Hauling garbage: the best trash can in half a quadrant

In a corner of my Star Trek room sits a small metal trash can. It often goes unnoticed by visitors, and that’s too bad. It’s more than 40 years old, it’s in really good condition, and it’s a great example of Star Trek in the ’70s, when fans would buy almost anything that sported those magic words. It is also cool that a small US novelty company lavished such quality artwork and attention to detail on a tin receptacle destined for apple cores and used tissues.

The can was manufactured by J. Chein & Co. and, sadly, by the time it rolled off the production line in Burlington, New Jersey, that company’s best days were already years behind it. Its doors opened in 1903 and it stayed in business for more than 75 years. The first products made by founder Julius Chein were tin toys dropped into boxes of Cracker Jacks and the company soon became known as a source of wind-up Ferris wheels and spinning tops, mostly sold in five and dimes. Chein died in a horse-riding accident in 1926 and his widow asked her brother, Samuel Hoffman, to take over. The company switched to manufacturing parts for airplanes and weapons during World War II and then got back to tin toys, but the slow decline of F.W. Woolworth Company, its main retail client, and the rising popularity of plastic eventually forced it out of that business. 

The company moved into lithographed housewares such as wastebaskets and canisters, produced under the Cheinco brand. And that’s where my trash can comes in. It’s dated 1977, stands 33 cm/13 inches tall, sports colourful and reasonably accurate artwork, and even offers up interesting facts about the ship and its crew.

The Enterprise stats are seemingly drawn from the Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph, published in 1975. The measurements — length of 288.6 meters and breadth of 127.1 meters — are essentially identical, albeit expressed in feet by Chein. However, the can’s “190,000 tons” is not quite the same as the manual’s measurement of “Deadweight tonnage-metric 190,000.” 

The back of the Cheinco trash can contains stats for the USS Enterprise: length, width, and height; number of crew; and a list of senior and bridge officers.

One odd bit: Cheinco stated Christine Chapel’s rank as Lieutenant. There was no rank braid on Chapel’s uniform and I believe — and correct me if I am wrong — that her rank is never stated on screen during TOS, although she is promoted to Lieutenant in the animated episode Mudd’s Passion.

In a screen cap from What Are Little Girls Made Of?, we can see Christine Chapel clearly has not rank braid on her uniform sleeves.
From What Are Little Girls Made Of?

Those details, plus the mostly accurate artwork, means either someone at Cheinco knew Star Trek or Paramount was consulted to get the details right. 

The company made many licensed trash cans for properties including Peanuts, GI Joe, The Wizard of Oz, and Disney, and also produced a Star Trek: The Motion Picture can, which I do not own.

I got my Cheinco at a Toronto Trek convention many years ago, and I have never seen another in person. I don’t remember how much I paid, but I do recall debating the purchase, as I had very little money with me. I am glad I bought it. It is quirky and rare and in far better shape than ones I have seen in online auctions. A TMP can sold at VintageToys.com in 2013 for US$30; I wish I had bought it.

7 responses to “Hauling garbage: the best trash can in half a quadrant”

    • Hey, we’re brothers in TOS collecting! As I said, I have never seen another one, and now I have “met” someone else who has one.
      Thanks for commenting. Let me know if you have anything else that’s rare or quirky.


      • I have LOTS of rare and quirky TOS Trek things. And I love reading your posts. What’s the most unique Trek thing you’ve got in your collection?

        Liked by 2 people

      • Holy heck, Dave. I was just reading — and loving — your post from 2009, The Final Frontier. This bit is great.

        So laugh at me and my uniform if you’d like. But to me it’s a symbol of mankind’s reach for the stars and the hope that someday we’ll celebrate our differences as much as we do the things we have in common.

        I am jealous of many of your Trek experiences. What a great time you had.


  1. Hmmm. Most unusual or interesting collectible?

    I have a lot of rare items, and those are easier to come up with. I own a piece of art that made the rounds at the wrap party for Pretty Maids All In A Row, the movie that was supposed to launch Roddenberry’s post-TOS career. The drawing was almost-for-sure done by Bill Theiss and has a number of Trek autographs on it. That will be a post as soon as I get time to write it.

    I own a letter Roddenberry wrote to his postman, again around the Pretty Maids time.

    I own a few story outlines, including the Amok Time one I wrote about already and Roddenberry’s own copy of an outline written by Joanie Winston, a founding member of The Committee and an early convention organizer. Plus more common things like complete sets of the Gold Key comic line and the 1976 Topps cards and a Gorn head signed by Bobby Clark.

    Quirky? Well, I have written about the trash can and the apple juice container and the Heineken poster signed my Nimoy. I have not yet covered the novels written by Gene Coon and Sam Peeples (writing as Brad Ward) and signed by them, the board games made by Hasbro and Palitoy (the UK company that produced all the Mego stuff over there), the Spock TMP liqueur decanter, and the seven-foot bright-blue store display from the launch of Star Trek on VHS. I have one of those in my office and another unopened in a box. I need to sell that one some day. Oh, and the menu from a German restaurant signed by a whole bunch of people on the occasion of the birthday of TNG script coordinator Eric Stillwell’s mother.

    And a whole bunch of other stuff. I have many, many posts still to write.

    Tell me about your collection, here or by email. (Contact me through the Contact page.)


  2. One person’s trash can is another person’s treasure…
    I love that this post is as much about the history of China & Co and, at a micro level, about the transition of novelties and toys from tinplate to plastic as it is about Star Trek. It makes the story of a simple trash can so much richer.


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