by Mike Reilly
For many tin collectors, tobacco tins are the ultimate
tins to acquire. There's even a name for the tobacco collecting field, Tobacciana.
Why are they so collectible? Well, they usually had superior artwork, with
elaborate designs, presented in 10 or more colors at times. They were made in unusual
shapes, most popular in the mid-1800's, and 1,000's of brands were sold. Some have tax
stamps and/or patent dates on them to provide accurate dating.
So! Big whoop! But here's more
information about collecting them. Types to collect
- CANISTERS; in round, pie-shaped, square and rectangular sizes.
- LUNCH BOX; produced with variety of single handle styles, also made with double
handles, similar to picnic baskets.
- FIGURAL; ex. the Mayo brand Roly Polys, a TOP, one shaped like a casket (very
appropriate), the milk can (from Union Leader) and more.
- STORE BINS; larger, maybe not always as attractive as their smaller cousins but
- POCKET; these of course were designed to fit in a man's pocket. Came in flat,
vertical, and round styles. Variations include oval vertical, and vertical with a flat
back but rounded front. Cardboard was used later on, evolving into the cigarette/cigar
packs of today.
- CIGAR & CIGARETTE tins; usually came in pocket type tins, can be collected as
separate categories, by brand or manufacturer (as the others can be).
- PAILS; canisters with a pail-like handle.
- SAMPLE or COMPLIMENTARY TRIAL PACKAGE; usually smaller versions of the actual
- TOBACCO HABIT CURES; whatever the remedy was, it was sold in tins and bottles.
Sears Roebuck sold a cure under their SEROCO brand name back in the 1890's.
Tobacco tins came about after tobacco was sold in
wooden caddies (small or large crates), often branded or identified with a colorful paper
label. Tobacco continued to be sold in fabric/leather/paper pouches that may have had
decorated with printing or had a tin tag attached .
The tins started out with paper labels, then in
the 1870's attempts were made to use stone lithography to print color labels directly to
the shiny metal. Tins can be found with paper label only, litho only, or a combination of
They had an assortment of lid closures that
included knobbed lids, snap-down, hinged, and even an ashtray lid. (Editor's note - I'm
sure there are more technical terms for the various types of lids. If anyone is aware of
them, please write to me.)
Why else do people collect them? There were a variety
of advertising themes; Christmas tins, tins with Indians and other racial pictures, ships
and Presidents, and everything else you could imagine. Plus you have all of the foreign
brands to choose from too. If you get desperate, you can include the plastic canisters in
Tobacco tin collectors often add other tobacco related
advertising products and point of sale items to their collections. Things like humidors,
pipes, cigar/cigarette packs and cartons, lighters, signs, tin tags, wooden caddies,
ashtrays, and all kinds of other merchandise.
- Tin tags are little pieces of tin artwork that come in various sizes and shapes.
Collected since the 1870's, there is an estimated 12,000 different tags or variations
TOBACCO BOOK BIBLIOGRAPHY
- Tobacco and Americans by Robert K. Hermann, 1960.
- Tobacco Tins and Their Prices by Al Bergevin, 1986.
- Tobacco Tins: A Collector's Guide by Douglas Congdon-Martin, 1992 with price
- Tobacco Tin Encyclopedia by C. Hall Enger (unpublished manuscript?), 1989.
- Golden Leaves: R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and the Art of Advertising by RJR
- The World of Smoking and Tobacco: At Auction by Tony Hyman, 1989.
- Smoke Signals: Cigarette Advertising and the American Way of Life by Jane Webb
- Chewing Tobacco Tin Tags: 1870-1930 by ?
- TOBACCO CONTAINERS from CANADA, UNITED
STATES and the WORLD, published April 2002.
It is a price guide and reference book. Over 370 pages and well over 2500
colored pictures of tobacco containers. The book has both Canadian
and U.S. values; articles on the three major Canadian
companies, as well as other articles such as war time containers. There
are bleeding letters at the top for quick reference. plus other features.
Contact Norman Carlson for more information and price at
or New Antique Ventures, Inc. (403) 527-6371
Also books now sell for $20.00 plus $20.00 postage.
TOBACCO RELATED COLLECTOR CLUBS
* CIGARETTE PACK COLLECTORS ASSOCIATION, 61 SCARLE STREET, GEORGETOWN, MA. 01833
* THE LIGHTER COLLECTOR INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY, 829 ROCKAWAY STREET, GROVER CITY,
* INTERNATIONAL WRISTWATCH AND CIGARETTE LIGHTER CLUB, 832 LEXINGTON AVE., NEW
YORK, NY. 10021
* Tin Tag Collectors Club - contact Chris Cooper (President, Secretary &
Treasurer), Rt 2 Box 55, Pittsburg, TX. 75686, ph: 903-856-7286, fax: 903-856-6879
- Membership $20/year, foreign is $30. Members rec the TIN TAG EXCHANGE every two
months. Web site- http://www.collectoronline.com/collect/club-TTCC.html
* Tobacco Jar Collectors, Society of: Charlotte Tarses, 3011 Fallstaff Rd.,
Baltimore, Md 21209. For Info, Melinda Bagley, Secretary, 6370 Kirby Ridge Cove, Memphis,
* Cigar Label Collectors International: P.O. Box 66, Sharon Center, OH
44274-0066, Phone/Fax: 216-930-2991
used by tobacco tin
Bag (A bag is a cloth bag by definition)
Bbl Barrel (Shaped like a barrel - e.g. Briggs barrel)
BRD Box with Round Corners (e.g. Benton, Crescent Club)
BSQ Box with Square Corners (Three States Mixture, Cross Swords)
Cabn Cabin Shaped (usually cigars or obviously syrup)
Cf A keywind tin usually coffee hence the usage (also used RKyW)
CgBx A wooden cigar box
Crmr Tin shaped like a creamer
Disp A display tin - never contained a product
FL50 Flat 50 (cigarette tin)
F100 Flat 100 (cigarette tin)
FP Flat pocket (e.g. Small tin with round corners, such as Charm of the West
and smaller than the HP
G or Gl Glass container
GBBl Glass barrel
GOct Octagonal glass jar
Grwl Growler - lunch pail (only know of one)
HB Horizontal Box - any tin with longer horizontal dimensions if not falling in
one of the other categories
Hex Hexagon shaped tin
HLB Handleless Lunch Box
HP Horizonal Pocket - most common example is probably Honest Labor
Hse House shaped container
HWBx Horixaontal Wood Box - can also be a CgBx if wooden though this usage
is more common
LB Lunch box tin
MkPl Milk pail shaped - primarily coffee
Oct Octagon Tin
OvP Oval Pocket Tin
OVST Oval Small Top Tin (talc tins normally)
OvST Horizontal Tobacco Tin with a Smaller Oval Top
Pack Pack (cigarettes)
Pkg Package (usually paper tobacco pack)
Pkt Small cigarette packet (usually held 10 cigarettes)
Rd50 Round tin holding 50 cigarettes
RdST Round Store tin
RKbT Round Tin with Knob Top (wooden knob)
RKyT Round Tin originally opened with a key (cf. Cf above)
RSmT Round tin with small round top
RSnT Round tin with snap type opening top
SqFl A thin tin that normally held 10 small cigars. Usual dimensions close
to 3 x 3 x 1/2
SqST Square Store Tin
SqST Square small top
STRd Round Store tin
STST Slant front store tin
ST V Vertical Store Tin
Tepe Teepee Shape
Tr Triangular Tin
Tz Trapezoidal Tin
VB Vertical Box
VOv or VOv Oval Cornered Box (usually cigars like Orcico)
VP or UP Usually definition is VP (upright pocket)
VSmT Vertical Small Top
VSQ Vertical Square Box
VWBx Vertical Wood Box
Wall Wallet Shaped tin
WBkt Wood Bucket - paper label assumed
2x6 Pie shape with dimensions defined
4x6 Common tobacco tin shape with third dimension varying.
Some people put a period after the abbreviation to differentiate a tobacco tin from a cigar
tin with the cigar tin having the period. Thus Orcico Cigars becomes VOv.