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Tin collection spans years

When you walk into Anna Ledford's home, you see a beautiful myriad of color and what looks to be 3-D wallpaper. It is amazing. When you get a little closer, you realize you are looking, not at wallpaper or artwork, but at a collection of cookie tins, some dating back to 1946.

"I don't know why I got started," she said. "I came across an ad in a magazine and you sent in the labels for Parkay butter and you got a cookie tin with recipes and coupons. I got it in the mail and I just had to have more of them.

Ledford chuckles as she admits that she just started buying them and buying them.

"Friends gave them to me and people who didn't want theirs anymore and in fact, I have two people who gave me their whole tin collections to add to mine because they didn't want them anymore," she explained.

Her friends and family are kind of tired of it, she said. "They don't care if they ever see another tin and they tell me I can't move because they're not moving the tins. So I am stuck with my little tins!"

Ledford remembers that she received her first tin in the Christmas of 1985.

"That was 26 years ago and nobody can believe I have this many tins and everyone wants to know how many there are. I have never counted them and I don't plan on counting them," she said. "Some of them are dirty and some of them are dusty but we look back at the photo albums when we moved into this house 16 years ago and there were little tins here and little tins there and well now, 16 years later, you can't see the wall paper," she said.

Ledford recalls that she has some really old tins - a couple of them she can date back to 1946.

"One in particular -- my great grandmother had and it was full of pictures and it went to my oldest sister. Then she come up here one year and saw the collection and said I could have it. She kept the pictures and I got the keep the tin so we were both happy!" she explained with a smile.

"And my dad remembered the family moving to California and they sent it back here to Minnesota as a Christmas present and it had cookies in it," she said.

She says she has a lot of favorites. "I have writtem on the bottom of them, especially the ones my kids used to give me. You know, I would put their name on the bottom of the tin but, there are way too many of them to know something about all of them.

"I can, if you bring in a tin and say, 'Here Anna,' pretty much tell you if I have it or not. And I can also tell if the kids mess with them, which they have a habit of it doing. You know, they pick them up and I can pretty much tell -- and then I say, 'Ok... who's been moving them?"

Visually they are interesting to look at as they blend together like a collage or mosaic.

Ledford said she just had to figure out where to put them.

"Where I could find the most in the area and you know, there are so many of them different shapes and sizes. It wasn't difficult. See, me and my husband bought the boards for the shelves and stained them." she explained. "We did so many of one size and then we would look at it and say, 'Ok, we need this size shelf here and this size here.'

"After 16 years in this house, we just kind of knew where we could stick them. And now... well in this house when we first moved in, we couldn't afford to put up new wallpaper and now we don't have to!" She said with a laugh.

Ledford says that most people think she is a little odd. "In fact I have a nephew who is four and he came in here and said, 'Auntie... why do you have all these tins?' And I said, 'Because I like em' and he said, 'Oh! But why you got so many?"

She said that each of the tins in her collection are special -- each in their own way.

"You know... someone had to make them and come up with the plans for the picture and, I guess I just can't turn them down," she said. "I keep telling myself that I won't buy anymore unless I am at a garage sale. Then if I find one that is really unique I will buy it but I try not to because there are so many and people still give them to me."

Ledford says she has no idea where the inspiration behind collecting the tins came from.

"I've been told I have an obsession with them. I don't think it goes that far. I don't really know. I supposed it is something you don't see a lot of people collecting. I just know I like them."

She said she didn't originally plan on collecting them.

"How we got started was Hershey candy at Christmastime," she said. "Every year they would come out with a tin that would have Hershey kisses in them or the little miniature candy bars so Christmas Eve, we would buy those certain tins and we would open them Christmas Eve and sit around and snack on the candy.

"At that time, they were about $4-$5 a tin and that way the kids could buy me something for Christmas and it had candy bars in it so I mean, it wasn't like you were getting just a candy bar. You would get a decorative tin with it."

Ledford said she also has quite a few of them that are actually cookie jars but they are tins and she has been told that there is one that "if you put potato chips in there, the potato chips will stay fresher longer."

Ledford's photo unveiling is set for Feb. 13 at Cornerstone Residence in Kelliher. Everyone is encouraged and welcome to attend.

This is part of an ongoing photo project of Rose and Gretchen Heim.