BRAND names do go on and on. But even there, immortality...

salmagundi

December 21, 1993

BRAND names do go on and on. But even there, immortality is a dubious prospect. Maryland Beauty, Queen's Choice, Mary K, Elephant, Elk, Stork, Seal, Wild Duck, Majestic, Acme, Regina, Smith's, Jones, Del-Mar-Va, Mar-Va, Full Moon, Arrow, Sun Brand -- from this random roll call of bygone advertisers is a late-1993 Baltimorean able even to identify the commodity?

Black Pearl . . . Goose Creek . . . Satisfaction . . . QualiT.

Once, these were canned oysters.

(Pause, until the sobs subside.)

Once, Chesapeake Bay oysters were so plentiful there were leftovers for shipping to the Union's darkest recesses. Shucked oysters went forth in gallon, quart and pint cans -- round, metal, bail-handled, lidded, lithographed. The shippers were in Baltimore, Crisfield and lesser points.

Nowadays, collectors are plentiful, and empty oyster cans go at $20 and more. For every collecting category, nowadays, there is coming to be a color-photo, indexed catalog, with scarcity-grading and appendix of related objects. Just published: "Oyster Cans," by Jim and Vivian Karsnitz (Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, Pa. 19310, $29.95).

The Karsnitzes live in Pennsylvania and their book is national -- it lists cans from 27 states and Canada. But Maryland leads off and Maryland runs longest (38 pages, about half a dozen cans to a page).

Now the fun begins. At Columbia, Beaver Creek and Dixon's near Crumpton, along Antique Row and in Fells Point, at $H Timonium and Frederick and Gaithersburg, at Renninger's No. 1 and No. 2 in Pennsylvania and the countless flea markets and street and yard sales in between. Now the old but sightly oyster can is profferred, with big price tag and the legend, "Not in Karsnitz."

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