You've come here looking for information, because you've come across some beer cans. Lets pretend I'm there with you, okay? 95% of the collections assembled during the heyday of can collecting (mid 70's into the 80's) were all about NUMBERS. Quantity was quality. MORE cans equaled a "better" collection. And in the early days, it was "trade only" and buying/selling was frowned upon, if not banned at shows. So you could trade a nice old 1940's cone top can and get TWO CASES of current cans in trade-wow! Thats the way to build a collection. They made commemorative cans for every occasion, and they even helped keep Schell's Brewing afloat during the 70's, churning out all these different beer cans. But collectors tired of trying (and buying) to keep up, and it helped to slowly "kill" the hobby. Kids don't collect beer cans much anymore, its old guys like me that have a soft spot for nostalgia and disposable income from a real job that still collect them.
Whether its a single can you found in a bathroom remodel, or your son's forgotten collection you pulled down from the garage, heres a quick primer on what to look for:
There are a few exceptions, and even though there are Hamm's cans from the 60's that are aluminum, I recycle them. They are plentiful, and if you want to expend the time to sell them (garage sale, internet, wherever) you might be rewarded richly a "dime at a time" should someone need one. You'll have to handle and move these fragile vessels (prone to denting,blowing away, etc.) for a meager return. I'm not going to tell you how to spend your time or dimes, but after buying numerous collections, thats what I do.
Ring type "pull tab" cans:
These make up the bulk of collections. These had a removable ring tab on the top lid, that some people put BACK in the can or discarded on the beach for people to cut their toes on.The newer versions have a "stay tab" which is used to push the drinking hole inward, and there are many variations (two holes,etc) that were tried in between perfecting these two types of openers. Not to cast a broad brush here, but I've recycled too many of these over the decades, as they were made by the billions, and can often be bought at beer collectible shows for a dime or quarter, if anyone bothers to sell them.But there are exceptions like certain versions of the 007 (James Bond-by National Brewing) Playmate, Golden Gate, Haffenreffer, Bartels,etc cans that were made well BEFORE the can craze. There is an early version of these pull tab cans that are called "zip tabs" which were made in the early to mid 1960's. These cans are "straight steel" (no crimp inward before the lids) and the opening is not your standard symmetrical triangle shape. An experience collector like me can see if there are any of these within a few seconds of looking at the lids of any beer case.
These were made by breweries to review possible label or color changes for a beer brand.They were not filled with beer, just used to view and critique typestyles (fonts) and different color combinations. They may even have a hand-rendered PAPER label over an air-filled can. These were often roughed out by a designer or artist and the details (like brewery, ounces, alcohol) might be shown with scribbling or "greeking" for placement only. These are collectible. Whether you have flat sheets, mock up cans or actual tin cans, pull them aside. They have value to people like me!
Flat tin sheets:
These are unrolled cans with no lids. I've seen brewery files that contain examples kept to document label changes.Or-a stack that may have been taken home by a brewery employee. These can have value too. Some collectors frame them, or, they can be rolled into cans for display. The same rule applies here-the older, the better. And spotting, scratches and wrinkles drop the value considerably.
Punch/flat top cans:
Okay, we are warming up now.This type of can was actually the first beer can made back in 1935. They required a church key opener to pierce the top lid so you could DRINK your beer. Earlier examples had INSTRUCTIONS on the back to show how to open the can. Others might say SAME AS BOTTLE so the consumer was reassured that they weren't being shorted a few precious ounces in this newfangled container.And check for the words INTERNAL REVENUE TAX PAID on your can. If it appears, you know it was made pre-1951, when all beer was taxed before it ever left the brewery.Remember that the national brewers like Budweiser, Pabst, Schlitz and Miller (and others) made MILLIONS of cans that were distributed all over the country.
Cone or spout tops:
These were sealed on top with a BOTTLE CAP. Most examples have a CONCAVE tin bottom lid, but there are certain FLAT bottomed examples. Some may have a top lid with INVERTED ribs around it. There are also CROWNTAINER type cans that are two piece construction, comprised of a concave bottom and an all silver (or white) can body with the label painted over that. These cans were made from 1936 up until the early 60's (Hauenstein) and
are both desirable and collectible.There are a few 1970's examples that confuse people (Milwaukee Premium, Pulaski, Mushroom Days) into thinking they are old or rare.If you have conetop or flattop cans, these are what I collect.If I need them, I'm happy to pay you a fair (if not shocking) price for your cans. Its as simple as calling or emailing a picture.
Although your can might be mint, examples are plentiful and it may not be worth as much as a small regional brewery.Next to rarity (and desirability) CONDITION is one of the primary factors in value.
I'll try to break it down for you here.
A MINT can is exactly THAT, it is flawless in condition with no flaws, scratches or blemishes. This is the quality of a can upon which all prices are based in collecting guides. All other cans are valued in comparison to this quality and price. If a non-collector sees their can in a price guide, they hold that price as "gospel" and assume its worth that. (and they probably threw their newly found cans in a garbage bag to transport them-gasp) But cans DO EXIST from decades ago in this condition. A laborer may have dropped his empties in the drywall of a newly built house back in the 40's, where they remain preserved in their humidity and light free environment, just waiting for a guy like me, to buy them from a kind (and savvy) soul like you!
Grade 1+ : Often referred to as "store condition" cans. They may have slight blemishes, flaws, scratches, rub marks, dings (slight dents/waves), or other minor faults that come with the production, distribution, and handling of the can from the can company to the drinker. The price of a Grade 1+ may be 10% to 20% below that of a mint can with the exception of new or current releases, which we detailed above.
Grade 1: Noticeable blemishes, flaws, scratches, rubs, wrinkles, dents, or other problems like humidity spotting or aging. Some collectors use the 6 foot rule, (at a distance of 6 feet it is hard to see a problem with the can, but upon closer handling there are the obvious faults) Grade 1 cans usually sell for 20% to 40% below that of a mint one.
Grade 1- : Obvious blemishes and flaws; the problems may be many, a combination of things, and really stick out. Some collectors use the terms inside cans or outside cans, but no one ever explained this to me to my satisfaction. A Grade 1- cans would command a price of between 40% and 60% below that of a mint can.
Grade 2 : Grade 2 cans will have rust on them, good dents, abrasions, very noticeable faults, severe scratches, chips, small holes (pin size holes), etc. The label is usually very displayable, but may have seen better days. Cans in this grade sell between 60% and 80% below that of the mint value. Some collectors will list the cans in this grade as + or -, but that makes no difference really, in cans of this grade. If you need an EXAMPLE of a rare brand or label, these will do until an upgrade comes along.
Grade 3 cans are in bad shape. Only part of the label may be displayable and that part might be very small. Problems are obvious like holes or defects on the can. Cans in this grade sell at between 85% to 90% below that of their Mint value. Again, some collectors will label a can in this grade as + or -. Why bother?
Grade 4 cans are in horrible shape. Their value is 3% to 10% of Mint value. But if its some super rare can, it might be worth displaying just to say that you HAVE one, right? Or-it could be worth attempting to see if you can remove the rust with oxalic acid. But thats best left to us beer can nuts, as its fumes are toxic and it can irritate skin and lungs...cough!
Grade 5 cans might have a shred of label still readable. There is a group of collectors that will display them, however. Not me. Cans shouldn't require a tetanus shot to handle.
Whew...are you ready for a beer yet? I've taken the time to type all this and try to educate you because it helps both of us. I get to interact with (my favorite part) and acquire beer stuff from all over the nation because of this site. I can't tell you how cool that is.
Like Glen Campbell once sang "gettin' cards and letters (okay, emails) from people I don't even know!"
I haven't won the lottery (yet) and will never claim to PAY THE ABSOLUTE TOP DOLLAR (cue the loud, late night infomercial here) for this stuff. But if I want it, I'm happy to pay fairly (heck,thrilled!) and add a unique or ancient brewery artifact to my beer room. I always figure, since you are ON the internet now, you can "shop" your stuff all over, and I'll probably get beat by the big boys in a bidding war. But if I get the crumbs, I'm smiling. We've never met, but I'll treat you like I'd want to be treated. If you have something that excites me, I'll pay "tomorrow's price" today. I may only have one chance to own it, right? If I'm buying to trade or resell, I plan on 25% minimum for my time and effort. How does this work? I mail you payment (in a cool,hand made card...you'll see) and once you receive it, you mail the item to me. Pretty simple-I've done this for years and can guide you through the process. I also can utilize Paypal or pay you in person with cash if you are in the Midwest. I can advise you on shipping methods (and will PAY these costs) and will make any potential transaction hassle-free.
Barry the beerguy