I don't know whether the "this-was-taken-home-by-an-employee-unpainted" story is true. It looks too uniform and pristine to me, given that it is ~115 years old. I've had a number of readers contact me to say it looks like a paint removal product was used to give it this look. I can't say anything definitive about it, except that the marketplace had its doubts too, as this fetched only $1136.11. What I did find cool and truly unusual was the base with the impressed information. I don't recall seeing such a base before.
A reader kindly shared the photo below in response to this post. The key question is whether the parade lanterns in the photo are painted orange or are they unpainted. If unpainted, it does further call into question the concept of an employee taking unpainted lanterns home, but reinforces the concept that perhaps these tin parade lanterns were sometimes sold unpainted. Thoughts?