Over the weekend I found a beautiful fall-colored tin box at a garage sale for $1 (its the last one on the right, above). I love these colorful tins that once held biscuits/cookies or tea. They were often imported from England and given as gifts around holidays. For this reason many were saved for a second purpose, to hold sewing notions or household supplies. They are fairly common items although you may have to search a bit to find ones that tug at your heartstrings.
Tin biscuit boxes make great storage for small items like buttons, thread spools and craft supplies. You can use them without their lid to corral scissors, crayons or colored pencils. They can also become a casual vase just by inserting a glass jar inside.
I use them as display items on my bookshelves and on my desk to hold office supplies.
Collecting them by theme such as flowers, era or color will lend your collection cohesiveness. In the US its relatively easy to find vintage boxes in good condition. They range in price from just a few dollars at a thrift shop to about $20, depending upon rarity and condition. Advertising tins (tins with specific logos) or antique tins are often much higher in price. Luckily I prefer simple floral boxes which are easy to find inexpensively.
To find boxes on Etsy or Ebay use search terms like "tin box, vintage" or "biscuit tin, blue" or "tea tin, floral". These boxes are made for all sorts of imported goods, so try other combinations like "fruit cookie tin", "candy tin", and "tin box, instant collection" as well. Follow the links to see what's available today on Etsy.
Not all boxes you find will be vintage but their pretty patterns will still lend "grandma chic" to modern settings. The box above is so clean and bright I'm sure its not very old at all. I love it anyway because it's a reminder of a fun morning bargain hunting on a sunny September weekend.
Wash your tin box when you get it home to remove dust and grime. Use warm soapy water and a soft cloth so you don't scratch the design. Dry thoroughly with a dish towel after cleaning to keep your box from rusting.
Don't store food in any container with rust or age spots. If the container is clean and rust-free inside you can line it with wax paper and store cookies or party cracker mix inside it for a short time. This makes a pretty hostess gift!