The Altoids tin — a false idol?

In times long past, illiterate people invested certain objects with mystical power. Filth-caked peasants made pilgrimages across Europe to view Christ’s toenail clippings.

In our modern era, talismans are just as weird. We have the granite countertop. The cat gif. Something called a Patrón. And, more powerful than that, more powerful even than The Sacred Pallet:


I’m not going to be so disingenuous as to claim I don’t feel the pull of a tin box with hinges and an old-timey logo. So before we get down to business, here’s a nod to some of the many, many adorable Altoids-tin projects out there. Play this song in the background while you click.

goodprojects(Mousey bed, solar charger, mini garden, trebuchet, Pipsqueak the goat.)

Even this tiny grill is just the darlingest…

…and it’s a pointless piece of shit.

This traveling game kit typifies a certain category of Altoids project.

gameAt first glance, it looks clever — and, more importantly, cute. I was even going to give it a spot in the top section up there. Then I looked closer. Check out the little clay game pieces!

chesspiecesThey look like something that came out of a gall bladder. Plus one pulled tooth.

Best of all, the pieces are anchored by super-powerful rare earth magnets. Even the creator admits “you should take care what you already have in your pocket… Sensitive electronics, cameras, and especially credit cards with magnetic stripes do not play well with rare-earth magnets.”

That’s right: It’s a pocket game you can’t carry in your pocket!

And that project actually seemed like a good idea in theory. (I have a suspicion the Curiously Strong Trebuchet up there is a similar house of cards, but I’ll let it stand because, hey, trebuchet.) Don’t get me started on the nonfunctional “art” — well, OK, do get me started. Everybody thinks they’re Joseph Cornell, but Joseph Cornell didn’t use fairy cutouts…fairiestin

Or piles and piles of glued-on “antique” refuse…


Clock hands, a pen nib and a ticket stub? I feel like I’ve been transported back to 1895!


Call him Joe.

One thing Cornell indisputably was, though, was a die-hard steampunk. He had his own top hat and everything.


steampunkI know these two boxes aren’t as horrid as the other stuff in this post, but I’ve sworn to persecute steampunk wherever I find it. Does this dopey trend need to die, or what? It’s been stupid since 1997, but it thinks it’s cutting edge. Steampunk needs to get caught between a couple of those gears — the gears, the freakin’ gears — and smushed until its spats bleed.

Right, onward. To this:

mombox mombox2So, yeah, tinsel. But also generic “antique” cutouts, faux textured papers, execrable doodad trim — and, of course, the witty slogan. This creator even started out with a whole sheaf of slogans and, we can only assume, picked one by spinning around three times and hocking a projectile loogie.

momslogansBatch-processed punchlines: That’s how you know it’s Art. (Really!)

As a matter of fact, many of the boxes in this post were submitted to a contest in which the prize was a gift certificate to an online store that sells… pre-printed “antique” cutouts, faux textured papers and execrable doodad trim! So nice to see individuality thriving in the art world today.


4 responses to “The Altoids tin — a false idol?

  1. Heh. I have a purse first-aid kit in an Altoid tin, because it’s a way to keep the band-aids from getting wrecked in my purse. I didn’t decorate the tin, though — I mean, *I* know it’s got band-aids in it rather than mints.

    I actually understand the desire to decorate and repurpose these things, but I just don’t like the mints very much, so I don’t have tins to repurpose very often.

    • Yeah, as I said, I am SO down with the desire to repurpose these. They are impossible to throw away! It’s so rare to find a piece of packaging that is actually reusable. I would like to turn one into a little clutch/minaudiere thing, or like a disco purse with a long chain.

  2. I tried keeping my coffeehouse punch cards, store discount cards, etc. in an Altoids tin but although the cards go into it, it’s very tricky to get them back out again.

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