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Another New Collection for Uni Watch HQ

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Good morning! As we wind down the year, I’m going off-uni today to tell you about something I’ve been working on here at Uni Watch HQ

So: Four weeks ago I told you about my new collection of vintage moth vaporizer tins. Today I want to tell you about another new collection I’ve recently started displaying: vintage typewriter ribbon tins.

As you may recall, I mentioned back in early November that I’d acquired one ribbon tin but wasn’t planning on starting a full-on collection. One reason I didn’t plan to collect them is that the ribbon tins are fairly small, so they have to be displayed pretty much at eye level or else all the nuance and detail are lost. Although I’ve admired the tins for many years at vintage shops and on eBay, I never had a good way to display them, so I never started collecting them.

But I recently came up with a good solution to that problem. I’ll explain that solution in a minute, but first let me show you the nine tins I’ve amassed — first the fronts, then the backs:

As you can see, the tins have spectacular Art Deco-style designs. Here’s a closer look:

Aren’t they cool? I really love them. So gorgeous! Much like the moth vaporizers, they’re pleasingly graphic and industrial in equal measure.

So how am I displaying them? I went on eBay and found myself a cash drawer from an old cash register:

The drawer itself is a really nice object. It was made in 1928, as spelled out on the underside:

My plan was to put one ribbon tin in each each of the cash drawer’s nine compartments (that’s why I got nine tins) and then use the drawer as a shadowbox to display them.

And how did that idea turn out? Take a look:

Not bad! I’m pretty happy with this little project. Much like the moth vaporizers, these tins feel related but distinct — a unified category, but plenty of graphic variety within the category.

There are lots of additional good-looking ribbon tins out there, so it’s tempting to acquire more of them, but this collection was space-limited by the number of compartments in the cash drawer (which is probably for the best), so I consider it complete.

So what did this cost? The tins averaged about $18 apiece (including shipping), and the cash drawer was another $32 (ditto), so the whole shebang was a smidge less than $200 — not bad, especially considering how much fun I had along the way.

That concludes this show-and-tell. Thanks for listening!


Substack Reminder

In case you missed it on Wednesday, my latest article on Substack is a “Year in Review” piece, in which I run down the top 10 uni-related storylines of the past 12 months (plus a few honorable mentions).

You can read the first part of the article here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paying subscriber, which I hope you’ll consider doing! Thanks.

Comments (29)

    Is the green circular thing on the floor a pet dish? Water in the outside ring, food in the middle?

    Looks like one of those track toys where a cat pushes a ball around the outside, then hops on the inside to get some scratches in.

    Thanks for going “off uni” today. I watched Oregon’s bowl game and I’m coming down from that. Is there a story behind the swirled bowling pin? That’s sharp.

    It’s fantastic that you can find beauty in the most unexpected places! Thanks for sharing your project!

    I love this one so much! Just curious: why did you turn the cash drawer *sideways*? Better to center the three tins? It looks great sideways, but my OCD might have forced me to rotate it 90° to the left…

    I used that orientation for two reasons:

    1) It seemed like the best way to utilize the space in those three center chambers. If I rotated the drawer, those compartments would be vertical, so the tin would sit at the bottom and there’d be lots of wasted space above.

    2) It let me position the little currency clip thingies so they were fanned outward. If I rotated it 90º counter-clockwise, the clips would hang “closed”; if I did it 90º clockwise, they would hang fully “open.” But by doing it the way I chose, I could position them to the exact amount of “open”-ness that I wanted.

    Regarding wasted space, I can’t help but wonder how it would look if you let yourself buy three more and doubled up the cash drawers so you don’t have empty space on the left and right sides?

    I considered that! But when I put two tins in those compartments, just to see how it looked, it felt a wee bit too crowded. Decided to stick with just one.

    Typewriter collector here. While I don’t collect the tins, there are a number of folks in our group(s) that do collect them. Some really interesting ones as you have shown above. I love the way you display them in the cash register drawer. Enjoy this new collection!

    Are those beer tap thingies (technical term, I’m sure) under your new collection? Whatever they are, they are really cool looking. Didn’t realize that photo would generate questions about all the other stuff in that room, did you?

    Yes, those are what’s known as “ball knobs” — a specific style of tap handle that was popular in the 1940s and ’50s. Here’s a better view of them, from a collectors’ event in 2010:

    Those are great, were they interchangeable on the top of a longer handle for the tap, or did they simply use these smaller knobs instead of the longer tap handles common today?

    Interchangeable. You could unscrew one of today’s big, phallic tap heads and replace it with one of these (or any other style). The interface hasn’t really changed over the years — just the design style of the screw-on topper.

    Love your recent collections and the way you’ve displayed them Paul.
    Does this make you miss your pencil sharpeners at all?

    A little bit. And some of my other collections, too. But if I still had those collections, I wouldn’t have room for these new ones! So it all evens out.

    Very cool project and display! I have possessed a few old manual typewriters in my day, including the one I refurbished and currently have, but I’d never paid attention to ribbon as anything other than a necessary component before you launched the tin project. I love how much thought and expression went into what would today likely be either a brand-less commodity or an oligopoly with just a couple of distinct brands.

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