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.

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.