with originate from mid-century. Even the smallest quirk on a tin can reveal its year, such as the type of metal used, zip code, keywords and more. While doing research, we found some interesting facts in the timeline of vintage tins (coffee and beyond) from the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society. This resource has even more important dates listed on the original timeline. We compiled the facts that best apply to the vintage tins we work with and added some example photos from our vintage coffee tin candles! 

  • 1907 - "Prince Albert" hinged tobacco tins patented. These tins were made into the mid-20th century.
  • 1910 - Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval - their "tested and approved" seal. You can spot this iconic seal in the photo below! 

vintage coffee tin candle with a good housekeeping seal

  • 1914 - Copyright symbol letter "C" in a circle is first used.
  • 1920's - Citrus fruits and tomato juice appear in tin containers. The hole-and-cap tin pretty much gone from use.
  • c.1920's - Art Deco style becomes popular.
  • 1924 - The "key-opening" feature and "vacuum packed" begins with coffee cans.
  • Pre-Depression - Smokestacks commonly seen in advertising as a sign of a prospering business.
  • 1930's - Orange color becomes popular in advertising.
  • 1930's  - Women in advertising have the contented, wholesome housewife look.

vintage maxwell coffee ad

(Photo credit: Classic Film on Flickr)

  • 1930's - Many labels show recipes for the product inside the can/tin. 
  • 1930's-50's - Block lettering and geometric designs are used.
  • 1932 - "Reg. U.S. Pat. off." (Registered with the United States Patent Office) first used. You can spot the "Reg. U.S. Pat. Office" marker in between the words "Bliss" and "Coffee" in the photo below.

vintage coffee tin candle with a regular pat. marker

  • 1933 - "Internal Revenue Tax Paid" on labels from 1933 until March 1950.
  • 1938 - Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires labeling of certain products - showing the food's name, the net weight, and the name and address of the manufacturer or distributor. A listing of ingredients was also required on most items. We love finding vintage tins with different addresses. See an example below! 

Address and neight weight on vintage coffee tin candle

  • 1940's-50's - Cartoon-like figures appear on advertising showing product or pointing to the instructions.
  • 1941 - Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval - seal changed to "guaranty" seal.
  • 1943 - One and two digit postal zone codes introduced.
  • After 1949 - Registered symbol of letter "R" in a circle is first used.
  • 1950's - Turquoise is a popular color.
  • 1955 - Microwave ovens are introduced and labeling reflects new cooking directions. We commonly find cooking directions on our vintage tins. Find an example of this on the vintage coffee tin below! 

directions on a vintage coffee tin candle

  • 1958 - Motor Oil sold commercially in aluminum cans.
  • 1962 - Good Housekeeping Seal reads - "Good Housekeeping guarantees - If product or performance defective, replacement or refund to consumer." The pull-tab beverage can was introduced in 1962.
  • 1963 - Zip Codes are introduced and appear on product advertising.

Do any of these milestones apply to your vintage tin? We enjoyed looking back at our previous antique candle inventory to find what applies. Like mentioned above, you can find even more information on the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society website. All of the facts above were provided by this historical resource. 

In our hunt for vintage coffee tins, Jeremy and I split up the antique mall into even sections. The goal? Beat the other person by finding the most unique vintage coffee tin. Watch the full vlog on YouTube below and subscribe to our channel if you would like!


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