Hunting for treasures seems to be an inborn trait. Many people enjoy collecting a variety of things, like costume jewelry, bottles, tools, pottery, 1950s furniture, advertising and sports and political items.

One subcategory of advertising we recently noticed is the talcum powder tin. Talc is a mineral. It absorbs moisture, and in powdered form it has been used for centuries to keep skin dry. Collectors like old talcum powder tins because of their clever designs made to attract buyers.

Tins were decorated with images of babies, flowers 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. 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?

A: 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’m trying to find information about my old copper barrel. It’s stamped “Lippincott, 8 gal.” and “916 Filbert St.” It also has an eagle on it and the abbreviation “Phila.” Can you tell me who made the barrel and how old it might be?

A: Several members of the Lippincott family ran a business at this Filbert Street address from 1832 until about 1911. Brothers John and Charles Lippincott of Philadelphia made copper machinery before expanding into the production of soda water, syrups and equipment for carbonating water.

Charles took over the business from John in 1865. He made ornate soda fountains with multiple spigots for different flavors. Charles Lippincott & Co. joined with three other companies to form the American Soda Fountain Co., a trust designed to monopolize soda fountain manufacturing, in 1891.

When Charles retired, his sons A.H. and F.H. Lippincott took over. They withdrew from the American Soda Fountain Co. in 1907 and moved about 1911. By 1916 the company was no longer making soda fountains. Your copper bucket was made before 1911.