This time of the year we start to think of baking. Some of the spice tins are not as colorful and unique as they once were.

Years back, a collector was able to pick up spice tins for a quarter. Now these tins are hotter than ever. Even the common Red Owl and Fairway tins have climbed from $1 to $6 each. Unusual tins can start at $15 and rise to hundreds of dollars.

So how do they come up with prices for these spice tins? I look at them and assume that the more unique in color, age, graphics and the condition (without rust and dents) can bring a good price on the market. I do know from some serious collectors that if it is rare they don't care if it has dents or blemishes.

If you come across a spice tin, like I did just doing this column, that you haven't seen before, do some online searching as I did and look  through some reference books. Books such as David Zimmerman's "Encyclopedia of Advertising Tins, Vols. I and II" (which is actually out of print, but can be found at the library, used bookstores and online) and "Antique Tins: Identification & Values" by Fred Dodge, Vols. 1, 2 and 3 for more information on the history and value.

Zimmerman tells us in his book, "When examining a tin, if it has raised printing, this technique was commonly used from 1895 to 1900 and usually consisted of black and one other color, while four-color lithography wasn't used on tins until around 1930." You can also take a look at online selling sites such as Rubylane, eBay and others. Check out antique malls, garage sales, flea-markets, thrift stores and Grandma's cupboard, as these are all great places to start a collection and you can really find some low prices if you care to dig and hunt.

Collectors, vendors and store owners

Talking with Tammy Colsch, of Mabel, I stated to see how the average retro or vintage kitchen collector thinks. What are they after? Colsch tells, "I like them because they are green."

So not only did she think they were unique to sit in her kitchen, but it is the color and whether they have a unique manufacturer name.

"My first two (tins) were the Ward's paprika and the Whitman's mint found at an antique mall. I can't remember how much I paid, but I know they were not more than a few dollars," she said.

Some folks collect a certain brand, such as Dr. Ward and Watkins, and sell these as very old manufacturer brands. I found this with Angie Pehler, Angie's Vintage Rust, Treasures Under Sugar Loaf, Winona. "I have several tins on display -- that includes J.R. Watkins, Winona, to others that I love as the Indian and animals on some of the tins!" she said. "Prices can run up to $115."

Brenda Jannsen, owner of Treasures Under Sugar Loaf, tells, "Spice tins are a great way to 'spice' up kitchen décor. Most of the spice tins at Treasures range in price from $2 to $12."

Sarah Kieffer, Sarah's Uniques and Jim's "Man"tiques, St. Charles, loves to display her tins like you would find them in your cupboards. "I have a lot of spice tins in the shop, and I like to pull them out and decorate with them seasonally," Kieffer said. "Right now I have pumpkin spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cocoa, and much more for the fall season. Spice tins are generally inexpensive and fun to collect, ranging in price from about a $1 to about $16 or so. They come in many different colors and sizes. I like Watkins, Jack Spratt, Shillings, Red Owl, IGA, and more."

Joan Thilges, New Generations of Harmony, said, "I can't believe all the different companies that made spices. The prices range from $9 for the Home Brand Thyme to the Old Judge Allspice for $35."

Ann Collins, Churn Dash, Rochester, said, "We've collected some over the years, and also sell them in the shop. They range in price from $3 to $20."

Buyer beware

Reproductions can sometimes be quite difficult to tell apart from the originals, but thinner metal, brighter paint, zip codes, copyright renewal dates, and UPC (Universal Product Code) bar codes are all giveaways.