House of tins hopes to draw more locals

Francesca MannThe West Australian
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In just 13 years, Robert and Margaret Gaston have transformed their humble tin collection into an incredible museum, recently displaying their 10,000th tin.

What started out as 35 tins in 2005 has since grown to a whopping 10,149, all on display in the Gastons’ shed on their property in Waggrakine.

Calling themselves the Tin Heads, the Gastons’ collection lines the shed’s walls from floor to ceiling and could be the largest collection of tins in the world.

Not limiting themselves to any specific brands or styles, Robert and Margaret collect any kind of tin they can get their hands on — as long as it’s not already in their collection.

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With no duplicates in their collection, Mr Gaston said they were proud of how far they’d come.

“It feels great... it’s a pretty good achievement,” he said. “We’ve put a fair bit of effort into what we’ve done so far. We’re getting a lot more donated these days ... people know we’re collecting and are quite prepared to bring us their tins, instead of them going into landfills.

“We’re getting people here now from all over the world, which gives us confidence and also makes it that much better, we’re that much prouder of it.”

Over the summer, the couple, who have been married for more than 50 years, added an extension to the museum, providing a whole new section to house their tins. The Gastons are now able to reorganise their collection, grouping tins based on the brand, style, colour and imagery.

With tins dating as far back as the 1800s, the museum offers a snapshot of time, but Mr Gaston said it was often impossible to work out when a tin was made.

“One thing we are disappointed in is there’s never ever a date stamp put on these tins to say how old they are,” he said.

“The only way we can tell how old they are is anything with a barcode on it was made (after) 1974, or we can tell by the use-by date.”

Entry to the museum is a gold coin donation to the Heart Foundation of WA, making it an inexpensive and unique tourist attraction.

Although visitor numbers to the Tin Heads have increased over the years, Mr Gaston said he wished there was more support locally.

“There’s a lot of people around Geraldton who have never seen this,” he said.

“It’s a shame, really, because this is something Geraldton’s got that no other town in Australia’s got.”

The museum is open to the public every second Sunday of the month or by appointment and group bookings during the week.

For bookings, call 9938 3200.

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