Oil Cans, From Tin to Sterling

After years of lugging hit-and-miss engines to shows, a Pennsylvania man now hauls oil cans

| April 1999

  • Guy Cerberich's largest oil can is a railroad can
    Guy Cerberich's largest oil can is a railroad can, probably 3 feet tall at the top of the spout, he says. The smallest? A watchmaker's oil can. "It's about the diameter of a quarter," he says. Big and small, the cans make a novel exhibit at shows. Guy and his wife, Ruth, are shown here with the display.
  • Suitcases house a collection that is always ready to hit the road.
    Suitcases house a collection that is always ready to hit the road. "I usually take 600 cans to a show," Guy says, "but I have a lot more at home."
  • Taking his collection to shows has its hazards.
    Taking his collection to shows has its hazards. "The summer sun fades the cans," Guy says.
  • In addition to the cans themselves, Guy collects stories about the pieces in his collection.
    In addition to the cans themselves, Guy collects stories about the pieces in his collection. "I like to find cans with names on them," he says. "I always try to find out any history about the can." Note the round-bottom cans shown at bottom right.

  • Guy Cerberich's largest oil can is a railroad can
  • Suitcases house a collection that is always ready to hit the road.
  • Taking his collection to shows has its hazards.
  • In addition to the cans themselves, Guy collects stories about the pieces in his collection.

When show season arrives, Guy Gerberich's bags are always packed and ready. But his suitcases aren't loaded down with clean socks and extra shirts: Instead, his vintage valises carry as many as 600 antique oil cans.

Guy, who lives in Jonestown, Pa., puts old suitcases to work when he hits the road. He finds the oil cans much easier to haul than his original collection.

"I always took hit-and-miss engines to shows," he says. "But about 15 years ago, I took along a pegboard I had with cans on it, and it fit right into an old suitcase."

When he got to the show, he set up the engines, and opened the suitcase loaded with oil cans.



"After a while, I noticed that nobody was looking at the engines," he says. "They were all looking in the suitcase at the oil cans. I told my wife, 'That's it: I'm going to go to the flea market and buy oil cans.''"

When he started collecting oil cans, he says, it was almost as a sideline to his first love.