When I was a little boy in the 1930s, I really got excited when my father brought home a tin pail of Sultana peanut butter. The large pail with a wire handle was perfect for the sandbox. Also, Log Cabin Syrup came in a log cabin-shaped tin that went perfect within my train set.
Both of these examples are sought after by collectors and decorators as reminders of the past.
The children’s tin lithography can be valued in the hundreds of dollars depending on condition. Peter Rabbit is a favorite among collectors.
Going back even further in time to the 1900s, package design was most important as it was the only way a product could get attention. Drugs, paint, oil and, of course, all food items would strive to establish a visual logo or trademark.
One of the first national trademarks was the Uneeda boy, a little boy in a yellow slicker that represented freshness from the elements. Soon after came the Morton Salt girl, Aunt Jemima, Dutch boy, the Fisk Tire boy in Dr. Dentons holding a candle, and many other memorable logos.
These symbols are all very collectible and make for interesting historic conversation. Labels and magazines ads were the only means of communicating the goodness of a product.
Most of the aforesaid ephemera are hard to find as they were discarded after use, and are therefore scarce. Finding them in good condition is almost unheard of.
The exception to this are the products that came in containers that a consumer was reluctant to discard.
Lambrecht butter, found primarily east of the Mississippi, came packaged in an attractive gray or white stoneware tub with blue script. Again, condition is important. A recent eBay sale for a perfect tub brought $250.
Another favorite in a clay crock with heavy wire clamp was Kaukauna Klub cheddar cheese. I remember my grandfather kept his different size nails on a shelf full of shiny brown crocks.
Now, here is where the fun comes in. Collecting any one of the famous product containers is challenging, decorative and historically significant as to how old it was.
Last month’s column featured an extensive collection of vintage plates featuring children, animal and the ABC’s. There was an immediate response and the entire collection is now sold. This is a great reminder that there is always a buyer for any quality collectibles.
Jerry Glenn is co-owner of Reminisce in Bluffton, where sports collectibles are bought and sold.