Articles & Features
Crayola 8 count tins – A history
Who originally used the hinged back tin for crayons is
uncertain. They can be found on many
The earliest reference to these tins that I could find was from 1919. Though not indicated on the actual tins, the product line was referred to as Crayola No 88. In fact, not only do they not reference the product number, but they also don’t carry the Crayola brand name. They were simply billed as Colored Crayons on the designs of the tins. If that wasn’t enough of a departure from their normal packaging, they could also be found with either Crayola or Perma crayons in them.
Most of Binney & Smith’s catalogs do not picture these metal tins. On the rare occasion when they did they were only the inside shot with the crayons. This doesn’t mean they cannot be approximately dated, however, because they still use common design features carried in many of their other products. I generally break the tin history into three different categories: pre-red, red, and yellow/green.
The earliest examples of the tin are these two variations:
Note that the only design change between these two is the abbreviation of the word “COMPANY” on the latter design.
These tins carry the design of the Gold Medal symbol with the round circle and wording inside the circle. This design was common on many of their crayon packages in the era from the 1920s until sometime in the 1950s although these may have been used even earlier. These were probably available from the late teens until the late 1920s or early 1930s. Of the two variations here, the more common one has “Company”. It may have been a situation where the change was made but then a complete redesign was made and therefore this didn’t have near the retail time as the earlier one. Of course, that’s merely a theory.
Next in the timeline is a switch to a black background and
the more traditional yellow color:
Note the differences in these variations are in the highlighting of Trade Mark and the use of yellow text on one but not the other. Also, the inner circle has yellow background in one tin.
These tins probably date from the 1930s up until just before WWII stopped production of metal packaging as we were in a metal defecit for a time being. Which came first and how long each ran in retail stores is uncertain. On the one hand, Trade Mark was never highlighted in the earlier designs so perhaps it came later. On the other hand, the yellow border and lettering is a closer transition to their next designs. Tough call. We may never know for sure. What we do know for sure is that the one with the highlighted trade mark is much much rarer than the other tin, which shows up quite regularly.
Next in the timeline is an odd trasitional tin:
Probably used during the the 1940-42 era and only in short supply until tin wasn’t available due to the war. These rarely turn up.
Next in the timeline are the designs I commonly refer to as “borders” because of the lined design typical of the era just after WWII from about 1945-1947. All of Binney’s crayon packaging followed these same design features:
Note the addition of “Drawing” in the later addition to this line.
I suspect that they transitioned to Drawing later as all the subsequent era tins use the same title. These both show up from time to time.
The “Red” era
After this timeframe, they completely changed the color of the tins to a red tin:
Note the Made in
The newly re-designed tins carried on the gold medal seal but moved to something more familiar to their standard Chevron design. Rather than going with the traditional chevrons however, they opted for this white angled design instead. These date from the late 1940s to 1955.
When Binney & Smith Incorporated in 1955 they changed all their packaging to reflect that change and thus, another set of variations. The last tin also includes the use of the Certified Products logo along with a registered trademark below the Gold Medal insignia, which has been modified from earlier designs. Although the CP logo was established back in the 1930s, it was used sporadically on their packaging. The latter tin was probably run from 1958 to about 1963. The latter tin doesn’t show up much…the others do regularly.
The “Green and Yellow” era
Finally, sometime in the early 1960s they redesigned the line again, this time in the more traditional packaging used on their Crayola line.
Note the addition of a single “star” to the second one and then another star on the third one.
These tins were used throughout the 1960s but I don’t think they made it beyond that. Which came first isn’t clear. One theory is that they started with instructions for how to open on both sides and then gradually removed these down to none as time went on, the other theory is just the opposite…they kept getting more user-friendly as time progressed. Clearly the “single star” version is the most common with a huge supply of unused ones discovered years ago. The two star is perhaps rarer than the no-star version. These do show up from time to time though.