Knowing when these events took place and matching them to the name on the tin can help.
Along the same lines; if you also collect magazines/newspaper ads for these companies/brands, they can date your tin by matching your tin's description to that in the ad.
Original Answer: "RJ Reynolds has an expiration date based on the Julian calendar where every day has a number from 1 to 365 respectfully January 1st being 1 and December 31st being 365. Correct Answer: It will have a code like "FSC B6" the FSC stands for Fire Safe Cigarette which simply is the paper they use now so that a cigarette with burn out if not smoked, the B6 is the date code, B is the month with A= January thru L= Dec and the 6 is the last digit of the year, this being 2016.
the date reads typically like: V012X23A1 all you need to look at is the 012 which is the date, in this case January 12 and the first number after the X being 2 which is the last digit for the year made. So it would expire February 2017 as it was made February 2016.
This can only be determined if you're willing to remove the label from the tin.
Numbers on labels such as "553" may indicate the year made. These numbers may also identify a label stock number but most likely would be identified as No. Note: Early paper labels may not have listed or pictured the product within the tin or can.
If you're collecting a particular brand or have several major brands in your collection, it really pays off to know the manufacturer/distributor history.
(Note: In our time of nostalgia advertising- this may not be entirely applicable, but other clues will provide more identification information.) The construction of your tin may also provide clues to its age.
In the 1930's/40's tins were constructed of rather thick steel sheet.
As time went on, the tin manufacturer realized that all that metal wasn't always needed to protect the product. Note: Certain size tins were in use during particular time periods. In some cases this can identify its age, but be cautious.
They also found out that you didn't have to apply as thick a coating of paint, ink, or whatever they used to maintain a somewhat durable finish. Copyright (and Patent dates) can be misleading, appearing on the company's products for many years.
Labels were not always printed in the same location (city or state) as that of the manufacturer or distributor so you may have to make some long distance phone calls or write some letters to learn about the printing company's history.