Q: I’ve done Internet searches but cannot find any info on my two unopened cans of Chesterfield cigarettes from the 1950s.
A: Images sent show that our reader indeed has two unopened round tins, each holding 50 unfiltered Chesterfield cigarettes. Imagine small soup-sized cans, each with a metal key attached on the top to open. The turnkey is the type that used to be attached to sardine tins.
The tins look to be original and in remarkable condition. A tins collector would be thrilled to have them.
Tobacco tins or containers have been around since about 1860, when Lorillard is credited with having made the first U.S. tin. Celebrated for their artful color lithography, tobacco tins became the stuff of marketing contests between companies. By the first quarter of the 20th century, consumers bought as much for the attractive tins as for the tobacco.
Most tins were flat or upright with hinged lids, and they were produced in astounding variety. The earliest had squared corners; boxes with round corners came later.
Prized today by advertising, lithography and tobacciana collectors, desirable early tins from the 1890-1910 era are pricey and rare.
Our reader’s tins date from the 1940s, when their can packaging was especially suited to smokers in World War II military units. Moving into the 1950s, Chesterfield launched advertising that promoted smoking as a sophisticated thing to do. A new flat, square metal box with a hinged lid — a sleek design — was part of the campaign. Many of those boxes survive at flea markets and in online auctions.
The reader, a smart collector, notes a DeWitt Clinton tax-revenue stamp on his tins. Having done some homework, he’s learned that the stamp is a Series 110. The series signifies 1940. When that stamp is unbroken, unstained and still bright, it’s like gold. Value for collectibles is always about like-new condition.
Viewing stamps in the images, we see that one has a smudge on Clinton’s face. But the stamp is intact. Considering every other plus, a buyer may overlook the blemish.
We found a similar single near-mint condition Chesterfield can with minor stamp blemishes that sold on eBay recently for $250. And this reader has two.
The tins are a collector’s dream: outstanding condition, unopened, with intact keys, no rust — perfection!