Over the last few weeks I’ve used snippets of free time to sort through the antique beer can collection. I’ve looked at each of the 600 or more cans, seeing what I have, picking out favorites, and trying to identify the ones that are valuable to collectors.
I have cone tops, flat tops, zip tops, and pull tops. Many were opened from the bottom, so the top is still intact. Some were never opened at all. Most are steel cans. I’ve sorted out the aluminum cans and put them in big boxes; my first thought was to recycle the aluminum ones, but I can’t bring myself to. Someone went to the trouble to collect them, and even though they aren’t as old as the others, they are still forty years old.
Who collects beer cans? Apparently, a small group of mostly older men across the U.S. Beer can collecting was big in the 70’s. The Brewery Collectibles Club of America and the World-Wide Beer Can Collectors were popular, and there were local swap meets at malls and other places. Since then, few new people have started collecting. Last week I joined the Lonestar Chapter (Texas, of course) of the BCAA, which has less than 100 members.
I’m starting to have an idea of which of my cans are more valuable, but I’m still often wrong. Some of my favorites are only worth $1-$3 each, but I like them anyway. Among those are my Old Frothingslosh cans in multiple colors. I’ve picked all of mine out, washed them, and put them on display. (Yes, I wash old beer cans.) These are also usually the ones my friends notice the quickest. But it seems that every collector has five or ten of these cans which keeps the value lower. I also like my Schmidt cans with various wildlife scenes from the West, but again these are common.
When I find a can in decent condition but have no others like it, that’s a clue that it might be valuable. Also, the more unusual tops (zip tops, juice tops) are more valuable. And sometimes it seems that the more plain the can, the more valuable it is. The more decorated cans were often marketed as collectibles, so more collectors have them. According to a man who has been helping me with values, my two most valuable cans, worth over $100 each, are a solid color with little more than a logo.
A smarter man would turn this inheritance into quick cash. Instead, I’ve gotten too interested to let the collection go. I’ve even bought an old Shiner Beer can that I saw on a collectors group website. The cans I want to collect the most right now are any from Shiner brewery in Shiner, Texas, anything from Lonestar or Pearl (also Texas), and any of the Tennent’s Girls cans (because I like women).
Luckily, our new home has plenty space for me to have this annoying collection without my wife having to see it. Had this been in our old house, it would have been a definite no. And I’m also helping to justify my new hobby by selling some; I sold a Green River soda can for $10. I’ll be shipping it to Arizona later today. I have a steel, pop-top Coke can that’s never been opened that I’ll also list later today. As long as my sales exceed my expenses, I think I can get away with my new, strange hobby.