The value of motor oil cans is determined by many factors including brand name, can material, graphics, age and condition. Many oil cans are empty, but collectors also buy full cans if they don't leak.
Early oil cans, which were made from metal, were square and boxlike. These gave way to metal cylindrical cans that had to be hand-soldered. These can be identified by the gray stripe of solder on the side of the can. During World War II, metal became scarce, so cans were made of cardboard with metal lids and bottoms, but eventually oil was stored in plastic cans.
Popular brands and unusual can designs or shapes add value, although some obscure cans are quite valuable. Cans with bright colors and easily read logos are more valuable than the cans with faded or damaged writing. Look for cans with little to no rust, dents or scratches, as those also affect value. Oil companies often changed or upgraded the logos or designs on their cans. Research is required to determine the time-frame of a particular can as that may affect its value.
The most common can is the one-quart size, although there are other sizes available, including half-gallon, 1-gallon, 2-gallon and 5-gallon sizes. However, due to the larger size and amount of space needed, fewer collectors may be looking for those pieces.