I’ve been obsessed with athletics aesthetics for most of my life, and I’ve been obsessed with metal cans for the past year or so. Those two interests collide, brilliantly, on the misleadingly titled website VintageTennisBalls.com, which, despite its name, is not about vintage tennis balls. It’s about vintage tennis ball cans.
If that’s a topic you’ve never thought about before, well, you and me both. But the guy who runs the site, Brad McCall, has thought a lot about it. He’s thought so much about tennis ball cans, in fact, that he’s developed his own numerical classification system for them — sort of a Dewey Decimal System for this specific packaging category.
McCall’s website, which he describes as “my personal project to bring some type of order to all the different types of tennis cans and containers that I have discovered during my collecting frenzy,” includes examples of over 1,000 different tennis ball cans (along with some boxes and other containers), most of which come from his personal collection. After recently discovering the site, I clicked around and was blown away by both the quantity and the quality of the can designs. Here’s are some particularly nice ones:
Nice, right? I didn’t even know those larger 12-ball cans existed.
The great thing about all of this, of course, is its niche specificity. Like all great collections, this one may not be wide, but it’s very, very deep.
I emailed McCall and asked to interview him but never heard back. Too bad, but his website pretty much does the talking for him. Do yourself a favor and spend some time with it — if you care about tennis, sports design, graphic design, packaging, or collecting, it will almost certainly be time well spent.
A final note: I didn’t stumble upon this website on my own — someone pointed me toward it. But I can’t remember who that someone was, and I can’t seem to find the email or DM in which they did so. If that someone was you, please let me know so I can give you proper credit. Thanks!
Update: Reader Tyson Klear has identified himself as the person who steered me toward this site. Thanks so much, Ty!
Update, Jan. 23, 2024: I’ve just heard from a tennis ball can collector named Mark Chandler, who informs me that Brad McCall died a year or two ago, which explains why I never heard back from him. Too bad — R.I.P.