For years, Ennismore’s Dale and Dianne Snelgrove were sitting on  a gold mine. They just didn’t know it. 

In the early 1980s, Dale — a then self-described “car guy” — purchased a  Chevrolet tin oil container from his friend as a decorative item. 

He paid $20 for the made-in-Toronto container. Dale, now retired, went on to  sell his car, but held on to the tin container, storing it in the basement of  his shop. 

For more than four decades, the Chevrolet tin collected dust. 

That is until recently, when Dale and Dianne reached out to their friend  Jason McIntosh, a Peterborough-based auctioneer who works with Doug Mitchell at  Mitchell Auctions. The couple planned to clear some space by auctioning off some  of their long-held belongings — including the old tin oil container. 

“It was just sitting there on top of the shelf and I kept looking at it and I  thought, well if we’re taking it to the sale, I’m going to see if I can get $100  for it,” Dale said. 

McIntosh added the item on his auction website  — listing the Chevrolet tin for $2, the starting price for all his items. 

Almost overnight, the tin container climbed from $2 to a $1,000 bid. That’s  when McIntosh knew they had something special on their hands. 

Soon, a bidding war began — two avid collectors from the states were vying  for the motor oil can. They had already quickly outbid other collectors from  Ontario. 

Meanwhile, a surprised Dale and Dianne watched the bidding battle unfold  online at their home. 

“I couldn’t believe it. Then it hit $3,000 and it kind of sat there for a  couple of days. Then Jason called me and said, ‘I think this thing is going to  hit $6,000,’’ recalled Dale. “I said, ‘no way,’ and we kept watching it. All of  a sudden it went up to $10,000.”

“My wife is screaming in my ear,” he added with a chuckle. 

After doing some research, McIntosh discovered that the Chevrolet tin is  quite rare. The last one sold in 2020 brought in $6,000 at another auction in  southwestern Ontario. 

On Jan. 14, five days after the auction went live online, the final bid went  through: $15,500. 

“I was just floored. I couldn’t believe it went that high. I never even  dreamt it would go that high,” said Dale. “ I told (McIntosh) if someone came  along two weeks before the sale and offered me $50, I probably would have sold  it to them because I had no idea it was that rare.” 

Dale credits the container’s uniqueness and condition with the “unbelievable”  sale price. Estimated to be made in the 1920s or 1930s, the tin oil container  was meant to be stored inside cars. Had Dale kept the oil can on the basement  floor, its bottom likely would have rusted away — a concern voiced by bidders —  but he stored it on a shelf where it was kept in good condition. 

The Snelgroves say they’re still processing the unexpected windfall — and  what to do with their new funds. 

“I haven’t really thought about it yet. I’m still in shock and so is my  wife,” said Dale. 

Dianne agreed. 

“We still can’t believe it; haven’t accepted it. It’s like winning the  jackpot,” she said, likening the turn of events to a plot line straight out of  the television show “American Pickers.” 

The valuable Chevrolet tin motor oil container ultimately went to an Ohio  man. According to McIntosh, the collector has seen only six of the tins in his  entire lifetime and is excited to be the new owner of Dale and Dianne’s  treasured tin. 

Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His  reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism  Initiative.

By Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 25, 2023 at 17:10

This item reprinted with permission from   The Peterborough Examiner   Peterborough, Ontario
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