A small part of my collection. I have about 80 pillboxes.
A small part of my miniature container collection.

I bought this Victorian cabinet to display them in when we move into our new house.

Pillbox cabinet.
Waiting to be filled.


On holiday in Tasmania some years ago, I purchased a sweet little pillbox in an antique store at Evandale. It was gilt, with  a beautiful lid of  purple, machined enamel. It cost me $40.

My first  purchase that led to an obsession with pillboxes.
My first pillbox.
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Soon afterwards I bought an 18th century  patch box at the Victory  Antiques Centre, in my  village of Blackheath.  I happily paid several hundred dollars for this one.  I  was enchanted with the enamel lid, depicting a gentleman on a wicker seat  in a garden. Even better, he was reading! All my obsessions in one.

The most sought after  antique  enamel  pillboxes  (and patch boxes) are those produced in Bilston (near Wolverhampton) and Battersea (London).  Collectors  do need to be aware that there are counterfeits around.  Here are some of my favourites;

Enamel pillboxes from the 18th and early 19th century.
Enamel boxes from the 18th and early 19th century.

The box with the flags and military emblems (above, far right)  carries  a patriotic message ;  ‘May British valour conquests gain, and make our foes our friends again’. It was probably produced to commemorate Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, in 1815.

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There are handy reference works on enamel boxes. My dear  friend Cath found this one for me in a charity shop. Pillboxes are ideal to collect  while travelling  overseas.  Both  my partner  Rob and I enjoy hunting  for  them as we  wander around antique fairs and boot sales in the UK ,  or at  markets  throughout Europe.  Here is a gilt, basket weave box with a carved ivory top showing  cherubs dancing around a tree. It is Italian.

Antique Italian box. I have pillboxes from a dozen different countries.
Antique Italian box.

Rob  found a very different enamel box in a northern French village. It cost  only 5 euros and I love the unusual apple green colour. It is marked  CHINA, and was clearly manufactured for the export trade.


This modern box   from the Alsace region of France features a wonderful array of woods;

One of  my  modern Pillboxes.


As my collection grew I became increasingly interested in less expensive  ‘social history’  containers rather than just pillboxes Many  vintage ones can be found for under $10, such as salesmen’s samples from the 1930s and 40s. I love those that still hold some of the original contents;  Dunhill pipe cleaning cream, lavender polish, cream perfume, or  rouge.  Others are  simple novelty  items. Among those pictured below  is a miniature first aid kit, a lady’s shaver, and a tin of French nibs.

Collecting Social History. I expanded from pillboxes to other miniature containers.
Collecting Social History
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This one is quite clever I think; a combined needle holder and screw on thimble from the 1930’s. Plus, one that is  a secret container  for passing  messages to a lover.

1930's Sewing Companion
1930’s Sewing Companion

Something for the music lover; a miniature harmonica;

Miniature Harmonia
Miniature Harmonia

By the way, I would love to find some pillboxes  with an Australian theme. So far the only one I have was a gift from a house guest. It is a reproduction of a Bilston enamel, decorated with a view of  Old Government House at Parramatta, New South Wales. Oddly enough my friend Rita found it in an English antique shop.

Reproduction Bilston box featuring Old Government House
Reproduction Bilston box featuring Old Government House

This is a very different one made from malachite. Purchased with my first professional speaker’s fee.


Antique Australian pillboxes are so rare. How I covet this one in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.

Silver pillbox and thimble from Sydney's Great Exhibition Australian pillboxes are so rare.
Image of the pillbox and thimble from Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.

The display cabinet in my study is now Full. 😍


  1. Pauline, I love pillboxes and miniatures in general. I used to have porcelain toothpaste pots.When I left Australia I sold most of my Australiana and antiques to my sister. I had some lovely miniatures like paintings and little bric-a-brac. It’s hard to get a buy over here as people have big collections of almost everything. I think Australia used to be a gold mine for people interested in historical pieces. I’m keeping my eyes open for Noritake china as it is still something to collect as long as you know the early marks. I love your photo of the enameled lids.

    • Pauline

      Most of my pillboxes are in storage until we move into our new house. Will be good to display them one day.

  2. They are simply gorgeous and I can see why you’d collect them. It reminds me that I have one somewhere (must do a search) and didn’t know exactly what it was for. So now I know!

    Over the years I’ve collected various things, tiny sheep, tiny turtles, lace bobbins, interesting tins etc. However a couple of years ago we moved from a large house to a much smaller one, so I’ve decided not to add to my collections as there’s nowhere to display them.

    • Pauline

      I have nowhere to display my treasures either, until our new house is finished. Except on the Internet!

  3. Enjoyed seeing your collection. The important thing to remember is to collect something small. My mother and I had a passion for sewing machines. We ended up with 200. That takes up a lot of space. I went through an angel stage and a birdhouse stage. I only collect tiny things now. I have a big, old, postal sorting cupboard. I only get things that will fit in my cubbies. I especially love tiny snow globes, tiny books and tiny pitchers. I have a few little pillboxes. One has Peter Rabbit, 2 are shells, one is of china, one a real shell.

    • Pauline

      Wow Stephanie, wherever did you you keep 200 sewing machines? I love my little pillboxes. Miniature books are sweet too.

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