Motor Oil Can Collector Guide
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About Oil Cans
Oil cans are one of the most popular collectibles among petroleum collectors today. Oil cans come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and have been constructed using a variety of materials as well.
Typically, oil cans are among the most graphic collectibles available. While signs and gas pump globes are typically graphic as well, the can allows for much more detail. Oil Cans were also easily updated to include changes in logos, addresses, or product names, so they often have more historical information than you might find on a sign or gas pump globe.
The quart-size motor oil can is the most popular size of oil cans collected, followed by the one-gallon can and the five-gallon E-ZE-pour can of the 1920's-30's.
The great debate among collectors is whether to keep the cans in the there collection full or empty. There is no clear answer. Some feel that if the can still contains oil, it's rarer, but even sealed oil cans can be refilled. Collectors that empty their cans do so for many practical reasons: olds cans could leak and cause paint damage, if they are dropped when full they tend to sustain a lot of damage, and they they are much lighter when empty.
Oil cans have a wide range of value. Very rare and early cans can sell for thousands of dollars, while more recent cans may be worth less than a dollar.
Sizes & Styles of Oil Cans
Soldered Seam Quart- Metal (Photo Above, Far Left): Soldered seam cans are differentiated by their gray stripe on the back or side of the can. As pictured, bare metal is visible as is the solder. This can was primarily used from the introduction of the "standard" quart size can until the early 1940's. Some companies still use solder seam cans today, primarily for specialty aviation oils. The next time you are at the airport, look closely at the maintenance trucks, you might see a case of metal solder seamed cans it back!
Crimped Seam Quart- Metal (Photo Above, Center and Right): The crimped seam can eliminated the need, and expense of soldering the seam of the can. Instead, a crimped seam similar in strength to the seam that holds the top and bottoms of the can is used instead. Some companies adapted their soldered seam can artwork (Above, center) for use with the new technology. Later crimped seam cans simply continued the artwork right over the seam (Above, right). Crimped seam cans quickly replaced their soldered seam counterpart and were used in all future quart oil cans. Some companies always used metal cans even as other companies began to adopt the more economical composite or plastic siblings.
Known Manufactures of Oil Cans
Columbia Can Company
Continental Can Company
St. Louis Tin & Sheet Metal Working Company
St. Louis Can Co.
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