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to look for when trying to date a potential war-era can, which should also have a statement on it that reads, "Withdrawn Free of Internal Revenue Tax for Exportation."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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Chow Hound: The Pub in McKinney Offers Plenty of Good LibationsTownSquareBuzz.com, May 20th
The décor is comprised of a wood laden interior with antique beer advertisements covering the walls. My eyes took some time to adjust to the darkness that consumed the room. The juxtaposition of the bright sunlight relative to the dark tavern took its...Read more
Sunday picks: Take the family to see Raffi in AuroraChicago Daily Herald, May 19th
The Bullfrog Chapter of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America hosts its Spring Beer Can and Breweriana Show at the American Legion Hall, 514 S. Main St., Wauconda. A wide variety of breweriana items will be offered, including beer glasses, labels,...Read more
A floating holiday down the Murray RiverNEWS.com.au, May 18th
The Great Aussie Beer Shed, on the outskirts of town, is owned and operated by local man Neil Thomas, who lovingly built it to house his collection of beer memorabilia and other Australian history amassed over many years. As well as boasting about 17...Read more
First Look: Wisconsin Supper Clubs by Ron FaiolaEater National (blog), May 17th
Hallmarks include brandy Old Fashioneds, Friday night fish fry, prime rib, relish trays, lake views, taxidermy, glowing vintage beer lights, Packers paraphernalia, and more. The book comes out none too soon: with restaurants like the Old Fashioned in...Read more
Morsels with Megan Miller and Simon PlantHerald Sun, May 17th
Vintage wine we know about, but vintage beer? Tasmania's Cascade Brewery this week released its limited-edition Cascade First Harvest Ale made using freshly picked hops and the first barley of the season. Only 5000 cases are available. Head brewer...Read more
Philadelphia Brewery History and beer tastingMain Line, May 16th
Rich will be signing copies of his book and offering posters and “breweriana” for sale. The program is free and open to all. The general membership meeting of the East Falls Historical Society will begin a 6:30 p.m. The agenda includes the election of...Read more
Rush to the Rockies Breweriana Show highlights beer collectiblesThe Coloradoan, May 12th
Carl Glass of Broomfield, Colo. checks out beer-themed collectables as he looks to add to his collection on Saturday, May 4, 2013, during the 19th annual Rush to the Rockies Breweriana Show at Marriott Hotel in Fort Collins. / Dawn Madura/The...Read more
Father, son share passion for beer memorabilia - La Crosse TribuneLa Crosse Tribune, April 27th
He organizes the annual beer memorabilia show and travels far and wide to add to his enormous collection. But it was his son, Scott, who got him started. By age 10, Scott had collected more than 500 beer cans. He still remembers the first ones...Read more