Q: I have an old tin that says “Dunhills Original Pontefract Cakes, Estab. 1760” on the top. Can you give me any information about the company and the age and value of this tin?
A: Pontefract cakes, which are sometimes called Pomfret cakes, are small licorice candies. Licorice has been used for medicinal purposes for over 3,000 years. Cluniac monks brought licorice plants to Pontefract, England, from Spain during the Middle Ages. In 1614 Sir George Saville sold licorice “cakes” or lozenges as cures for stomach ailments. The lozenges were stamped with a stylized picture of Pontefract Castle. Dunhills was established in 1760 by George Dunhill, a chemist, who added sugar, molasses and flour to licorice extract to make licorice candy. Pontefract cakes were also stamped with a picture of Pontefract Castle. Several companies in Pontefract began making the candy, which was sometimes called “Yorkshire Pennies.” Haribo, a German company, bought majority interest in Dunhills in 1972 and the remaining shares in 1994. It still operates the factory in Pontefract. Your tin was probably made in the 1930s. It could be worth $50 to $75.