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.

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!