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to look for when trying to date a potential war-era can, which should also have a statement on it that reads, "Withdrawn Free of Internal Revenue Tax for Exportation."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.
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Sunday picks: Celebrate Profiles in ExcellenceChicago Daily Herald, February 6th
The Bullfrog Chapter of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America hosts its annual Super Bowl Sunday Beer Can and Breweriana Show at the American Legion Hall, 514 S. Main St., Wauconda. A wide variety of beer-related items, including beer cans, will be ...Read more
Drinking long intertwined in Dubuque's cultureKSL.com, February 5th
dozen commercial breweries in Jo Daviess County, Ill., and several in southwest Wisconsin -- making Dubuque and the tri-state area a brewing mecca that rivaled Milwaukee, according to local brewery historians and American Breweriana Association...Read more
Does Cleveland still have a shot at brewery group's 'can-vention'?cleveland.com, February 3rd
The breweriana organization, founded in 1970, emphasizes all things brewery-related - signs, openers, memorabilia, cans and more. The group promotes swapping, selling and exhibiting items. About 2,000 collectors attended its can-vention in Milwaukee in ...Read more
Last Call for Tin Hall...in a Manner of SpeakingHouston Press, February 2nd
“He's a state champion,” said Tin Hall's owner, Mark Martinez, as Wheat whirred away in the background, selling barstools or vintage beer signs or something. “He's amazing. He's got a good character. He's done stuff all over the country; he does stuff...Read more
New Billings brewery to open in FebruaryBillings Gazette, January 31st
Brewery memorabilia. Mar 17, 2015; 1. Antique brewery memorabilia, also called breweriana, has seen a rise in popularity in recent years. Montana's rich brewing history reaches bac… Tags. Brewery. ×. Post a comment. Emoticons. Comment Text. Cancel...Read more
Antique beer bottle found off Nova Scotia coastMy Fox Boston, November 30th
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (MyFoxBoston.com) – A century-old bottle of beer was pulled out from the ocean floor in Nova Scotia and it could be nearly as old as Canada itself. A scuba diver found the bottle buried in the sea floor. The bottle has markings of ...Read more
Beer Memorabilia on Auction Block to Benefit Boys & Girls ClubKBTX, November 20th
BRYAN - Kristen Distributing has moved into a new location, and the company is giving you the chance to own some of its memorabilia and help a local non-profit with a planned move of its own. Friday, the local beverage distributor sold off some of its...Read more
Beer memorabilia collectors coming to MilwaukeeMilwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 30th
The largest beer can and brewery advertising show in the world is headed to Milwaukee. The CANvention runs Wednesday through Saturday at the Wisconsin Center, 400 W. Wisconsin Ave. Why wouldn't they meet in Brew City? More than 1,500 collectors ...Read more