The practice of selling beer by the can coincided with the end of Prohibition in 1933. Anticipating, perhaps, a change in the political climate, American Can Company had a flat-topped steel beer can ready to go, but it had to offer to install its canning line for free before a Newark, New Jersey, brewer named Krueger would agree to package its beer in cans. In fact, Krueger was so worried its customers would reject beer in cans that it didn’t launch its new product until 1935, and chose Richmond, Virginia, as its test market. Richmond was deemed far enough away from headquarters not to hurt the brewer’s reputation if the cans were crushed by the bottled competition.
Canned beer, though, was an immediate hit, prompting National Can and Continental Can to tool up that same year. National’s first customer was Northampton, which canned its Tru-Blu brands in flat-top cans. National canned beer for numerous other small brewers, too, from Red Top in Cincinnati to King’s Brewing in Brooklyn. American Can landed big national accounts like Anheuser-Busch (maker of Budweiser), Pabst, and Ballantine. Continental was famous for the cone-topped cans it produced for Schlitz.
Cone-top cans appealed to customers because they were easy to pour, and they were popular with brewers because the cans could be slotted into existing bottling lines. There were ...
Flat tops were simpler to make and cheaper to ship than cone tops—in the end, that won the day. Because flat-top cans were ubiquitous compared to cone-top cans, which had all but disappeared by the end of the 1950s, cone tops are generally more sought after by collectors.
Another subset of beer-can collecting focuses on cans made during World War II. All beer sent to the military, which was supposed to account for 15 percent of each brewer’s output, had less alcohol in it than beer brewed for domestic consumption (3.2 percent versus 4-to-7 percent). That’s one differentiator to look for when trying to date a potential war-era can, which should also have a statement on it that reads, "Withdrawn Free of Internal Revenue Tax for Exportation." By 1944, the domestic labels used for canned military-bound beer were replaced with olive-drab packaging, which makes these cans even easier to identify.
In the postwar years, all flat-top cans had to be opened manually with a church key. In 1960, Burger Brewing of Cincinnati introduced a steel can with an aluminum lid to make this task easier for consumers. But the major change in beer cans occurred in 1962, when Pittsburgh’s Iron City Brewing canned its beer in Alcoa-made zip-top cans. Over the next two years, numerous different types of zip-top cans would be introduced, some with no instructions on the can’s tops, others with sharp edges on the tab itself, and a few that left an opening in the top of the can that collectors refer to as a dogbone for its shape. Schiltz called its zip tops "pop tops." Call them what you like, but these small, sharp strips of metal littered beaches and parks until 1975, when they were replaced by stay tabs.
Interviews & Articles
As a sixth grader assembling my can collection from the ditches of Minnesota, I found a book showing all the elusive rarities in t… [more]
Since no one has ever knocked on my door offering me old beer stuff, I make no secret of my collecting passion. As it turns out, h… [more]
I’ve been a beer stein collector for about 25 years. About 10 years ago I sold my business, a specialty database provider. At that… [more]
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Knoxville Craft Beer Week 2013: Bigger and FrothierKnoxville Metro Pulse, June 19th
Food and beer will pair together as proudly as any wine dinner can promise, especially when Chef Drew McDonald of the Plaid Apron undertakes the challenge of pairing six courses with vintage beer offerings from the Brooklyn Brewery. The Grill at ...Read more
Helaine A. Gorton, 72Oswego Daily News, June 17th
She was a member of the East Coast Breweriana and the American Breweriana. Mrs. Gorton was an avid collector. She is survived by her husband of 53 years, Jeffery Gorton of Fulton; three sons: Michael Gorton of Fulton, David (Kim) Gorton of Volney and ...Read more
Your Father's Day Shopping Guide (HURRY!)Houston Press (blog), June 14th
If he served in the armed forces, maybe a cool print or some vintage binoculars; if he is a cocktail lover, a set of vintage tumblers or some antique beer steins would be appropriate. If your dad is a bookworm, a first edition of his favorite book...Read more
Sound Check: Rock and roll can be backbreaking work, literallyThe Bozeman Daily Chronicle, June 13th
It was then he realized the potential danger of his position and started to climb back down, stopping to pick up his guitar part from the shelves of antique beer cans and memorabilia behind the stage. “I didn't feel like I was that high,” King said. “I...Read more
Puss in Boots Fortune-Teller fulfills its prophecy of success, sells for ...Art Daily, June 13th
An 8-piece Coca-Cola prototype window display depicting Rip Van Winkle and the Jolly Elves “pausing for refreshment” was bid to $7,800 against an estimate of $3,000-$4,000. In the breweriana section, a 1900-1910 framed poster advertising Lorelei Beer...Read more
UMSL students learn through Jubilee BrewUMSL Daily (blog), June 12th
Nowell said he's learned a lot from the project, especially in working directly with printers in order to see his design come to fruition as Ferguson breweriana. He also enjoyed the experience as a craft beer fan who's fond of the Schlafly brand and...Read more
Vintage Beer Dinner With Dogfish Head at ForkZagat (blog), June 3rd
Two of our favorite things are coming together for a special Philly Beer Week pairing dinner on Wednesday, June 5. Make that three of our favorite things, because in addition to special vintage brews from Dogfish Head and excellent food from Eli Kulp...Read more
Asselmeier May Anheuser Busch Breweriana Auction 6 1 2013News-Antique.com (press release), May 23rd
Including St. Louis Cardinal 2006 World Series Champions, Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch Bavarian, Michelob, Ultra & Light, American Ale, Rolling Rock, Lite, Etc. Collection of Lights, Clocks, Signs & Trays: Includes Budweiser, Busch Bavarian Lighted...Read more