Late 19th-Century Vintage Can Labels
Appraised Value: $10,000 - $14,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (2:42)
GUEST: Well, I found these in an old mining town in Colorado. Actually, the town's Leadville. I found them under a house that I was remodeling. I'd buy old houses and fix them up, and I did that for many years. But this was the only one I ever found a stash of cans that were left there by the workers who built the house. Part of the house was made out of log, and the workers actually hewed the logs out right on the job site. And this was done in 1882. The wood chips and parts under the house were like six inches thick. And when they would eat their lunches, they just threw the cans under instead of taking them somewhere else. If they landed on the wood chips, they were preserved; if they landed in the dirt, they were a little pile of rust.
APPRAISER: That's amazing, and that's how these survived, by landing on the chips.
GUEST: They were on the wood chips. I found, actually, 66 cans under this house, but the mice had eaten the labels off of about 25 of them.
APPRAISER: So these are your best examples.
GUEST: Those are the best ones. I do have some duplicates of a few, but most of them are one of a kind.
GUEST: And there's three that have dates on them.
APPRAISER: Right. This is one of them, actually, that has the date.
GUEST: Yes, that has the oldest date. It says, label patented, or registered, 1876.
APPRAISER: Actually, you found some other documentation. This is interesting. There's a photograph here from a history book that shows miners tossing cans, and this particular can, right here, this bean can, is exactly the same as this Boston Baked Bean can, is that correct?
GUEST: Yes, it is. I was... I just found that a few months ago. I was... it's the first time I've ever even seen any of these cans.
APPRAISER: The tin can label applied to cans in this manner was first done in 1876, is that correct?
GUEST: That's right.
APPRAISER: According to your research?
GUEST: From other people that I've talked to, they say about the earliest they've ever seen is around 1890.
GUEST: So it's kind of exciting to have one that's 14 years older than that.
APPRAISER: For a paper label. Right.
GUEST: I've taken them to museums. I've shown them to different people. They just shake their heads and say, “We've never seen anything like this.”
APPRAISER: Yeah. No, and I haven't either. Well, first of all, the graphics are just fantastic--
GUEST: They are.
APPRAISER: --and the colors have been preserved beautifully. Chromolithography is the process that allowed this vivid color, but, usually, most of the chromolithography we see has survived is in books where the pages have been closed and no light has gotten to them. Some of these cans would sell in the range of $400 to $800 apiece.
GUEST: That's... Sounds nice.
APPRAISER: And if you average out the collection -- I was doing some quick calculating -- you have to be looking at a collection that should sell in the range for $10,000 to $14,000, so...
GUEST: Pretty good for discarded food cans.
APPRAISER: Yeah. Thanks for bringing them down.
GUEST: Thank you.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.