Remember those puzzles where you had to look at two similar pictures and 'spot the differences'? Here is a needle tin version. At first glance the five GENERAL needle tins below all look somewhat similar but on closer inspection you can notice several differences, which show how one design was subtly adapted to suit production needs of the day. What is less obvious is, why?
The first two in the top row above do not include any claims as to where they are made, nor details of how many needles they held, and the blue one displays some Japanese characters. One suggestion to account for these differences is that the yellow one could have been made for generic export, whilst the blue was specifically for the Japanese domestic market?
The bottom two both have the same image, which only differs slightly from the others, but one has a different brand name and both claim to be made in Germany. I am not sure the tins were actually made in Germany, but they could have been designed in Germany, contained needles made in Germany or, been made specifically for German retailers. It was quite common that tins and needles were made in different factories, and possibly even in different countries, as the technology to produce both was quite different. From the appearance of the image and the font, these last two could also be earlier versions.
The rear of the tins were either blank or had a back as shown above. The registration and design details pictured are most likely German.
Just to add another twist, the tin shown here on the left, has what appears to be an eagle from the German coat of arms at the tip of its paper liner, whilst the paper liner in the tin on the right does not.
The one thing i am certain about is that all of these tins were found in Japan, so they were either made there or imported from Germany. There may well be other versions that I haven't yet found, so for the collectors who may be reading this, if you have something different please send me a picture so that I can add it to this story. Unfortunately, without more clues or information my observations here really amount to just an educated guess, but that's part of the fun of unravelling the many mysteries that these tiny tins present us with .
Oh, by the way, I didn't ever count how many differences there are to spot!