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 low-profile cone tops and high-profiles ones, as well as mid-profile J-spout cans, all of which were assembled from three pieces of metal. The exception to this rule was the Crowntainer, whose concave base anchored that can’s one-piece body.

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to look for when trying to date a potential war-era can, which should also have a statement on it that reads, "Withdrawn Free of Internal Revenue Tax for Exportation."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.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Rustycans.com

Rustycans.com

What could be better than a beautifully rusted antique beer can? How about Mark Benbow’s handsome RustyCans.com w… [read review or visit site]

Red Fox Chapter

Red Fox Chapter

The guys at the Connecticut Chapter of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America have created a full-on tribute to t… [read review or visit site]

Bottle Cap Index

Bottle Cap Index

Assembled by Gunther Rademacher with the help of several other contributors, this collection of over half a million… [read review or visit site]

Plopsite.de

Plopsite.de

Norbert Lamping's collection of 600+ ceramic bottle stoppers, Hutter stoppers, swingtops, swivel stoppers, and ligh… [read review or visit site]

Bock Beer Labels

Bock Beer Labels

A quick tour of pre-Prohibition bock beer label designs with nice, high resolution scans. Do the whole slide show o… [read review or visit site]

Trappist Beers and Monks

Trappist Beers and Monks

An interesting site dedicated to Trappist beers and the history of the development of beer brewed by Trappist Bened… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Iroquois Indian Head Cone Top Beer CanWaldorf Ale Flat Top Beer Can! Waldorf Lager Flat Top Beer Can! Pabst Wwii Olive Drab Flat Top Steel Beer CanMule Head Ale Flat Top Beer CanSenate Ale Flat Top Beer Can! Tough!Very Nice Indian Queen Quart Cone Top Beer CanSolid English Lab Ale Flat Top Beer Can! Vintage Old Dr Pepper Cone Top 6oz Can Bottle Frosty Dog Man 40sBlatz Xmas Flat Top Beer Can! Gretz Half And Hald Flat Top Beer Can! Old Dutch Flat Top Beer CanEsslingers Flat Top Beer Can! Eureka Lager Flat Top Beer CanBallantine Triple Crown Zip Top Beer CanVery Rare Badger Flat Top Open Instruction Beer CanHi Lo Lager Grace Brothers Flat Top Beer Can! Blatz Blue Xmas Flat Top Beer Can! Waldorf Red Band Flat Top Beer Can! Pabst Old Tankard Ale Flat Top Beer Can!Tahoe Flat Top Beer Can! Rhinebeck Beer CanAtlantic Ale Flat Top Beer Can!Clear Lake Grace Bros Santa Rosa Flat Top Beer Can! Extremely NiceSchmidts First Premium Cone Top Beer CanFitger's Beer Cone Top Can Fitger's Brewing Co., Duluth Minnesota- Very NiceNational Premium Beer Cone Top Can All American Beer Flat Top Beer Can! Rare Grain Belt Beer 12 Oz Low Profile Cone Top Can/concave Bottom/irtp/minn.Lot Of 8 Cone Top Beer CansClean Iron City Cone Top Beer CanFox Deluxe Bock Flat Top Beer Can! Pilsner P.o.c Flat Top Beer Can!Pabst Blue Ribbon Bock. Flat Top Beer Can.Fox Deluxe Cone Top Beer CanAce High Ale Flat Top Beer Can! Meister Brau Flat Top Beer Can Xmas Can!!Drewerys Ale Flat Top Beer Can!Cone Top Beer Can Beverwyck Famous Ale & Old Topper Snappy AleLot Of 3 Grain Belt Cone Top Beer CansGold Crest Cone Top Beer CanBusch Lager Beer Flat Top Beer Can ( Stunning )Beverwycks Cone Top Beer CanRoyal Flat Top Beer CanUinta Club Flat Top Beer Can With Opening Instructions UtahRenner Golden Amber Beer Cone Top CanSuper Nice Graphic Bull Dog Stout Malt Liquor San Francisco Flat Top Beer Can Edelweiss Bock Flat Top Beer Can!Renner Old Oxford Cone Top Beer CanUnita Club Flat Top Beer CanSchwegmann Brothers Flat Top Beer Can! Old German Style Beer Cone Top CanRare 1950`s Pepsi Cone Top Can Conetop : Soda Sign Coca Cola Mountain Dew Senate Flat Top Beer Can! Gb Cone Top Beer CanCarlings Ale Cone Top Beer CanScarce Noch-eins Pale Beer 12 Oz.j-spout Cone Top Beer Can-columbus, OhioBrown Biermann Beer Can- Fox Head Brg. Waukesha Wi.Excellent Rare+ Canadian Carling's Waterloo, Ont Black Label Cone Top Beer CanFitzgerald Cone Top Beer Can