Vintage chocolate and confectionary boxes and tins

Rowntree's Dairy Box tin, 1960s
Rowntree's Dairy Box tin, 1960s

Boxes of chocolate were a romantic gift for most of the twentieth century. The earliest example of a brand we recognise today is Milk Tray, which Cadbury's launched in 1916 [1].

By 1928 Cadbury's range included [2]:

  • Carnival
  • King George
  • Mayfair
  • Lady Betty
  • Bermuda
  • Riverside
  • Prince of Wales

You could always buy an unbranded fancy box of chocolates from a shop. Army & Navy stores sold a range which started at 5 shillings for a 1 lb box. But several other well-known brands started in the 1930s.

  • Terry's All Gold - 1932
  • Rowntree's Dairy Box - 1936
  • Mackintosh Quality Street - 1936
  • Cadbury's Roses - 1937 [1]

On eBay now:

A box of chocolates was a more significant gift than it is today. In working class communities if a boy gave a girl a box of chocolates, it was almost a marriage proposal.

A box of Milk Tray was cheap, in 1930 a 1/4 lb box cost 7½d (or about £1.40 in today's money).

'Black Magic' was more upmarket. The adverts told a story which emphasised the romance of giving chocolates. The company asked 7000 people for their opinion on the best flavours.  The packaging was a simple Art Deco design.  In 1933 a 'Black Magic' 1lb box cost 2/10 (or a whopping £7 in today's money).

Chocolates remained a popular gift especially at Christmas and the list of brands grew.

In 1965 Dr M Miller, a Labour MP, gave us an insight into the most popular brands. He complained that they were ripping customers off with fancy Christmas boxes. He cited Nestlé's Home Made assortment, Cadbury's Milk Tray, Terry's All Gold, Rowntree's Black Magic and Rowntree's Dairy Box as examples. [3]

A more comprehensive list of chocolates from the 1960s includes:

  • Cadbury's Milk Tray (launched 1915) - 1lb 7/6 (*)
  • Cadbury's Continental - 1lb 15/-
  • Cadbury's Roses - 1lb 6/-
  • Cadbury's Contrast - 1lb 8/3
  • Chocolate Tobler Toblerone 6d, 1/3, or 1/9
  • Chocolate Tobler Ballerina assortment (milk) 1lb - 8/9
  • Chocolate Tobler Symphony assortment (plain) 1lb - 9/-
  • Mackintosh Quality Street 1lb - 5/10
  • Mackintosh Good News 1lb - 8/-
  • Mackintosh Week End Assortment 1lb - 7/6
  • Mackintosh Reward Assortment 1lb - 7/-
  • Nestle's Home Made Assortment 1lb - 9/-
  • Nestle's Soft Centres 1lb - 7/3
  • Nestle's Cailler Frigor 1lb - 5/9
  • Rowntree's Black Magic 1lb - 8/3
  • Rowntree's Dairy Box 1lb - 7/6
  • Terry's All Gold 1lb - 10/-

Source: Shaws - The standard guide to fair prices, 1 December 1965

(*) 7/6 = 7 shillngs and 6 pence, see Old money for more details.

Values

A reasonable number of vintage chocolate boxes have survived. People often used them to store buttons or other nick nacks. A few turn up on eBay in reasonable condition.

Chocolate boxes do not attract much interest from collectors. So you should be able to get most of the well-known brands for under £10. Look out for unusual designs and images particularly reminiscent of their era. In the 1950s ballerinas or kittens were popular motifs.

Of course with any collectable, condition is everything. Look for good quality boxes free from damage. They should appreciate in value.

References

[1] Robert Opie, Remember When - A nostalgic trip through the consumer era, Mitchell Beazley 1999, page 84

[2] 'Xmas gift suggestions', The Daily Mirror, 19 December 1928, page 11

[3] 'Chocolate prices enquiry urged', The Times, 9 December 1965, page 6, issue 56500

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