Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mysterious Old Master

Some numbers of years ago, I found myself in a cool antique mall out West. After himmin' and hawwin' about buying a particular coffee can, I passed. I had already spent a ton of money and was lookin' to save a few bucks at the time. For the sake of memories, I snagged a picture.

Just a few weeks back, my travels (birding in Ohio where I added 4 new birds to my Ohio list) took me through Tecumseh, Michigan on the return leg. As I often do, when I'm there, I found myself strolling through the Hitching Post, an antique mall on the west side of town.

Imagine my surprise when I saw "my" coffee can again.

I gave it the once over. Overall, I was pretty pleased. Solid with very little rust. No dents of any kind. Images were lithographed on the can (as opposed to paper labels). Hmmmm. I thought the first one had a paper label. The lid? It read "Royal Garden Tea". this the can's original lid or a different one somebody stuffed in there? $80.00? Forget it. Home I went.

Later that day, I found myself doing some research about that can. I found two other cans for sale on the internet...both in the $80 range. That lid? I did not read it close enough. It read "Packers of Royal Garden Tea". Ahhh, that makes more sense now. Yup, it was the original. Lithographed? Not a problem. Basically, this was a match for the others currently selling and was a match for the one eyed years before.

Figuring I would not get a third chance at this, I called the place back and described where it was sitting (Thank goodness I could easily describe it. That place is a labyrinth). She pulled it from the shelf for me. Within a few days, I was the Master's Master:

Unfortunately, despite all the wonderful things one can find on the Internet, information about Old Master Coffee and this can seems so abundant and so limited at the same time.

I found the following courtesy of the geniuses at Google and their Google Books. It comes from a book titled "All About Coffee"(1922). Here is a snippet:

Toledo. The pioneer roasting firms here seem to have been: Warren & Bedwell; and JB Baldy & Co. Later, after 1876, we find the Bour Company, and the Woolson Spice Co.

The Bour Company was incorporated in 1892, following a partnership which had succeeded to a small business concern under the name of the Eagle Spice Company. The principal stockholders were: J. M. Bour, F. G. Kendrick, and Albro Blodgett. Mr. Blodgett bought the Bour interests in 1909 and with S. "W. Beckley, who had been sales manager for a number of years, acquired practically all the other outside interests. The name was changed in 1921 to the Blodgett-Beckley Co., the officers being Albro Blodgett, president, S. W. Beckley, vice-president and manager, and Henry P. Blodgett, secretary and treasurer.
A website dealing with coffee marketing and advertising had the following:

Experience has proven that a package coffee, to be successful, must have back of it expert knowledge on buying, blending, roasting, and packing, as well as an efficient sales force. These things are essential: (1) a quality product; (2) a good trade-mark name and label; (3) an efficient package. With these, an intelligently planned and carefully executed advertising and sales campaign will spell success. Such a campaign comprehends advertising directed to the dealer and to the consumer.
Point #2 is the one that really hit me. I have over $1000 in old coffee cans (most purchased for less than $20.00) and I can tell you Old Master is one of the best looking ones of the bunch. A good trade mark and label? Absolutely, yes.

On another peculiar note (to me, anyway) is this -they (the Bour Company) have two patents (#74,883 and #75, 939).

So, that is all fine and good, but here is a question I would really like answered: what happened to the Blodgett Beckley Company? You would think with all that info out there in the world, someone, somewhere, would put some basic info about the history of the company out on the web, wouldn't you? I can tell you who the VP of the company was and even look up some patents if I want to, but I can't find out when the company closed it doors?

Go figure.

It looks like, for now, the the Old Master is my master. A mysterious remains......


Heath said...

I got an Old Master coffee can my mother passed down to me. It is a 3lb can and I am trying to figure out how much it is worth. I can't find any online to compare it to. Any ideas? I think it is 30's or 40's. Has a little rust on top, and some impressions on the sides but it is there and has good color.

Paul said...

Heath -

Pinning a price on coffee cans and mills proves to be a bit frustrating. References rarely print prices as the collectables market seems to shift too much.

One thing that will improve the value would be having the original lid. As you mentioned, minimal rust and damage is always good.

That said, I googled "Old Master Coffee Can 3 pound" and found an online auction that was selling a can like yours. They declared a $60.00 opening bid with an estimate of $250-$500! It brought in $80.00.

Any way you look at it, you have a gem!