Are you looking for something a little different and quite new to spice up the feel of your kitchen, bathroom, or some other rooms in your house? Maybe the best way to get something new is to go for something much older, like a set of vintage canisters.
The vintage style has carried forward the charms of previous generations to every generation in history, and this is just as true in the times we live in. The vintage aesthetic is not only in vogue now, but it is also timeless, meaning you will never need to get rid of your vintage items.
Vintage canister sets can be used for any number of things you can imagine, whether it is a jar for storing cookies, a tin for storing flour, or just a rustic canister for holding your cotton buds and other bathroom implements.
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What Materials Are Vintage Canister Sets Made From?
Canister sets have been used in American kitchens since before the Civil War, and similar implements have been used globally for a little longer. Because of this long and storied history, the materials used to make them vary wildly.
If you are looking to set a certain theme to your home decor with your new purchases, you can actually use the materials that they are made from to try to determine where and when they are from or, if they are reproductions, which era they are representing.
Some of the oldest canister sets and single canisters were made of metal. Tin was the metal of choice up until and including the 19th century because it does not react to the acids in food, which gives it both a long life insofar as it will not be damaged by what is inside it and the ability to not affect the condition of the food.
In spite of its reputation as cheap or common, tin is actually relatively rare on the earth, which is why it fell out of use for canisters in the 20th century. In this century, aluminum became the most common metal for these kinds of containers and continues to be for most new products described colloquially as “tin.”
The metal canisters, especially the ones from the 1900s, are the ones that were used most commonly for advertising. If you see a canister set with plenty of vintage ads, it is likely to be authentic or at the very least a very faithful reproduction.
Ceramic storage containers for food and other materials from the kitchen date back to the ancient world with the advent of pottery. This is actually one of the first human inventions, with the earliest discovered examples of pottery dating all the way back to more than 10,000 years ago.
The most distinct difference between ancient pottery and a newer but still vintage ceramic kitchen canister is the use of lids. While ancient pots may or may not have had them, relatively modern kitchen canisters view them as an essential part and may even include gasket lids for maximum preservation and efficiency.
In the context of the kinds of vintage canister sets we are used to, ceramic ones actually came after their earlier metal counterparts in terms of when they were popular, becoming most prominent in the 20th century.
Perhaps the most uncommon sets you may find are those made of wood. While you may find many canisters made of other materials, notably glass, that use wood for parts like the lids or the knobs, canisters made entirely out of wood are a rare find.
Glass canisters became fashionable toward the end of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century. This coincided somewhat with improvements in the production of glass, making that process much easier and cheaper and therefore the final product more affordable.
As with ceramic canisters, using glass for storage of foodstuffs is a practice that dates back to the ancient world with the advent of Egyptian glass blowing, though it was never as common as when glass canisters became fashionable at the turn of the 20th century.
Plastic vintage canister sets can be a bit controversial, especially in terms of what their value is determined to be, due to the perceived low value of the material and how recent they are relative to their metal, glass, and ceramic counterparts.
That said, they are exemplars of a certain era and a certain aesthetic, and many collectors value these for the slice of history they offer. These canisters were most common in kitchens between the 1950s and the 1980s and carry many hallmarks of the era with them, including soft tones and autumnal colors.
What Are the Different Styles of Vintage Canister Sets?
The types of vintage canister sets that are offered will often reflect the styles of the time and place they are from. For example, a metal set from the turn of the 20th century might be exemplary of the Art Nouveau style, with natural colors and winding, organically shaped vines decorating it.
Perhaps the most common style of vintage canisters that many people go for is that which emulates the “cottage” or “farmhouse” look. These are often fairly simple in shape and ornamentation, use neutral colors, and have motifs of animals and nature in their artwork. They are notably absent from advertisements.
A lot of people will even go for an eclectic approach where they will mix and match items from various very different vintage canister sets to make a completely unique setting. This creates a broadly vintage feel without evoking any specific aesthetic.
What Is a Vintage Canister Set Worth?
Because the function of a canister is naturally limited, its value is neither bound by failing mechanisms nor enhanced by any advanced purpose. This makes collecting vintage canister sets a relatively inexpensive hobby if you only want to spruce up your kitchen decor.
The prices are largely driven by supply and demand, and one of the biggest factors is whether the items are still of good quality, ideally in perfect condition.
The kinds of prices you will see most often will range from a few dollars per canister on the bottom end to potentially a few hundred dollars if you have an item that is very old, very well preserved for its age, or iconic and in high demand.
Tips on Buying Vintage Canister Sets
Buying vintage canister sets can seem very easy, but it is worth being aware of certain things before you set out.
The first thing to consider is that a lot of canister sets you see for sale, even those that have been labeled as “vintage,” will simply be in the vintage style rather than actual antiques. If the aesthetic is the only thing you are after, then these reproductions are perfectly all right, but they would not suit a collector.
The other thing to be aware of is that there are plenty of places to shop for them, and you might get a much better deal if you shop around for a bit rather than getting a set at the first place you see it. Let’s look at some places to buy them.
Sites like eBay and Etsy are great places to find antiques that people are offering for sale. You can get a great purchase with fast shipping from these sites, but be very careful with what you are buying.
You might think that a product looks like a vintage set in great condition, but there are a lot of reproductions available for sale. Always read the product description and fine print carefully if you are after a genuine antique.
Antique stores are probably the best place to look if you are a collector after an authentically vintage canister set, but what kind of price you get from them will vary and usually toward the more expensive end. You will tend to find exclusive offers here due to the brick-and-mortar nature of the stores.
Canister sets of all dimensions by any maker can potentially be found at flea markets due to the mix of sellers available. Because haggling is not frowned upon here, you can get some great discounts if you try.
You may get a pleasant surprise if you check your local thrift store. Even a nice heavy ceramic set can run for less money than you would have thought due to the original owners selling them on because they do not see their potential value.
Another place to find big canisters or those of smaller size at any combination of depth and width is at garage sales. You can think of these as flea markets with only one seller, and the same logic and practices apply.
If you have never considered getting vintage canister sets for your kitchen counters before, you have hopefully now reconsidered and are ready to set out on your new antique journey. So what style of the set are you thinking of getting first?