Daily Archives: October 22, 2013

The Pipe Hunt – Rule #3: Check out every tobacco tin


Blog by Steve Laug

This third rule is one that I have learned through a lot of trial and error. I have walked through and entire shop and found nothing, only to ask at the counter if there are any pipes or tobacco items available and be taken back to a shelf of tins. The shop owner took the lid off several to reveal pipes and pipe items to me. They went back to their till and I went through the shop with new eyes. I not only found pipes in the tins but also found old tobacco that was smokable as well.I have found tins of Dobie Four Square Green, Prince Albert, Half and Half, Flying Dutchman, MacBarens Scottish Mixture, Amphora Brown and Red and others too numerous to mention all available for little cost. In every case, a little hydration and even the open tins provided enjoyment for me. It was these finds that keep me looking through old tins. I have looked and found them in antique malls, thrift shops, rummage sales, thrift shops and even garage sales. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to what I may find in the hunt.

This particular rule has, since that lesson from the shop keeper, played out quite naturally for me. I now always shake every tobacco tin or open each one when I come across it on the shelf. I dig through the piles of tins in the displays – not just tobacciana displays but also collectible tin displays, removing cookie tins, oil cans, spice tins etc. to hand pick every tobacco tin I can possibly check. The only way I am certain they are empty is if I can see the shiny or rusty bottom of the tin through the open lid. I take each of them down and if open, remove lid and look inside. If the tin closed I shake it and see if the contents are still inside and solid. I can often tell by the weight when I pick it up that it has something inside. I have also learned to not get my hopes up too soon as I have opened seemingly full tins with great expectancy and found button collections or nails and screws. Nonetheless I continue checking them out.

The wisdom of following this rule while I am on the hunt was proved to me twice in the last month of pipe hunting. I found two older tins of tobacco that I enjoy and which are no longer available in their original renditions. The first one was an unopened cutter tin of Gallaher’s Condor Sliced. (I wrote about finding this tin earlier on the blog https://rebornpipes.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/tobacciana-dating-an-old-cutter-top-tin-of-condor-sliced/ ) I am not entirely certain regarding the age of the tin but the seal in unbroken and the tin shows no sign of rust on the outside or at the bottom or top edges of the tin. All of which leads me to believe that the tobacco inside is still in great shape. It also does not rattle around when it is shaken which is great news to me. I have found that the rattling inside a tin is a bad sign and can mean that the seal has been broken and the tobacco may be dry and dusty. However, the point is that clearly Rule #3 was proved true once again. I reached for a tin of tobacco on display in an antique mall and came back with this old unopened tin of tobacco. The bonus for me is that it is a blend I enjoy!I am still in the process of deciding whether to smoke it or keep it in the collection for display. The verdict is still out on that decision.
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The second tin that I found this past weekend when my son-in-law and I were wandering through some antique malls and shops. As usual I was on the prowl for pipes and tobacciana. This old tin was situated deep in the back of the display case that made up the front sales counter of the antique mall. It was well enough hidden that I had missed it the first two times I scanned the display looking for pipes and tobacciana. When I was settling my bill for a pipe I had found I looked down for just a moment at the case. And out of the corner of my eye I saw the tin. It was well hidden behind some other items – poker chips, lighters, decks of cards and pocket knives so it was easy to pass over. I paused in my paying the bill and asked the clerk if I could see the tin. As she moved the other pieces away from it I could see the tin still had a lid on it and seemed like it also had something inside from the way she handled it as she gave it to me.

I took the tin in my hand and found it had a bit of weight to it – it was not empty. I gave it a light shake to see if the items inside rattled – if it was tobacco it would have a different kind of rattle than nails or screws or even buttons. It sounded like tobacco to me. I checked the lid and could see that it had been opened. I twisted it off and found that when I opened it there was a slight whoosh of air meaning that there was still a seal on the tin. When it was open, I could see that the tobacco inside was a broken flake and was not dried out too much. I picked up a small piece and found that it still had some bend and play in it rather than crumbling in my fingers.

This tin was an old cutter top can of Balkan Sobranie Virginia No. 10. I have smoked this blend in the past and thoroughly enjoyed the taste of it so I was sold on it before I knew the cost. I looked on the backside of the can and saw that they were selling it for $4 – a full four ounce tin of very mature and smokable Virginia. It smelled heavenly and the low price for a tin of this age made my heart skip a beat. That fact that it was full was a bonus to me no matter what the clerk thought. She apologized for the “inconvenience” of the tobacco still in the can, but I was excited about it. I decided to play it cool though and settled my accounts – a pipe and the tobacco and left the store having spent just under $15 US. Once outside to the car, I explained what I had found to my son-in-law and then opened the tin and took a deep whiff. This tobacco smelled divine and the moisture content was perfect for smoking according to my liking. It sits on my desk waiting for me to fill a pipe this evening and give it a smoke.
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Both of these finds illustrate the point of Rule #3. It is worth checking all old tobacco tins for potential finds. Some will have tobacco that you can smoke and others will have pipes, tampers, lighters or pouches that can still be used. The list of finds that I have come across leads me to continue to shake and check out all the old tins that I come across on my journeys. I know that each and every tin I pick up could potentially have something worth keeping inside its confines. Whether that find be a pipe related item or just some good smoking tobacco really does not matter to me for both are part of the potential that keeps me picking up old tins and checking them out.