People have collected beer cans ever since the first can was commercially produced for general sale in 1935. For many years, however, beer can collectors were aware of only a few, if any, fellow collectors. Often these early collectors had a personal connection to a brewery, can company, or beer distributor. Sometimes they just thought the cans were pretty or otherwise visually interesting. One of the largest collections began at Yale when a group of students began lining cans along a shelf that ran near the top of the wall in their dorm room. When the school year was over one of the students kept the cans.
The Collecting Cans section has several sub sections....
Blue-Gray is one of the best breweriana shows in the country. Held every President's day weekend in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Bibliography: looking for good books on beer cans, collecting, or brewing history? Here you'll find a helpful list with links to buy the books.
Definitions has a list of beer can collecting terms including examples of different types of cans.
DGR A method to rating a can's rareness (Dumper's Guide to Rareness).
Error Cans No, they are not rare. Want to know why?
Fakes contains warning about fake cans seen on Ebay and also includes information about other deceptive practices collectors should guard against.
How Old is My Can: Judging a can's age.
Labels: Bob Kay has a series of books coming out, each covering labels from pre-prohibition to 1950. Check out how to order his book.
Links can help connect you to pages with more information about collecting beer cans, including pages from other collectors.
CANvention 2005 Display. I did the Rusty Bunch display at the Charlotte, NC CANvention. Here are the photos of the display featuring some of the original beer cans.
Reproductions: A warning about worthless "novelty" cans.
Rustlings is the newsletter of the Rusty Bunch!
The Site Map can aid you in finding other pages of interest on my site.
A History of Beer Can Collecting
On October 20, 1969 the St. Louis Globe Democrat ran an article about a local man named Denver Wright Jr. who collected, of all things, beer cans! Six other St. Louis collectors saw the article and realized they were not alone in their interests. One was Denver's own brother, Larry Wright. The seven collectors began visiting each other's homes to see their collections and they decided to form an organized club in the hopes that they would be able to contact still more people with the same hobby. On April 15, 1970 they formed the BCCA, the Beer Can Collectors of America.
The BCCA grew rapidly. In September 1971 the BCCA held its first Convention, soon renamed a CANvention, and had over 300 members. The number of members took off and the club doubled in size in 1972. In 1974 there were almost 3,000 members. In 1976 the BCCA had over 8,000 members and the hobby had gained national attention. Brewers such as Falstaff and others began issuing special Bicentennial cans aimed at least in part at the can collector market. I started collecting at about this time after I found a large Foster's Lager (empty) can from Australia in my folk's backyard after a neighbor's party. A beer can from Australia seemed extraordinarily exotic to a 16 year old in Ohio and so I washed it out and put it on a shelf in my room. The Bicentennial cans appealed to me as well and I joined other kids in my high school in collecting cans. I joined the BCCA in 1977 and became member # 13056.
My original BCCA Membership Certificate, a little the worse for wear after 29 years
The BCCA peaked in numbers of members in 1978 with 11,954 members. The BCCA was (briefly) joined at this time by the Presidential First Brother, Billy Carter, who came out with his own, short-lived brand, Billy Beer. A number of issues, however, had begun to haunt the BCCA and membership began to decline.
The Glut of 1970s CansBrands like Billy Beer and a seemingly never-ending flow of cans aimed specifically at collectors began to burn out the hobby. These supposedly 'special' cans, now often derisively called "70's s---t", even included fake "old" cans which still turn up on Ebay today! There was also a growing debate over whether it was proper to buy empty cans from hobby dealers (buying full cans to consume was never an issue of contention!) The BCCA doggedly fought to discourage buying and selling, preferring to encourage the trading of cans between collectors as the way to build one's collection. Other beer can collecting clubs which began during the 1970s, including the World Wide Beer Can Collectors and a group at Maverick Publishing (like the BCCA, based in Missouri) championed buying and selling cans as no different than buying or selling stamps, coins, or other collectibles. Eventually the BCCA gave in and allowed buying and selling at BCCA sponsored events although it never stopped encouraging trading as a more enjoyable way to assemble a collection. Interestingly, the groups that had initially championed buying and selling did not last and soon folded.
The BCCA is alive and well today and has a stable membership of about 3,700 members. A lot of former members, such as myself, have rediscovered the BCCA and have rejoined in our 40s the hobby we enjoyed so much in our teens and twenties. We dug our collections out of the attic, our parent's basement, or a storage facility and put them back up on the shelf to display. Some still trade with other members, while others look for cans on Ebay. Some of us, the "Rusty Bunch", go 'dumping,' i.e. looking for old cans thrown out decades ago which still sit buried in the woods, in abandoned buildings, or behind old hunting lodges waiting for a reborn beer can collector to come by with his metal detector and his hoe to rescue them. We ask bemused friends traveling overseas to bring back a couple cans from other countries or haunt flea markets looking for other past hobbyists selling their collections. This hobby is still a blast and I hope my web site can answer any questions you may have about collecting metallic malted beverage containers, i.e., beer cans!