|By Larry LeMasters
Baby bottoms have never gone out of style. If you don’t believe me, check the maternity ward of any hospital. And one thing is certain, where there is a baby bottom there is baby powder. Baby powder or talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral comprised mainly of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen.
And while vintage talcum powder tins are highly collectible today, I must, in good consciousness, offer a stern warning from the American Cancer Society, “In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs.” Be careful, mothers and fathers.
With that warning stated, vintage talcum powder tins are more than just collectible; they make cute collections and hold their rather high values well.
Although sheet metal stamping was first developed around 1815, it was not until after World War I that United States industries seriously began stamping out tin lithograph containers. The earliest lithographed baby powder tins were produced in the early 1920s and continued on throughout the 1950s.
One of the earliest companies to manufacture talcum powder in collectible tins was NYAL Company of Detroit, Michigan. In the 1920s, NYAL offered its baby powder, Nylotis, in beautiful, baby blue tins. Today, a Nylotis Baby Powder tin is valued at $128.
Easily the most expensive talcum powder advertising tin is the “Mother Goose” baby powder tin manufactured by the Baby Health Products Company of New York in the early 1900s. Only ten of these talc tins are known to exist which explains the high value of $1,000 placed on these tins when one becomes available at auction. The body of this tin is a deep baby blue, and Mother Goose and characters are lithographed entirely around the tin.
As baby powder tins go, Cadette Products Corporation’s (of Rutherford, NJ) tin toy solder is highly sought after. In the early 1900s, Cadette offered these tin soldier cans full of talcum powder, but when the tins were empty, they made excellent toys for girls or boys. 100 years after being manufactured, a Cadette tin in good condition is valued at $175.
Not all baby powder tins were manufactured for baby use. McKesson & Robbins Incorporated of New York offered tins of baby powder as far back as 1900. These tins were advertised for children or adults as: “... recommended for a soothing and non-irritating Toilet Powder for infants. Alleviating chafing in infants and stout adults. An After Shaving Talcum for unusually sensitive faces.” Expect to pay around $170 for one of these tins on today’s secondary markets.
The value of a talc container is in the container, not its contents, so since Talc absorbs moisture, which can lead to tin rusting, it is best to empty old talc tins, especially since, as already mentioned, not all talc is healthy to use.
The values associated with old baby powder tins seem high, but, as collectors know, no one is making them anymore. The range for good condition tins is $110 - $170, but some are offered at much higher prices. Recently, on eBay, a Mother Goose baby powder tin, manufactured by Baby Health Products of New York, was offered for sale at $1,000. That’s THREE zeros. The seller advertised the tin as “1 of 10 known to exist,” so it is truly rare and truly expensive.
If you are a novice collector, be aware that baby powder tins should only be gently washed and never scrubbed. Also, other than washing the tin, leave it as you find it. Tins lose value when repairs or repaints take place.
Lastly, collecting baby powder tins is a perfect hobby for the entire family, especially young girls who enjoy playing with dolls. Show your daughter a Mother Goose tin or your son a Cadette tin and you will have a collecting buddy for life. And that is the only priceless collection most of us will ever have.