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. Find out which beer cans are worth the most.
Identifying Valuable Beer Cans
If you have a potentially valuable can or one 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.
Consider the Condition
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.
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 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, which are cans with a cone-shaped top and a cap
- Flat tops, which have no way to open them other than a "church key"
- Crowntainers, which offer the shape of a cone top but without seams
- Cans with opening instructions
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.
Finding the Value of Your Vintage 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 some examples:
- An Old St. Louis beer can from 1937 sold on eBay for $9,500. It was in pristine condition and had a flat top and opening instructions.
- A Columbus Brewing Company Ronz Beer cone top can from the 1950s sold for $810. It had small amounts of rust but a clean, clear label.
- A vintage Schmidt's beer can with a pull top in good condition sold for only 99 cents.
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 another enthusiast. 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. You simply need to provide details about your can and your email address.
- Breweriana also offers appraisals. This is a site for selling vintage beer cans, so the appraisal offered may also include an offer. 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 will get the best information with a professional appraisal. Costs for antique appraisals vary, but you can expect to spend an hourly rate of $80 to $300. If you have a collection of vintage beer cans that may have significant value, it's likely worth the cost of the appraisal.
Should You Sell Your Beer Can?
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, you can ensure your can goes to someone who will appreciate this vintage treasure as much as you do.