the tin collector, tin collections, the tin collector's tales, collections, green cans with pencils and paintbrushes

The Tin Collector

After viewing my constantly growing collection of kitchen tins, a church friend in Coquimbo mentioned (with a smirk) that he’d seen me on TV—some program about hoarders? Although we enjoyed a good laugh at the joke, I asked myself, How did I come to be known as the tin collector in my town?

In Chile we still have people who canvas for scrap metal and junk and then cart it off to recycle for a bit of cash. Down the street from our old headquarters in Santiago is even a brand new hojalatería, a tinsmith’s shop that creates things from sheet metal, such pails, stove pipes, and gutters. Handy for the odd items you just can’t buy at the store—or a dream for anything you need custom made.

Assuming most of my readers are women and girls with little interest in scrap iron and welding (let me know if I’m wrong here!), I’ll move onto my point: tin collecting offers a far more intriguing use of metal. (Is it really tin nowadays? No idea, but worth investigating sometime.)

Hoarding or Collecting?

I’m a tin collector. Hopefully, it’s a hobby, not a hoarding neurosis, but I do love collections in general. One of my grandmothers collected bottles. I can still see them sparkling on her farmhouse windowsill. My other grandmother collected salt and pepper shakers and Fiestaware, arranged in a break-front cabinet. My mom collected buttons at one time—and maybe books more recently. All of those would make super Seaglass Sagas.

Among my sisters and cousins range collections of teapots and dishes, spoons and baskets and bells. As a newlywed in Canada, I was fascinated by the many collections of bone china cups and saucers—and even got to sip tea from their gold rims at showers! Some of my friends here in Chile collect key chains or paper napkins.

After a trip to a museum, I began to collect a few dolls here and there. And when a high school classmate sent amazing scherenschnitte cards every Christmas season, I carefully stacked them in a drawer. Then there are stamps, stones, and shells. Tiles painted with Chilean landmarks. Unusual perfume bottles. Postcards, plates, pretty bird houses. Oh, and the Nativity sets I pull out each December.

What? Some of you collect shoes. Or recipes. Or dust bunnies, as one friend confessed. (She keeps them under her bed.)

Mom and Her Tins

And of course, the tin collector keeps tins…

In the cupboards, on top of the cupboards, on the shelves, on the fridge, on the fireplace, piled in bowls. Stored in boxes, plastic tubs, and cabinets. Filled with oatmeal and rice, candy (until I eat it) and Christmas baking in the freezer (until my husband eats it), as well as candles, cards, and coins. Please don’t whisper the h-word.

“Collect things you love, that are authentic to you, and your house becomes your story.” –Erin Flett

To date, I have around 250 tins, including the miniatures and the Christmas-themed ones—an entire village. I say “around,” because the number’s always changing as someone adds to the collection. My last inventory was taken in 2016, and even then, probably wasn’t complete since the tins tend to disappear into forgotten corners.

My husband jests (I hope!) that we’ll need to rent a separate container just to ship the tin collection home to North America when we leave here. Back when my middle daughter lived with us, she’d roll her eyes whenever a new addition appeared in our house.

“What are you going to do with all those tins, Mom? What’s more, what are we going to do with them when you’re gone?” Excellent question, I guess, but I got the picture she didn’t plan to become a tin collector herself. Her solution: “Maybe I should plan to give them away as souvenirs at your funeral.”

Not a bad idea either, since they’re only a jumble of junk. Yet I advised, “Don’t be too quick to toss them, because I might decide to hide your inheritance in one.”

Giggle of glee.

The Tins of Our Lives

So lately, I’ve thought about sharing here in Seaglass Blog my search for the perfect tin in which to leave my three daughters’ inheritance. (Oh, I like to collect sea glass too—a story for another day.) Which of the plus-or-minus 250 tins should the tin collector stash the legacy in?

Or better yet, which tin is the legacy? I’m pretty sure I don’t own any that are particularly rare or valuable, but that’s irrelevant. Because I never intended to make a fortune or finance my retirement with any collection.

And because I don’t think of the tins as merely material things that gather dust and rust over time. I see them as symbols of the abundant life God has blessed us with, as cherished memories and moments I’ve collected. Here I’m definitely investing in hope for the future. Not only mine, but theirs.  

“In his great mercy, (God) has given us new birth into a living hope…and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:3-4). Whatever the legacy of the tins, I know my girls can’t lose or give away that heavenly inheritance.

In every home and family and friendship, we have the opportunity to write a memoir together, gathering tales and anecdotes and lessons from a lifetime of shared experiences. My tin collection basically represents the story of my life.

What can I discover from the tins? Let’s stroll down to the hojalatería and see what masterpiece the Maestro might be making out of a lowly leaf (hoja) of tin (lata)….


  1. Oh, I love hearing about your tins. I do hope you make up stories to showcase them. And the perfect one for the legacy? Hmmmm. Depends on what that legacy is. Please share one of your favorites with me when you get ready to leave Chile. It will always remind me of you. No need to put any legacy in it. Maybe some Christmas cookies? LOL!! Looking forward to your tales….

    1. Yes, I’ll be sure to fill a tin with goodies for you when I leave Chile 🙂 And hopefully I won’t need to make the stories up! Many of the true tales of our lives are much more impacting and satisfying than imagination, when we allow God to be our transcendent reality. Besides, as someone has said, you can’t make this stuff up!

  2. I inadvertently acquired a collection of Christmas tins that I put out on top of my upper cupboard for the Christmas season. I love how it fills the space and creates beauty and conversation. It’s so bare when I tuck them away. My daughter-in-law gave me some as she cleaned out some boxes knowing about the collection. One Christmas though, I decided to bless my neighbors with baking and used 3 of those tins to hold the baking. It was hard to decide as to what I was willing to part with and realized that some I had collected had a great memory or story. So I settled for the larger tins that would hold the baking and kept the precious smaller and unique ones for my Christmas display. I enjoy hearing about your tins as they remind me of the few I’ve collected (insert smiley face here)

    1. Oh, you’re very geneous to give (some of) your tins away!! Although I do use many of my Christmas ones to store baking in, too, I buy plastic plates for the give-away stuff 🙂 What a lovely idea to line them up on top of the cupboards where you and your holiday visitors can see and enjoy them.

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