Identifying Old Beer Can Values (That Can Be Worth Thousands)

Updated May 23, 2022
Beer Cans Arranged In Shelves

With some examples selling for thousands of dollars and others worth almost nothing, it's natural to wonder how vintage beer can values are determined. The process involves several factors, including condition and rarity. Using a few guided characteristics, you can find out which old beer cans are worth the most.

8 Most Valuable Vintage Beer Cans to Collect

Beer drinkers are fanatical about their love for the brewed beverage, and the famous Super Bowl ad campaigns for such brands as Budweiser and Coors Light belie how valuable beer cans are and the collectibles' they've become for certain people. An all around inexpensive product that can, in some cases, bring in 10x it's initial retail value thanks to how rare or unique it is. So, when you're browsing the glass cases in your local vintage shop, stop to see if any of these eight vintage beer cans are perched somewhere inside:

1930s Apache Export Cone-Top Beer Can

Produced by the prolific Continental Can Company in the late 1930s, the (now known to be problematically named) Apache Export cone top beer can could fetch top dollar at auction when it's in good condition. With an estimate worth of $10,000-$30,000, finding one of these lesser known cans just might give enough money to pay for a vacation getaway, like how this one that recently sold at an auction for $14,500 certainly could.

1930s Rheingold Pale Double Rock Flat-Top Beer Can

With estimated values between $8,000-$20,000, the Rheingold Pale Double Rock flat top beer can from the late-1930s is a good investment piece to hunt down at your local vintage shop if you can find one. Recently, one of these 12-ounce gold cans sold at an online auction for an impressive $9,000.

1930s Tally-Ho Cone-Top Beer Can

Produced in the late-1930s by the Continental Can Company, this bright yellow Tally-Ho cone topped beer can is rather rare, and appraisal experts estimated it's worth anywhere between $7,500-$25,000. Unfortunately, this specific can didn't quite reach that mark and sold for only $4,800 at a 2019 auction. This goes to show that market value doesn't always equate to the sales price when push comes to shove.

1930s Old Milwaukee Flat-Top Beer Can

Another high-priced vintage collectible beer can comes from the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Old Milwaukee is a beer that's still in production, though collectors are willing to pay substantial prices for vintage memorabilia. Take, for instance, one flat top can from 1939 with a 9.5 condition grading that was given a price estimate at and auction for $12,800-$19,200.

1930s Gunther's Flat-Top Beer Can

Gunther's beer cans exhibit a very beautiful late-Art Deco typography and bold color-blocked design, which adds to their overall appeal. Produced in the late-1930s, these cans are usually valued in the $5,000-$10,000 range. For instance, this Gunther beer can from 1935 featured the notable label variation and reached competing bids between $7,000-$7,500.

1940 The New Yorker Flat-Top Beer Can

The New Yorker Beer Can featuring a flat top was produced in 1940 by the American Can Company and is a particularly valuable can for many beer memorabilia collectors. Valued somewhere in the low thousands, one of these cans recently sold at auction for an impressive $3,100.

1950s Fox Head Old Waukesha Ale Flat-Top Beer Can

This vintage beer can featuring a lovely deep green background and illustrated fox on the center from the 1950s recently sold on eBay for $1,302.77. Not only does this attest to how mid-century beer cans are less valuable than ones from the earliest days of beer canning, but also that you can sell cans from companies that're no longer in business for potentially more than ones from those that are.

1940s Frankenmuth Cone-Top Beer Can

According to their website, Frankenmuth is Michigan's oldest craft brewery, having been started in 1862, and it continues to serve new and old brews to this day. With an estimated value of between $500-$800, this vintage cone top Frankenmuth beer can in a fair condition actually sold for $1,250 on eBay, indicating that the rise in interest in fermentation sciences and microbreweries might have bled into the collectibles market.

How to Identify Valuable Beer Cans

If you have a potentially valuable can or one that you're simply curious about, there are three main factors to consider when determining whether it might be something special: condition, rarity, and quality. Understanding these is important for helping you determine if it's worth investing in an appraisal, insurance coverage, or selling it to another collector.

Consider the Beer Cans' Condition

Budweiser Beer cans

According to the Brewery Collectibles Club of America (BCCA), condition is one of the most important factors in determining vintage beer can values. The BCCA assigns a number for the condition of a can, with 1 being a can in pristine condition and 5 being a can in terrible shape. They give the example of a can in 1 condition being worth $100 and the same can in 5 condition being worth less than two dollars. Keep these tips in mind to assess condition:

  • Examine the label. Can you read it clearly?
  • Take a look at the metal condition. Is there a lot of rust? What about dents?
  • How was the can opened? Collectors prefer cans opened on the bottom.

Research Each Beer Can's Rarity

Milwaukee Club Beer Cone Top Beer Can

Certain brands and styles of beer cans are especially valuable because of their rarity. Steel Canvas, a shop specializing in vintage beer cans, reports that valuable cans include rare examples like Playmate and Jame's Bond's 007. On the other hand, common specialty cans like Billy Beer and MASH Beer aren't worth much. While pull-top cans tend to hold little value because of how common they are, the following styles can indicate a rare and valuable can:

  • Cone tops - Cans with a cone-shaped top and a cap
  • Flat tops - Cans which have no way to open them other than a "church key"
  • Crowntainers - Cans which offer the shape of a cone top but without seams
  • Cans with instructions - Cans with opening instructions included on the product

Understand How Quality Impacts Value

When it comes to vintage beer cans, "quality" can be hard to define. According to the Washington Post, some collectors define it as a combination of beauty and mystique. Attractive cans with beautiful advertising and images are more valuable than boring or utilitarian cans. Similarly, there are a few cans that have something special: a mystique among collectors. One such example would be Ballantine camouflage cans, which were produced during World War II. The cans were painted olive green to blend in if soldiers dropped them overseas.

How to Find the Value of Your Vintage Beer Can

Jacob Ruppert Knickerbocker Beer Flat Top Beer Can

Once you know as much as possible about your can, you can start to assign a specific value. Here's how to do it:

1. Look for Similar, Recently Sold Cans

When you know about your can, you can look for others like it. The key here is to limit your search to cans that have actually sold. A seller can ask any price, but that doesn't reflect the value of the can unless someone actually pays it. Look at recently sold cans on eBay to see if you can find one like yours. These are a few examples:

2. Ask an Expert or Collectors Society

The beer can collecting community is very friendly and helpful, so you can find out more about your can's value by talking to other enthusiasts. If you want to get started connecting with the beer collecting community, try one of these options:

  • The Brewery Collectibles Club of America (BCCA) holds an annual "Canvention" where members can meet and examine cans together. You can also buy or sell cans at this event.
  • eBeercans offers unofficial beer can appraisals for free, and you simply need to provide details about your can and your email address.
  • Breweriana also offers appraisals as it's a site for selling vintage beer cans. However, the appraisal offered may also include an offer, and if that's the case, it's a good idea to get a second opinion.

3. Get an Appraisal

If you think your can may be of value, it's a good idea to have it professionally appraised. You can find free appraisals online, and there are also resources for local free appraisals. Ultimately, however, you'll get the best information and the highest quality documentation with a professional appraisal. Costs for antique appraisals vary, but you can expect to spend an hourly rate of $80 to $300, depending on their experience. If you have a collection of vintage beer cans that may have significant value, it's likely worth the cost of the appraisal.

Is It Time to Shotgun Your Beer Can Collection?

Deciding to sell your vintage beer can or collection of beer cans can be a difficult choice to make. If you do choose to sell, you can work with a specialist or enthusiast club, such as the ones mentioned above. Otherwise, you can also sell your cans yourself on eBay. Either way, if you're ready to put your cans on the market, rest assured that your can'll go to someone who'll appreciate these vintage treasures as much as you do.

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