About ‘The Two Gallon Can’
This site has been set up to help share information about the humble yet highly collectable two gallon can. Previously this was well catered for by the fantastic ‘Vintage Garage’ site set up several years ago by well known collector Mr. Easdown, and many reading this will remember it fondly. Sadly no longer available and yet in the few years since its closing the interest for these cans has grown and grown.
A simple, functional item for over half a century, who would have thought they would have become so sought after, yet here we are. For many years they were the main way fuel was supplied prior to the uptake of bulk tanks and filling stations. Since the 1980/90’s they have been pulled from scrap yards, skips, sheds, anywhere they can be found not just to keep using but as collectable, interesting pieces of social history. Many are still out there in dusty garages, barns and the like, perhaps used for the lawn mower fuel, if anything at all, just waiting to be found! There are hundreds of brands of can available and the variations made over the years are numerous and often differences are subtle. They can be found for just a few pounds, even rare ones turn up still and yet some can change hands for four figure sums! There’s something for every budget.
Petrol Cans can often be found having been painted up many years ago for display, perhaps in bright incorrect colours, often missing its cap or even a handle. Sadder still are trends such as ‘upcycling’ cans into table lamps and the like with several high value cans unknowingly having been used. Also too the emergence of many ‘fake’ cans usually seen sold via auction sites and made up with stencils or even the use of body filler to carve the lettering.. How do you know what you have found, the correct features, its age, colour etc. well, hopefully this A-Z listing with as many cans featured as possible will help to document the many brands and their features over the years. If you own a can that’s not featured please contact us and we will gladly add it to the database.
‘Spot the difference’
What to look for when buying a can: In recent years there has been a trend for originality, cans in their first or an ‘original’ paint scheme or a colour known to have been used when in service and as such an easy way to spot a genuine embossed can. Often commanding a slightly higher price too. Remember though that these were ‘serviced’ by the depot when returned and always kept looking tidy and bright (they were the best advert after all) the colours were updated at times or changed to reflect the brand of fuel being supplied so colours do vary and cans may show layers of paint that could still all be called ‘original’ (examples shown in the can pages).
Many cans will have had a rudimentary coat of paint at some point to make them look nicer for display. If its been painted, check inside and try to read the embossing with a torch. Painted cans can always be stripped and re-restored with modern techniques or carefully cleaned back to reveal older colours or original decals if preferred. Even the rustiest looking of cans, with a little cleaning can reveal traces of old paint that you wouldn’t think still existed. a soft wire brush/wool and an oily rag are your friend here.
The Carless can shown below is the same can before and after, under that layer of rust is the original paint, what great patina!
There were many manufacturers of these cans, one of the largest particularly in later years is Valor. Grants, Feaver, SM.co etc. are other well known makers as well as rarer makes such as Farwig with their very distinctive base pressing style. The makers marks can be found on the bottom panel of a can or for earlier cans (commonly pre 20’s cans) stamped onto the handle end or under the handle on the top panel. Next to the makers name will be the Date. This will usually be marked with the month and year using a ‘ . ‘ or ‘ – ‘ as a divider, such as 2.20 (Feb.1920) and will be found alongside the makers mark either on the same line if on the base or in the centre of the makers stamp. For cans dated on the handle it will be on the opposite end to the makers mark and vice versa.
For more detail on differing can features see History page.
Many thanks must go to all the collectors who have kindly provided the pictures and information for all the cans featured.