GRAND-HALLET, Belgium (Reuters) - The colourful tins piled high around Belgian collector Yvette Dardenne used to contain goods ranging from chocolates, toffees, coffee and rice to tobacco, talc and shoe polish, and come from as far away as India.
Yvette Dardenne, 83, has accumulated almost 60,000 vintage tin boxes from all over the world since starting her collection some 30 years ago.
The collection, which now occupies four houses, all began with a Cote d'Or chocolate box illustrated with a painting of a blonde girl in a blue hat, Dardenne told Reuters, standing amid the carefully arranged tin boxes in the medieval watermill she owns next to her home.
Later, the tins just came to her, she said.
"I haven't been anywhere. I was not travelling. People still think I have travelled a lot. It quickly became known (that I collected boxes). Sometimes, right after my husband left for the office, someone would show up to offer me something," said Dardenne, who lives in Grand-Hallet in Belgium's Liege province.
One of Dardenne's greatest treasures is an intricately patterned box from 1868 showing an emblem with two horses on top, built to hold biscuits made by Huntley & Palmers of Reading, England.
It is considered to be the first box to have been lithographed, according to Dardenne, whose collection can be visited by appointment.
(Reporting by Clement Rossignol and Yves Herman; Writing by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Frances Kerry)