Collecting Tin Trays
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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.