Make Money Collecting Things Beer Cans Part 1

About how to make money collecting beer cans, where to buy and sell cans for your collection.

How to Make Money Collecting Things


Brewing has been around for 8,000 years, and Americans have been brewing beer since 1584, but the beer can is a recent invention. On Jan. 24, 1935, 125 years after the first tin-plate can was patented in England, the American Can Company and the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company of New Jersey put out the world's first canned beer, Krueger Cream Ale. Since then, beer cans have been manufactured in all shapes, styles, sizes, and trademarks. Beer has been sold in at least 13 sizes, from 7-oz. to 128-oz. cans; flat-top cans have always been popular, but for many years, until the 1950s, most companies used spout, or cone-top, cans. Coors Brewery introduced the aluminum can in the late 1950s, and the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, in conjunction with Alcoa, came out with the easy-open zip-top (lift tab) aluminum top in 1962. In the early 1970s, technology presented the industry, and the beer-drinking world, with the two-piece can--a solid body, and a top that can be pulled completely off using the lift tab.

The Beer Can Collectors of America list over 5,000 different brands of canned beer, including foreign labels. When major label varieties and changes are considered--such as the 300 different designs used in the Rainer Beer Jubilee Series--the number of different cans goes up to 12,000, maybe even as many as 20,000. Nobody really knows for sure.

Most of these cans are out-of-date and therefore scarce, often rare. When the first beer can came out in 1935, about 730 American breweries were operating. In 1952, only 350 remained, and by 1970 that number had dwindled to less than 70 breweries.

The W. W. II tin and steel shortages forced a sharp cutback in beer can production; most cans were marked specifically for GI consumption, with the brand's design in a black outline against an olive-drab background. These "camouflage cans" are now prized by collectors. So are such rare brands as Canadian Ace M. L., Sir Lady Frothingslosh Ale, and Scotch Highland Ale (in cone-top), all of which sell for several hundred dollars apiece. Value, of course, depends on condition in beer can collecting. Rusted or dented cans are generally avoided by the more discerning collectors.

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