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'Tis the season for Holiday boxes

A stack of Holiday shotgun shell boxes in various gauges and loads. Photo by - Brian Basham

I can pretty much guarantee the gist of this week's article would be missed by most everyone reading just the title. Holiday boxes refers not to the Christmas season, but to the Holiday gas station company and the shotgun shells/boxes they sold over four decades ago. For this to make sense let me take you back to the late 1960s.

Other than a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, I worked at an Erickson/Holiday gas station from age 15 until I graduated from college. Like most work places, much has changed over the past four decades. This company used to provide purchase stamps, much like the days of Gold Bond stamps. For every dollar of gas purchased you received so many pages of stamps. Those stamps could be redeemed for many items, some of which were free. The Erickson/Holiday stations used to have large islands between the pumps, glass encased, with many items customers could trade their stamps for. In addition, those same stamps could be used inside the station to reduce the cost of many products contained therein. Sportsmen and women would, on a regular basis, "spend" their stamps for Holiday shotgun shells. Ironically, it's those shotgun shell boxes we will talk about.

It's the wonderful art on each box that appeals to most collectors. The artwork should look familiar to most Minnesotans because it was our own Les Kouba who painted those striking images.

A lesson on what to look for is appropriate to insure you're educated on the many options available. The most common gauges were 12, 16, and 20. Of those three, value is higher on 16, 20 and 12 gauge in that order. Boxes that have magnum loads add more value. (This company also made rifle shells with Kouba's art -- a topic for another time.) The shot size, (size of lead pellet in shell) not the gauge dictated what image was on each box. Know each box had a different image on each side. All boxes are clearly marked with gauge and shot size. To the best of my knowledge, only target loads had the same picture on both sides. That image is rather boring compared to the hunting loads.

Target load, shot size 8, boxes have a broken clay target with two small shooters on the lower right hand corner. Field loads, shot size 8, had a running rabbit on one side and flying grouse on the other. 2 ¾" (implies length of shell) shot size 4, magnum loads illustrated two geese on one side, two canvasback ducks on the other. Those are just a few of the many options produced by this company. Boxes have the same images on their side panels. One side depicts a diagram of shell contents. Interesting was the other panel stating, "Clean Air-Pure Water. Leave fields and woods cleaner than when you entered." Such environmental promotion was well ahead of its' time, but is a current belief of most outdoor enthusiasts today.

Back in the 1960s, a box of Holiday magnum shotgun shells would cost you no more than $3.50. Lighter loads even less. I have looked at Holiday magnum shell boxes, still flat because the shells had not been placed in them, offered for $70 each. That seems a bit "rich" and a price most individuals would balk at. However, how often have you seen any vintage shotgun shell box that was still flat as shipped? Most common Holiday shotgun shell boxes should be worth $10 to $15 each. Rare boxes could easily bring $20. Boxes full of the original 25 rounds are commonly sold for $25 to $40.

For the baby boomer outdoor hunting enthusiast, Holiday shotgun shell boxes, with their delightful art, are trip down memory lane. I like that. Until next time, may all your searches be successful.