The vintage oil can is an icon of a past age of automobiles, fuel, and gas station service. It’s also a versatile collectible, straddling both the automotive (“automobilia”) and petroliana (gas-related antique advertising) industries. It’s a familiar sight in swap meets, old garages, and even on the History channel show American Pickers. And it’s a great example of “one man’s trash is another’s treasure.”
The value of an antique oil can depends vintage oil cans for sale on several factors, including the condition and brand name. Collectors generally prefer mint or near-mint cans, but rusty, dinged and scratched cans still have some value. The size of the can also influences its value. Larger cans, like ten- or five-gallon oil jugs, tend to be more valuable than smaller cans, such as one-quart cans.
Some cans are more valuable than others, and this is primarily due to the fact that they’re rarer. Although some names, such as Mobil, Texaco Havoline, and Esso, may be more well-known than others, other lesser-known names and regional brands often fetch the highest prices. In addition, early variants of a brand’s logo tend to be more valuable than later variants, as they often coincided with a significant milestone in the company’s history.
In addition to a can’s basic size and shape, its date of production helps set its value. For instance, square-ish, boxlike oil cans that were typically made of lead-seamed tin in the 1920s and 1940s have high value. As metal became scarcer during World War II, many companies switched to cylindrical cans that featured soldered seams that showed as a gray stripe down the back or side of the can. These cans, called a quart cans or an oiler, were common until the 1960s when round plastic cans replaced them.
A can’s graphic design also contributes to its value. A can with a unique, eye-catching, or unusual design is more likely to attract interest from collectors. It’s a good idea for collectors to make note of the prices for one-quart oil cans in various standard published price guides. This way, they can keep a file of prices to refer to when evaluating potential finds. A database of these prices, as well as the dates and location of collector conventions or auctions, can help them determine a fair price for a particular can. This can be helpful when determining whether to purchase, sell, or keep an oil can. Moreover, it can help them set their collecting budget. Having this information will also help them determine which cans are worth pursuing when scouring flea markets and tag sales for new pieces to add to their collection. With a little research and a keen eye for detail, collecting oil cans becomes easy. It may take a while for beginner collectors to learn the ins and outs of the hobby, but with time they can make informed decisions about which items to buy or sell.