Collecting Tin Trays
Article 2 of 3

Collecting and Using Vintage Tins and Trays

MidMods East – Violet

It turns out that on my junking journeys, or more respectfully, thrifting forays, I run across a number of tin trays, usually buried under everything else on the bottom shelves at the Goodwill and other thrifts. I think this happens because they are flat and nest inside each other; moreover, they are very inexpensive, usually between 99 cents and $1.99. Unless, of course, they are actually those hand painted tole trays. The most beautiful ones can be quite expensive, running anywhere from $35.00 to $95.00 on average. But, that is not what we are talking about here.

Serving Trays

I am talking about lithograph printed tin trays. My favorites are the ones that have bright colors and fruits and florals, like the red one pictured above. The beauty above is 12.5 inches wide x 17.25 inches long, making it the largest tray I still own. Unlike some of the trays pictured here, this one has a plain red enameled backside.

While the black tray pictured below looks like its more expensive hand-painted tole cousins, it, too, is a lithographed tin tray. Today, these are very popular, and I have never had a problem selling one at my booth at the local antique mall.

Large Black Floral Tole Tray - Vintage Tin

Snack Trays

By far the most common sized tray that I have been finding is like the blue one below. 8.5 inches wide x 14 inches long, it’s much narrower and only a bit shorter than the larger ones. I love this size. They make great project trays for crafts, especially for beading or any small bits that you want to keep contained so that you can pull it out when you have a few minutes to do something fun.

Red Hat and Grapes Tray - Vintage Tin

Yellow Tray with Poppies - Vintage Tin

Daisies and Roses Tray - Vintage Tin

Green Tole Roses Tray - Vintage TinThe green tray above is also a lithograph image on tin. Interestingly, it looks very close to the real tole painted trays.

Canape Trays

The small trays that look like they can be used for a doll’s play kitchen are Canape Trays. Hospitality was a big deal during the Mid Century and the lady of the house was expected to be a good hostess. At 4.5 inches wide x 6.5 inches long, they are too small to hold a cake plate, but were good for snacks and other finger foods that weren’t too messy.

Small Black Tole Roses Canape Tray - Vintage Tin

Red Peacock Canape Tray- Vintage Tin

Not Using Vintage Trays for Food Service

Back in a day, most people were into better living through chemistry, nobody thought about petrochemicals being bad for you. Frankly, if you didn’t drop dead immediately it couldn’t be bad for you. Sixty-five years later, we are reaping what was sown in astronomical cancer rates, metabolic disorders, as well as other health issues. For this reason, I recommend that you never allow food to come in direct contact with these trays as the finish is not durable and if heated even a little, smells strongly of oil paint.

Rust: The Bane of Tin

Just like any other vintage tin, rust can be a problem. The yellow tray above has a touch of rust, but I liked it so much and the damage was minimal, so I kept it. I would like to tell you never to get tin wet, but that isn’t practical. If you plan on using your vintage tin you will have to clean it and perhaps rehab it a bit.

To learn how to care for and clean your vintage tin, please check back for the third installment in this series of blog posts.

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Collecting Vintage Tins and Trays

by Violet/MidMods East – January 28, 2016

Article 1 of 3

Collecting and Using Vintage Tins and Trays

The Button Box
I love Vintage Tin. I always have. My first experience with tins was in my mother’s closet where she kept her button box. I can still remember spending hours playing with it, while sitting in the closet, sorting buttons and little tangles of thread that my mother thought were too long to throw away. She was born during the end of the depression, just before WW2 in Hungary, where they ate everything on a pig, including the oink. They threw nothing away. It’s amazing how many people my age can count the button box among their favorite playthings. Once I set up housekeeping, I found a vintage tin that I liked and started my own button box using this Drury Lane Chocolates Candy Box Tin with pink and yellow roses.

Storage Tins

Daher Storage Tins

My first tin was a new round, embossed tin canister from Daher with a lid that had a knob. It was a bit more modern, and given that I came of age on the cusp of the 70s, it appealed to my teenaged, artist girl aesthetic. It also appealed to my mother’s economic sensibilities, as these were very inexpensive. As a result, it wasn’t hard for her to gift me one without it being a holiday or birthday. I loved it. Frankly, I love containers. It satisfies my hoarder tendencies, since you can always put things in them. Sadly I no longer have that canister, or the others my mother bought me, but I could easily find one on Etsy. Daher was located in America, but the tins were made in England. They made these embossed metal tins along with trays, biscuit tins, metal serving bowls, among others. No longer in existence Daher is now the Tin Box Company.
For more information on Daher, click HERE.

Kitchen Canisters


My favorite canister type tins are the mid century kitchen tin canisters used for storing baking ingredients and coffee. The two I have don’t hold either flour or sugar, but they make great office supply stashes. I love the old-fashioned rose lithos from the 1940s and 50s and only wish I could find more of this type.

Tea and Sweets Canisters

Vintage Tea Tins

Often vintage tea tin design depicts the Orient, or more specifically China, which is where tea drinking originated. The larger green canister on the right is from Cherrydale Farms and originally held candy, but now serves as a tea tin as well. As long as they are in good condition, are clean and don’t have rusty interiors they can still be used for tea. Since they are often so beautiful, making great decorations, they should be given a place of honor with all your other vintage tea service paraphernalia, either out on the counter or in your china closet.

Biscuit and Cookie Tins

Vase-of-Roses Vintage Biscuit Tin

Some of the prettiest tins were originally sold as gift tins filled with biscuits, aka cookies. Rich and buttery, the biscuits were a treat at Christmas and other holidays. After the contents were eaten, you were left with a wonderful container. I happened to locate this floral beauty by Valley Brook Farms at a thrift store for only 99 cents. It is in very good condition and I handle it like glass. Eventually I will decide what goes inside. I am thinking it will make a great mending box for vintage sewing tools, bobbins and spools of thread.

Tiny Tim Basket Tin
Also in my collection is this biscuit tin embossed with a basket texture and the lithograph of a woven basket, with a medallion of Tiny Tim and his father Bob Cratchit. While not impossible to find, they aren’t very common and tend not to be in good condition. I haven’t been able to identify the manufacturer, but the center medallion features a range of romantic imagery, such as Two Boys at a Well, and one with a Victorian Couple Courting. Obviously this one was meant to be used for Christmas Cookies.

File Boxes and other Tins

Vintage Tin File Box

It’s not as if file card boxes haven’t been made from metal for a long time, but this lovely one is from the late 60s, early seventies, and resembles some of the Daher Canisters from that time period. Next to the file box is a small Daher Container from about the same period as the file box. The graphics appear to be from the early 70s. It is the perfect size for storing postage stamps, rubber bands, and paper clips.

Advertising Tins


Prior to 1870, tin cans had paper labels to indicate their contents; but by 1870, manufacturers were able to print lithographic images directly onto tin. Many of the available vintage advertising tins are of this kind, and are very popular with collectors, and assemblage artists. For more on the history of Advertising Tins click HERE

Plantation Mints - Vintage Tin

The Plantation Chocolate Straws are still being made by Plantation Candy Company ( of Telford, PA, not far from where I live, However, they no longer sell these in the tin shown above, because they now come in bags. These were an East Coast Christmas Tradition according to the website, which probably explains why I was able to find this tin in excellent condition at a thrift store. My husband and I both remember having these during the Christmas holidays when we were kids, and now that I know where I can find them, I think I will have to order these old fashioned hard candies with real chocolate stuffing.

Do you have any favorite Tins or Exceptional Finds? We would love to hear about it.

Check back for Installment number 2 out of 3, about Vintage Tin Trays!

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Fair Winds and Following Seas: Nautical Mid Century Modern

Fair Winds and Following Seas
Nautical Mid Century Modern

by Rachel – MidMods West

Last spring, I was walking through a souk (Arabic public market) in the Gulf country of the Kingdom of Bahrain, when I was suddenly inspired to start a Pinterest board on midcentury nautical décor. Two utterly obscure and unrelated things, right? Who would be thinking about mid century nautical décor amongst the exotic oriental fare of a Middle Eastern bazaar? Among the genie’s lamps, hookah pipes and Persian carpets, there are loads of nautical “antiques” consisting of compasses, telescopes, gyrocompasses, sextants, and other navigational instruments. The vendors claim that they are real vintage items but like the majority of trinkets at the souk, they are most likely made at a local factory or somewhere in East Asia. Nonetheless, these nautical “antiques” are charming, of rather sturdy build of brass and honey colored oak and have the streamlined look of something you would find on a 1960s sailing vessel.

Nautical Games from BahrainWhen I returned to my flat, I started looking up the overall Midcentury Nautical Style, which resulted in a Pinterest board of about 80 pins. You can view it HERE

The nautical theme has always been a classic decorating choice and the nautical décor of the 1950s-1970s is no exception, reflecting the atomic, streamlined and abstract styles popular during the time. While putting together my Pinterest board, I learned about the most popular nautical themed objets d’art of the era.  So if you want to add some nautical touches to your midcentury motif, I would consider investing in the following:

1. Abstract Sailboat Paintings
You don’t necessarily need to go completely nautical to adorn your walls with a midcentury abstract sailboat painting. I find them in antique stores all the time, especially paintings from Vanguard Studios. Here is one that I received as a Christmas present. It was from Garnet Vintage Home Collections on Garnet Ave in Pacific Beach, San Diego. While perusing this wonderfully jam-packed store, I saw up to 10 very unique abstract paintings of ships at sea for truly affordable prices. You can also find loads of them on ebay and etsy from anywhere between $25 and $800.
Nautical Painting

2. Brass Figurines
Many vintage enthusiasts will recognize brass boat sculptures. They are great accent pieces and also come in a variety of other shapes such as seagulls, crabs, and birds.
Brass Sailboat BookendsBrass Seagull Wall Art

3. Framed String and Nail Boats. Many of you have heard of popular midcentury DIY staples such as sand art and paint by numbers, but have you heard of string and nail art? Add some 70’s funk to your nautical theme with this:Mid Century String Art

4. Vintage Globes 
Make it look like you regularly navigate the seven seas by adding a vintage globe to your collection. I found this one for just $20 in the antiques district of Ocean Beach. The vintage stamps add a unique and personal touch and also can be a conversation starter if you’re desperate to tell your friends about your latest world travels.Rachel's Globe

5. Fishing Boat Captain
If you like kitsch, you will probably appreciate this Salty Old Guy. He’s usually got an old skipper’s hat with raincoat, turtleneck sweater and galoshes on. They most often come in brass and painted carved wood. I’ve seen them in the form of lamps, paintings and figurines.Sea Captain Lamps

6. Helms!
Want a helm ashtray? A helm wall sculpture? How about a helm lamp? You can get just about anything shaped like a helm, or with a helm fastened onto it! Helm AshtrayHelm Compass

7. Navigational Tools
Set a nice brass compass or sextant next to your globe for final touches. Where to buy? I prefer, having personally visited the incredible treasure trove of Maidhof Brothers Nautical Antiques in San Diego. You can also look on Ebay or Etsy.
Helm Compasses

8. Nautical Sculpture Lamps and Lanterns.
I gave lamps their own category because there are so many cool nautical themed lamps from the era. Just look at this quick search on eBay:  Here’s a lamp on Ebay that manages to combine almost everything:Mid Century Sea Lantern

9. Model Ships
Place on your desk or an empty book shelf for maximum nautical affect (and maximum class).Mid Century Model Ship

Saving the coolest for last, we have the…

10. Midcentury Nautical Themed Wet Bar. No one will deny your exquisite taste as you mix them a dirty martini to some jazz beats while donning your skipper’s hat. You can buy it HERE
Mid Century Ship Bar

Do you have an exceptional piece of Nautical MCM decor? We would love to hear about it and to see a photo in the comment section.

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Ring In a Happy New Year!! 2016

I am nostalgic, I cannot lie. While I won’t be heading to any New Year’s parties tonight, I will be playing all kinds of Guy Lombardo and the Canadians tunes. Maybe we will even throw on a few old movies later and then turn on the TV to see the ball drop on Times Square just the way it has since 1907. For more on the history of Times Square at New Years CLICK HERE

Champagne ToastEven during the Mid Century, most Christmas cards included wishes for a Happy New Year; nonetheless, there were some separate New Year greeting cards. It’s still not hard to see how Christmas graphics tend to translate right into the New Years greeting cards anyway.

Most vintage New Years cards feature champagne glasses, clocks, Father Time, babies in diapers signifying the young New Year.

Deviled-Eggs-New-Years-ClockIf nothing else, the greatest generation was really inventive with all the new prepared foods. We might not combine foods like this anymore, but luncheon meats, green olives with pimentos, and deviled eggs still show up regularly at our family gatherings especially if my mother-in-law is bringing a cold platter.

Family-New-YearDave Mink did this illustration for Collier’s Magazine. This edition was published for the New Year on January 6th, 1951. Not much has changed as most kids and some parents tend to poop out by midnight. I can remember being dragged home half asleep from the sitters in my jammies.

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6 Mid Century Christmas Staples You Must Have

Written by: Rachel/ MidMods West – December 4, 2014

Every year, we roll out the Christmas decorations, some old, some new, some homemade, some not. Everyone’s Christmas décor speaks to their family traditions, history, and personal taste. In fact, if you’re like me, you just finally chucked some of those heinous pseudo country decorations from the 80’s. No matter what your Christmas motif is, or what the latest trends are, there are some timeless Mid Century Christmas classics that should be part of everyone’s Christmas decorating scheme. So, in no particular order, here are the essentials:

Shiny Bright Ornaments

Shiny Brite Ornaments

1. Shiny Brite Ornaments
Without a doubt, when one thinks of a Mid Century Christmas, Shiny Brite Ornaments are most likely the first thing to come to mind. Every year, I carefully lift the lid off our fragile box of shiny bright ornaments and hang them on the tree. They are usually the last ornaments to go up on the tree and they always go on the best branches.

Shiny Brite was founded by German immigrant Max Eckhardt in 1939 and produced in partnership with the Corning Glass Company. Following WWII, Shiny Brite became the largest ornament production company in the world.  To read more about Shiny Brite’s history, click here.

Shiny Brite

Shiny Brite Box Top Graphics

Where to get them? Though very breakable, you can still find original Shiny Brite ornaments at most antique/vintage stores during the Christmas season. If you are unable to find vintage ones, The Christopher Radko Company has been making reproductions of the most popular designs since 2003.

Care. Keep them stored in tissue in their box in a dry place free of rodents and other pests. Avoid hanging them on lower branches to keep safe from curious pets and kids. Secure them to the branches with original or new bendable medal hooks.

Average Price: $5 per ornament.

Putz House

Putz House – These kind are usually made in Japan

2. Putz Houses
Also known as “Sugar Houses,” or “Glitter Houses,” Putz Houses come only second to Shiny Bright ornaments as quintessential Mid Century Christmas decorations. My Nanna always likes to remark that she paid 15 cents each for her putz houses. In fact some of them still have the price stickers on the bottom. She has about 10 and they’re in perfect condition.

History: The concept of the Putz house originated in the Moravian Church in present day Czech Republic, whose followers settled in Bethlehem, PA and Salem, NC. Moravian settlers would assemble a Putz, or miniature village scene beneath the tree or on the hearth. Putz scenes normally consisted of houses, trees, and nativity scenes. By the 1950’s, Putz houses were mass-produced in Japan as the glitter coated cardboard houses we know today. For a full history of Putz houses, click here.

Today, original Putz Houses go for far more than 15 cents. Fortunately, we have options. If vintage Putz Houses made in Japan are out of your budget, and you’re feeling crafty, you can make them. There are DIY instructions and kits all over the web. You can cut the patterns from cardboard yourself, or buy them already assembled to paint and decorate.

Interesting fact: Insert white Christmas lights into the hole in the back of each Putz houses to make the cellophane windows glow.

Average price on Etsy/Ebay:
$20. Recommendation: look for houses with cellophane windows still in tact.

Plastic Candy Santas

Plastic Candy Santas

3. Celluloid Plastic Kitsch Ornaments and Figurines
Celluloid and hard plastic Christmas ornaments are hard to come by and considered highly collectible, especially the Santas. Made by companies like Bradford Novelty, Jewelbrite, and in Japan, models like the Santa with sleigh and full set of white reindeer are excellent pieces for your mantle or tree table top. My favorites are the iridescent striped lanterns Christmas tree decorations.

Do you recognize these? Manufactured by Bradford Novelty Company, these delicate plastic bells look amazing on the tree! They come in the glitter coated and iridescent varieties. It’s a bonus if you can find it with its filigree ball still attached (by a chenille cord).

Sugar Bells

Sugar Bells

Were to find them? You can find them on Ebay and Etsy and some antique malls. If you have been able to snag these for cheap at a thrift store, or flee market, let us know in “bragging rights!” For more information on the different varieties of celluloid ornaments, click on this guide.

History: Though not a household name like Shiny Bright, Bradford Novelty Company made many of the plastic Christmas decorations that are now considered staples of mid century Christmas décor. Based out of MA, Bradford was a family owned business that was in operation for more than 50 years and closed their doors in 2006. Here is a good example of some of their best Christmas ornaments.  

Average Price: $25

Knee Hugger Elves

Knee Hugger Elves came before Elf on the Shelf

4. Knee Hugger Elf

Made popular again by “The Elf on the Shelf” children’s book by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell, many homes are now host to at least one knee-hugger elf. Elf on the Shelf is based on the original Knee Hugger Elves made in US occupied Japan. The Knee Hugger Elf was one of my favorite Christmas decorations as a kid and I spent hours setting up elaborate Christmas wonderland scenes for him to sit in. He was sadly destroyed in a flood, but fortunately, these creepy little pixies aren’t difficult to find.

Were you can find it: Depending on your age, you’re mom or grandmother most likely has one. If not, Ebay and Etsy have loads of results. I recently found a larger one for $7 at the Cerebral Palsy Thrift store in Pacific Beach, San Diego. His face was grubby but I cleaned him right up with a Mr. Clean magic eraser. He now sits next to the “Elf on the Shelf” doll my mom gave me two years ago.

Average Price: $18

Aluminum Trees with Color Wheel

Aluminum Tree with Color Wheel

5. Aluminum Trees
We all knew that shiny, splendid Aluminum trees would appear on the list. Aluminum trees enjoyed a short stint of popularity, but they will be eternally known as a Mid Century Christmas icon and product of the Atomic Age. For a long time, the aluminum tree fell out of popularity, considered tacky or tasteless, but resurged in popularity around 2005. They are actually quite stunning, especially when illuminated by a rotating color wheel and in the right setting, they can complete your Christmas décor.

History: Primarily produced by the Aluminum Specialty Company in Wisconsin, the aluminum tree was popular in the United States from 1958 to 1965. Click here to get a full history of the Aluminum tree.

Where to buy one:
Ebay, Etsy, Estate Sales, Live and Internet Auction

Care: Keeping your original aluminum tree in mint condition is a delicate process. Here is a link to a comprehensive list of must do’s to make sure that your aluminum tree doesn’t end up looking like the aluminum foil covering from last night’s leftovers.

A word of caution from the Consumer Product Safety Commission Website:  “Never use Christmas lights on a metallic tree because a person could be electrocuted if the tree becomes charged with electricity from metallic tree needle decorations getting into the light sockets.”
This is why people had rotating color wheels to illuminate their Aluminum Trees.
See Picture above. Read a Mid Century Christmas Essay – Silver Trees and Macaroni Stars by Terry

Average price:
$150-900 depending on size and condition

Tinsel Tree

Tinsel Tree

6. Tinsel Icicles (Lametta)
Spend about 5 minutes looking at old black and white photos of Christmas trees in the 1950’s and 60’s and you’ll notice one thing most of them have in common: tons and tons of tinsel.

Tinsel has been around since it was invented in the early 1600’s in Nuremburg Germany. Over the centuries, it has been made from silver, lead, aluminum and now PVC with a metallic finish. Lead was the most popular source material during the midcentury due to its shine and inability to tarnish like its silver predecessor.

Icicles aka Tinsel

Icicles aka Tinsel

Where to buy it: Lead tinsel was discontinued in the 70’s due to it being a potential health hazard, so I don’t recommend seeking it out, if it still exists. You can buy modern tinsel for cheap at Walmart, Amazon or Ebay. It doesn’t lay as elegantly due to its lighter weight, but it’s close enough.

A word of caution: If you are going to use tinsel icicles on a natural tree, please take care to gather all of the strands and save them for the following year before tossing the tree, as tinsel can be an environmental hazard to wildlife. Birds and other small animals can easily get tangled in tinsel that they take back to nests or boroughs, or worse, ingest the tinsel.

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