Hunting for treasures seems to be an inborn trait. Perhaps it’s from the need of the caveman to search, find food and store some for later use.
For centuries, the very rich surrounded themselves with expensive art and artifacts to impress each other and “the peasants.” Today, many people enjoy collecting a variety of things, such as costume jewelry, bottles, tools, prints, pottery, 1950s furniture, advertising, and sports and political items.
Sometimes the best information about collections comes from the clubs and publications devoted to the subject. One subcategory of advertising we recently noticed is talcum powder tins, since lawsuits related to talcum powder have been in the news recently.
Talc is a mineral. It absorbs moisture, and in powdered form it has been used for centuries to keep skin dry. Some natural talc contains asbestos, which can be dangerous to health; so since the 1970s, the talcum powder sold in stores has been processed to be asbestos-free.
Collectors like old talcum powder tins because of their clever designs made to attract buyers. Tins were decorated with images of babies, flowers, nursery-rhyme figures and clever graphics. Egyptian talcum powder made by Palmolive was in a tin that looks like an Egyptian column. Mennen’s early tins feature a seated baby that we are told was actually the brand owner’s child. A 1964 can of Beatles “Margo of Mayfair” talc has a drawing of the four Beatles. Look for tins by Watkins, Colgate, Johnson, Caswell-Massey and other major brands, and also brands from other countries or long-gone companies.
Prices range from $10 to about $150 for most tins offered online, but the rarest and most beautiful may cost as much at $800.
Q: About 40 years ago, I bought an oak lawyer’s rotary desk at auction. One side section of the desk swivels and the other side has a large drawer for files. Pasted inside one of the small drawers is a form for ordering accessory items from the E.H. Stafford Desk Co. of Muskegon, Mich. Any history?
Answer: The E.H. Stafford Co. was founded in 1890 and was reincorporated as E.H. Stafford Manufacturing Co. in 1904. The company made school, church and office furniture as well as opera chairs. It was in business until at least the 1920s. Because it’s an interesting desk, it probably would sell for $500 to $700.
Q: I have a leather card case marked “Wilro Shop.” Can you tell me something about the maker and possible age of the case?
Answer: The Wilro Shop was founded in 1902 by sisters Rose and Minnie Dolese of Chicago. They made leather and metal goods, dower and wardrobe chests, pottery and other items. Tooled purses, card cases, desk sets and illuminated leather book covers were decorated in the Arts and Crafts style popular at the time.
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