Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc.

Search this site and our local communities. Wisconsin History Search Only

You may now join, or renew your SLAHS membership using your PayPal account, credit, or debit card.

Please use the following link to make a secure on-line payment.

About Us
Search this site
Monetary Donations

Artifact Donations

Buy A Brick Donation

Fundraiser Letter

Notable Links
Index to Wisconsin Brewery and Related Articles

Collecting English Modern Tins and German "lebkuchen" Tins


12/29/02     THIS NOTE IS FOR DONNA (DMK);
FRED BORNEMANN [email protected] 

From: DMK (Donna) 3/7/99 - I have some fun news to share with all who live in England about places to shop in London, if anyone is collecting new tins.

    We lived in England from 1982-88 & I remember one of the first days on base (Mildenhall/Lakenheath) I found two small, red tins (almost all of mine are "new" or "look new" upon purchase) - a tall, round one resembling an English post box, & the other a slender rectangle with the cover having rounded corners to resemble a double decker bus. It wasn't because it was a "tin," but just because I LOVED being in England & wanted to take everything "English" home with me (whenever it would be that we'd have to move back to the U.S. :)

    As it turned out, about October of 1985, a new friend who had just moved from Germany, showed me some of her German lebkuchen tins (a German spice cookie that's very popular at the holiday time & sold in gorgeous tins!!!). The largest of the tins looked a bit too ornate for my tastes at the time, but another didn't & I asked her to bring one back if possible - which she did. I just loved it !!! --- 8 x 12 hinged, flat cover rectangular chest 5 1/2" tall, burnt orange & all "old world" type pictures of the European cities & people. That was the beginning. From then on it seemed as if everywhere I went in England I saw "old world" type tins, & then tins with "English" names on them, & those with the "standards or emblem" on them "By appointment to ......the Queen, etc."

    There were those representing history like the time I was at the Bronte's Parsonage & found one with pictures of the sisters & the story of their lives. Many were rectangular ones with a roof-shaped cover to represent an imaginary or real English shop, castle, National Home, historical building, etc., of some sort. I went to Ian Logan's when he was still by Charterhouse Square the fall of 1987, as he had several weeks a year where anyone could go to his company office & buy any of the empty tins he produced. (Does he still do that, wherever he is located now???) I left England with a little over 200, mostly English tins from those years, which I thought was significant, since I knew of no other person who had gone on such a "buying & collecting spree," nor knew of "collectors" out in the world. I should mention that I purchased most filled with tea, candy, or "cookies" to us Americans. I found some empty "reproductions" & as long as it was "old fashioned" or "something English," it was mine. (I don't drink tea or coffee & it's a standing bit of amusement that Dad gets what's "inside" the tins, & Mom gets the container! I know my husband had enough tea for the next 3 years because of all the tins I bought, but it lasted & was fresh in those sealed tins!!)

    We moved to Germany & through 3 years of flohmarkts (flea markets) I ended up with over 900 by the time we were sent back to the U.S. in 1991. 200 of those additional 500 ended up being lebkuchen tins which have a very special place in my heart. How I've yearned to be able to be in Germany each Christmas season to buy the hoard of lebkuchen tins which I've missed! I've found a "few" in the U.S., but I see some in the company brochures (which I send for each year) which I would have truly loved. They are so gorgeous! I found that the lebkuchen companies, (like with Phyllis mentioning the company she worked for, saying "so I became a "mini archivist") didn't really value their "tin containers" as to being very important. I went to the largest company one day, Otto Schmidt, wanting to make a copy of their seasonal brochure of each year since they began producing the largest chest, a # 735 series in 1955, & they didn't even keep a brochure of each year - they just had a typed list of the "description of the main picture" from each year!!! I have all but 6 of those large lebkuchen chests & the matching "6 stuck" round tin which is one of the 15 or so packages of lebkuchen inside this huge tin chest (11 1/2 x 16 1/2 hinged cover x 6 1/2" tall)....(pronounced 6 stewk) which means 6 "pieces" or "cookies," & if I ever find a German person through this Tin Newsletter who is into tins & flohmarkts & speaks English, THAT is the person I want to be connected with so the hunt will be on in Germany for me for those 6 tins! I knew that if I could have stayed living in Germany for my life, I would have found a way to have a lebkuchen tin collection in some museum, etc., because the companies weren't even displaying their own tins (except a few in the Schmidt factory story). Anyway, the history of the German lebkuchen tins can become another story - another day :).

    (So I wonder how many lebkuchen tins that man in Belgium has? Maybe he has an "in" with the largest tin-manufacturing company in Germany & can get a sample of each tin each year????? I've made contact with that company & have received a catalog, too, one of these past years. I would love to see his collection... - 35,000 ! Whew !!! I wonder where they all are & if people can see them?)

    Anyway, to all of you in England, I need to cut to the chase here. I didn't have time to let any of you know I'd be in England & to come see any of you, but hopefully before my next trip I can put out the word & see if I can come visit & look at some of your collections. I've just aligned myself as a marketing agent with a company called Good Shepherd Tours (in the U.S. 16 years) who does "group tours" to Israel & I went on their trip Feb. 8-16. The most wonderful thing is that they fly through LONDON!!! So first I stayed an "extra day" on the 17th, in order to walk through the process of trains from airports, etc., which is what people would be doing if they choose this "extra day" beyond their week in Israel. By the way, GST is opening an office in London this month to tap the English market, so if any of you are interested in looking into being a Tour Host or know of anyone wanting to have a tour to Israel (8 days about 600-700 pounds all inclusive except getting to the airport, lunches, passport, & spending money), e-mail me (Donna) at [email protected]  & I will work with you, as that's what I did from Feb. 17-25th - had appointments at the American military bases & some English churches to do presentations. If I can get my foot in the door to be a church's Associate Partner representative, then I'll be able to spend MORE & MORE time in your fabulous country !!! AND BUY MORE TINS :))))) !

    So getting back to tins, by the eve of the 17th when I got back to the hotel by Gatwick, I finally had to separate my 2 largest suitcases :)! I was glad to get out of Israel with the 2 in 1, but leaving England, whoa!!! -- were they heavy! Right now Selfridges has gorgeous "canister" (4-5" round, 8" tall) Williamson & Magor Tea tins in the style of an elephant! There are 4 colors, depending on which tea you want (50 tea bags each) for 8.45 (sorry - the American keyboard doesn't have a "pound" sign). Steel Grey is Earl Grey; Blue is English Breakfast; Green is Traditional English; & pink - maybe Darjeeling (sp??) There was also a neat French sardine can ( 4.25) but I think if you pull off the cover (which has the olde world sailing scene) you'll ruin it, so the sardines will stay in mine forever! I was looking for a Droste cocoa tin, as I found them there in the 1980s, but didn't see any this day. BUT, they DID have a "clearance" of a German "6 stuck" lebkuchen tin from the F. G. Metzger company (reg. 12.99, now 9.50) 4 1/4" round x 4 1/2" tall, green, with 8 Nurnberg & fairytale scenes around. It has/had (yummy!) 6 leb. cookies inside. Now, at the exchange rate of $1.70 per pound, this seemed pricey, but when the passion has turned into an illness ---------- what can you say! :) And Metzger was an expensive brand, even back in my German days. Besides, if it's a lebkuchen tin, I feel I need to do whatever I can to purchase it - for my self-appointed position of a lebkuchen tin historical archivist, right??? - even if I am on the opposite side of the ocean of production.....I'm trying :). I sure would like to find German tin collectors! (Anyway, 9.50 x $1.70 = $16.15, which is what another 6-stuck of that size cost here in the U.S. this past Christmas time. So only at the regular price of 12.99 x $1.70 = $22.10 would it have been out of range.)

    So on to Harrods --------- Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, fabulous Harrods! Too bad the pocketbook had a limit, along with how much 2 of us could carry !!! I won't even begin to list what Harrods has. If you have money, just go !!! There's no end to it. I think I must have picked up 8-10 in only 2 areas & then when leaving the country at Gatwick I walked into Harrods in the duty-free section & figured out a way to fit 9 more (7 were small !!) into my 2 "carry ons." Hey, I've got ingenuity with packing down to a science. :) Where there's a will there's a way ! But I tell you, I even had to "make choices" because I had to leave some. A person could have a huge collection JUST of Harrod's tins through the years, & enough tea & biscuits to boot!!!

    I made stops at Waitrose, Tesco, & Sainsbury, & I don't know what I found where, but Williamsom & Magor has a silver 4x4x4" square tin of loose tea with blue writing, an elephant, & a short story "since 1869." Also, there's a small round tin (2" x 3 1/2" tall) filled with "Traditional Dried Active Yeast for baking" which is orange & white, some green & has a windmill at top center. And of course your Colman's mustard, Golden Syrup, etc.

    Bentley's has the "house shaped tins" for The Tower of London, Buckingham, Windsor Castle, & one other, filled with candy. They call it the "English Heritage Collection." They also have a tall, thin "Row House" (1 3/4 x 2 1/2" cover shaped like a roof x 5 1/4" tall) designed as a Punch & Judy puppet show, AS does Wilson - 3 tall, thin "Row Houses" in "The Covent Garden Series," with each house having a name (2.63 each) - filled with a candy of some sort. Mind you, I very seldom buy the tin for what's inside through the years we've had our share of special treats & lots to give away that otherwise we'd never have had the pleasure of trying. I would never invest the kind of money I do in tins if it was for what's inside them, & didn't feel that the personal "value" was in the container, itself. So it's all in one's perspective. Also, I'm not buying the tins for an "investment" on the monetary value of what I would "hope" to make some day. It's for personal enjoyment & hopefully to be able to share with the public one day. That made it a lot easier to deal with the possibilty of a loss if that container of our household goods would have dropped into the ocean during the loading/unloading process of moving across the ocean (which did happen to some missionary people we knew - only their ONE container was all they had, & not the "excess luxury of "tins & bygones!").

    So back to London, do you ever take the "extra long walk" from the nearest tube & go to Twinings on the Strand? I didn't this time, but I did find several of their current tins with tea (don't remember where). One is about 4x4x4 but is 6-sided, pink & grey, & has pics of people in a restaurant. Another is also 6-sided but in the 3x3" range, blue, & a continuous pic of people having a picnic by a pond.

    There's a tea tin out called "Royalty, Darvilles of Windsor, England," blue, about 3" square ( 2.95)...4 neat pictures of Windsor castle. Maybe I got this in Windsor, in those gift shops near McDonalds?? - don't remember.

    I didn't get to the gift shops of St. Paul's & Westminster, or that big store on Sloane Sq. (John Lewis is it?) & the nearby General Trading Company, nor that huge store (if it's still there) at Covent Garden across from the tube entrance & in Trocadero Center. Also, I remember another "long walk" (I feel those London blocks are a mile each :) !!!) to Crabtree & Evelyn during my England days, but it was worth it for tin shopping - because a person could buy empty tins at their London store. If you had to buy them all full, whew!!! --- you'd leave a bit of your bank account that way. And Fortnum & Masons is another stop on a tin-buying list - & especially at Christmas time - they used to get many imported from Germany, especially from the H. Bahlsen Company.

    And in the newsletter you're wondering about dating Silver Crane tins. Why not ask the company for brochures / catalogs, or even a black & white copy of older issues? And the same would go for Ian Logan. He used to send me his catalog each year when I requested. Some of you should also track down (if you don't have them) brochures / catalogs of Hunky Dory. I've heard they're out of business, but is it possible to make a connection with whoever owned that company, before time becomes too distant? And also that Frederick Warne company that has the license for all the Beatrix Potter tins. I do have some stores in my area which have "imports" through which I've found many European tins all these years, & many have been fabulous Beatrix Potter tins. But at over 2200 now I'm at capacity for storage space & need to stop, but how? Look at what just happened by going to England! But since my heart is in Europe & with European tins, I've tried to begin to pass on American ones.

    At the thought of so many, many people wonder where I have them all. Well, I only have a hundred or so displayed on top of an 11' long, double-deep row of very tall packing boxes holding most of the tins, along a wall in my work room. And all those 100 have tins inside tins inside tins. It's the only way. Someday my dream is to have a place to display all of them for the enjoyment & historical benefit of the general public. Besides my 225+ German lebkuchen tins, I know I must have at least 150-200 in the shape of a house (the cover is the shape of a roof). And another 100 or so must be just Christmas. And another 125 or so are Coca Cola. Those started for me in Europe when I received one as a gift & there's a company in France holding the license & producing CC tins for the European market, which aren't often seen in the U.S.

    Toward the middle to the end of the 1980s the U.S. really began to produce a lot of tins at Christmas time. I'd say almost every candy company has had at least one tin, if not one (or more, as in the Hershey company) each year this past decade. And within the past 2 years the Olive Can Company (  ) has had the U.S. license to produce the Silver Crane tins, although I don't know if they're the same as what's produced in England, or different. I've written to them twice asking for a cataloge & need to pursue more diligently to get one! I think at Christmas time I've increased my collection on an average of 100 tins a year & I'm even selective about "old fashioned" nostalgic pictures, & those with old-fashioned style lettering to represent advertising or a company of "American history," etc., but none that have "photo-type" pics. This year there were some repeats & I was so glad! It does get to be an illness, because once you start (like with the Coca Cola tins I got when in Europe) you don't know when to quit if you see another! You think, "Well, now that I've got 50 ------."

    After London, with my 1st day out in a rental car for the next week, following a stop in Windsor for the breath-taking view of the castle, plus the heart beat skipping a few times at the majesty of that castle, I had Reading as my 1st destination. After I "finally" found The Olde Town Hall & got a nearby parking space after waiting 30 minutes, and with a dozen rolls of high speed film to photograph all the tins of their collection, I walked in to find that they were in the process of remodeling and had ALL the tins packed away in boxes !!! Cringe ~~~. Who would have ever thought - - - . So I just figured I'd HAVE TO come back to England another day :). So on to the Cotswolds & Cirencester / Fairford. The following 2 days I nosed around in nearby towns & found antique shops in Tetbury & Lechlade - ohhhh, it was Heaven! But the prices are a bit "dear!"

    During the 3 years in Germany, after a kindergarten-level education in antique furniture & kitchen items in England, I created a "Bygones of Yesteryear" business by buying olde bygones & collectibles at 3-5 flohmarkts 3 days each week for 2 1/2 years & refinishing / story-telling & reselling. I found terrific buys & quickly became very good at bargaining in German :). I find bargaining "in a bargaining atmosphere" to be very exciting & exhilarating. To me it's "the thrill of the hunt" & to come out feeling as if I got the best half of the deal, while at the same time hoping that the other guy feels the same way! I had had prior bargaining experience in Turkey when I went home "with enough copper to open a small copper shop," as my friend put it ! I did a lot of reserach for my flohmarkt finds, although I also knew a lot by growing up on a farm in Wisconsin & had an affinity to most olde bygones that caught my eye. I also learned enough German to communicate & get a hint of what I didn't know about. I got a terrific "antique/collectibles" education during those years, passed it on through stories with the items I sold, & am still in love with the olde stuff - have a couple thousand kitchen items of days-gone-by. Here again, I feel I've become a keeper of history for a future generation.

    In case "new people to collecting" ever wonder where all the money comes from when they hear of those of us with huge collections of things, because none is ever used from my husband's income which is to provide for our family, & "tin collecting" doesn't qualify as a provision!!! --- in England I created & sold handcrafts for 2 years, as I had a home-based, handcraft business in the U.S. for 10 years (weekend shows a few times a year so I'd have a way to get out of the house, mix with the public, & have some "pin" money) while the 3 kids were young, before going overseas. Then in Germany with a newborn baby & 3 teenagers it was the "Bygones of Yesteryear" business. Now in the U.S. I've been teaching ESL at a community college - English as a Second Language to Adults from Foreign Lands - I have the University of Cambridge/Royal Society of Arts Certificate which I got in San Francisco while we were stationed in California 1991-94. There are about 75 centers world-wide where one can get this certificate & most U.S. people then go overseas with it in order to have a way to at least earn the country's average income to have the benefit of living in a foreign land. Without pursuing "more than the average person is willing to do" goal-oriented hours in my days, I would never have the tin collection, or the antique/bygones, so it's a choice. It doesn't "just happen." I've "made" a LOT of fabulous experiences happen by getting a bit less sleep than most people, that's all, but it's sure been fun. We also traveled to more than 24 countries in Europe during our 9 years. I know we saw more of England than most people who live there, but that was because it was a priority. I studied tour brochures & maps & made itineraries, plans, & schedules with the diligence that most people use to prepare for school exams for a degree. I probably walked more of London's streets than the people who live there. I just made it happen. Fun, fun, fun!

    So to close, I'll reveal 1 of 2 old "antique tin" treasures (10 pounds) I found in the Cotswolds: the 4 1/2 x 6" deep pink cover with silver writing is the curved spines of 5 Charles Dickens' books, so the cover has 5 humps & on each is the title of one of the books: (Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Pickwick Papers, Tale of Two Cities, & Christmas Carol). When you set the tin "on end" so the cover & names of the books are facing you, as they would be on a shelf, the rest of the tin looks like the 5 books all next to each other - whitish pages, dark pink edges of the covers, etc. So one side of the tin, as it's the "cover" of the 1st of the 5 books, says "Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens" with silver filagree to represent tooling on a leather bound book.

    Alas, until next time, I'll keep my largest, new Harrod's canister (7" round x 8" tall w/a gold knob on the cover, 10.95 duty free filled w/Traditional English Biscuits) on the kitchen counter,.....smiling every time I look at the magnificent canopied store front with the old fashioned red buses & green delivery trucks out front,.....thanking the Lord for my Good Shepherd Tours' opportunity to be able to be in England again,.....reliving that day with wonderful, heart-warming memories of shopping in the history-steeped Food Halls,.....& then enjoying a cup of hot chocolate at a Food Bar,.....sharing those moments with a special friend, child-like awesomeness at the wonder of it all :). In my heart you, in England, are always "next door," & not an ocean away.

Until next time,

DMK (Donna)



Home / About Us  / Membership / Search this site

Copyright Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc., , 2002 - 2016, Except as noted: All documents placed on the website remain the property of the contributors, who retain publication rights in accordance with US Copyright Laws and Regulations. In keeping with our policy of providing free information on the Internet, these documents may be used by anyone for their personal research. They may be used by non-commercial entities, when written permission is obtained from the contributor, so long as all notices and submitter information are included. These electronic pages may NOT be reproduced in any format for profit. Any other use, including copying files to other sites, requires permission from the contributors PRIOR to uploading to the other sites. The submitter has given permission to the website to store the file(s) for free access. Such permission may be revoked upon written notice to the website webmaster. Website's design, hosting, and maintenance are donated by Website Editor & Webmaster: Michael R. Reilly (Mike)