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Motor Oil Can Collector Guide

For More Collectibles Information Visit OilCans.net

Quart & Five Quart Motor Oil Can Pairs

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

Quart Motor Oil Can Comparison

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.

Composite / Cardboard Quarts:
There are many names for the quarts that are constructed of a heavy cardboard with a metal top and bottom. Some collectors also refer to this type of can as simply a paper quart can. Composite quart cans started to appear in the late 1940's but they were adopted by most companies by the late 1950's and were used until the late 1980's. There are a couple of variations of the composite quarts that we'll discuss below.
Square Cardboard Quarts:
As early as the 1960's petroleum marketers experimented with packaging motor oil is small square cardboard boxes. Presumably looking for an alternative to the composite/cardboard can as they used significantly less cardboard in their construction, used no metal, and the same quantity of oil could be shipping in a smaller box. Phillips 66 was one of the major marketers to test this type of container, but I have seen at least 75 different versions of a square cardboard quart.  
Round Plastic Quarts:
Plastic quarts have been in use since the 1960's, and were the precursor to today's typical plastic bottle. This quart consists of a one piece plastic container with a metal lid. Within this category, there are two basic types of quarts. Embossed logo or a direct printed label. Pictured are two examples of an embossed logo, Shell on the left, and DX on the right. Also pictured are two examples of the direct printed label from Gulf. With the exception of the embossed logo variation, most of the plastic quarts are fairly easy to locate. Plastic Quart Motor Oil Cans
War-time Cardboard Quarts:
1/2 Gallon Oil Cans - Early Rectangle:
  1920's 1/2 Gallon Motor Oil Can
1/2 Gallon Oil Cans - Tall Rectangle:
1 Gallon Oil Cans - Early Rectangle:
1920's 1 Gallon Motor Oil Can
1 Gallon Oil Cans - Early Rectangle, Short:
1 Gallon Oil Cans - Early Rectangle, Tall:
Iowa Oil Company 1 Gallon Oil Can
1 Gallon Oil Cans - Rectangle:
Signal Oil Company 1 Gallon Fly Spray
2 Gallon Oil Cans - Early Round:
2 Gallon Oil Cans - Early Square:
2 Gallon Oil Cans - Standard Rectangle:
1950's Wareco 2 Gallon Motor Oil Can
5 Gallon Oil Cans - Early Square:
5 Gallon Motor Oil Can Selwin
5 Gallon Oil Cans - E-ZE Pour:
E-ZE Pour Motor Oil Can - Iowa Oil Company
5 Gallon Oil Cans - Round:
1950's 5 Gallon Round Motor Oil Can


1926 St. Louis Can Company Ad

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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