Many men like cars, so plan to give a Father’s Day gift of a piece of automobilia. Can’t afford a full-size car? Try one of today’s most popular collectibles, a vintage motor oil can. There is very little information available about the cans, but there’s a lot about the companies that made the oil. So it’s easy to date a can by its logo and style, which makes it easy to find great early examples. The tin can was invented in 1810 to hold food for Napoleon’s army. Cans were made by hand in the early 19th century. About six could be made by one man in an hour. By 1900, the main products stored in tin cans were food and petroleum products. Cans made around the turn of the 20th century had a soldered seam on the side that looks like a gray strip. Cardboard cans were introduced in the 1940s but were widely used from the 1950s to the 1980s. The first soft-drink aluminum cans were used in 1953. The first aluminum cans for motor oil were made in 1958. The square cardboard quart oil can came into use in the 1960s. Most popular with collectors are the quart size, then the gallon, then the 5-gallon, and it does not matter if the can is full or empty. An unusual Marathon motor oil container sold in 2014 at a William Morford auction. It’s shaped and decorated to look like an oil well. The 15-inch-high can has the brand’s “Running Man” logo, a silhouette of an ancient Greek runner and the slogan “Best in the long run.” The logo dates to the 1920s, but the brand was purchased by the Ohio Oil Co. in 1930.
Q: I have a New York Mets pennant from the 1969 World Series. It’s red with white and blue lettering that reads “New York Mets, 1969 National League Champions.” It has the Mets logo, Mr. Met, and the words “World Series.” The last names of the players and the manager are listed. What is it worth?
A: The New York Mets were an expansion team that ended up in last place in 1962, their inaugural season, and second to last the following seasons until 1969, when they clinched the National League pennant. The “Miracle Mets” upset the Baltimore Orioles and won the World Series that year, too. Mets pennants in good condition sell for about $50 to $100.
Q: My small Victorian “parlor table” is made of oak. It has a shaped top and intricately turned legs and four little claw feet, each holding a little glass ball. I cannot find a mark or label. What would the table sell for today?
A: Those glass ball-and-claw feet were popular during the Victorian “Golden Oak” period of furniture-making. If your table is in excellent condition, it could sell for $300 or more.
Tip: Check wires and screw eyes before hanging an old picture.