shelf life of stain/varathane??

Does minwax stain and varathane really have a shelf life? I've noticed dates on top of the can but what is the significance? sell by? use by? I've experienced different color tones and in older can of golden oak minwax vs. a newer can. Verathane takes more than 24 hours to dry. It's not humid, average temp, 75 degrees. Any help you can give me would be appreciated. Please email me off the list. Thank you, Greg
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