The Questions we will answer on this page are:
Why are some old beer cans valuable? What old beer cans are worth money? Which kinds of beer cans do not have any value? Where can I sell and how can I price my beer cans? Where and how can I find beer can dealers, buyers and sellers? Do old soda cans have any value? Where can I find antique and vintage beer can prices? I found an old beer can in a wall during home renovation. Is it worth any money? Where can I sell my beer cans to the highest bidder? I have an old beer can collection. Is it worth anything? I found some old cans with cones or spouts on the tops, are they worth anything? I found some rusty cans. Do they have any value?
So, you found a bunch of old antique beer cans or soda cans, and you're wondering if they might be worth money. Maybe you're doing some demolition, renovation, running duct work, contracting or home remodeling and found some old beer cans inside a wall, in an attic, in a closet or in a crawl space. Or maybe your grandfather worked for one of the can companies such as Metal Box, American Can, Continental Can or Crown Cork and Seal and brought home cans off the canning line, test cans or unrolled sheets (body blanks). It would be a good idea to read this short article before throwing any of those cans away. You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that many old cans can be quite valuable. If you determine that you have any cans of value, please email me at email@example.com to discuss selling or consigning your cans.
SUPPLY, DEMAND, CONDITION AND DESIGN
What makes a beer can or a soda can valuable? There are many factors that come into play when assessing values, but basically they can be boiled down to supply, demand, condition and design. Supply refers to the availability or number of cans which are known to exist. Obviously, rare cans, (small supply), are usually more valuable than more common ones, (large supply). Common cans, such as Billy Beer, JR Ewing, World's Fair, Iron City Steelers, Harley Davidson and MASH 4077 were from the heyday of beer can collecting in the mid-1970's to the mid-1980's. Because so many people saved these cans and because the number of collectors has decreased since then, these cans are not valuable to collectors today.
Tab top cans like these, from the 1970's, 1980's and newer have little or no value to collectors.
Generally, demand is much higher for flat top cans, a container first marketed by American Can Company, which were produced from 1935 to about the mid-1960's, and for cone top cans, which were available about the same time. The first flat top cans are called OI (opening instructional), cans and were produced between 1935 and 1941. These types of cans are highly sought-after by serious collectors. These cans are very heavy in construction and have flat tops which required the use of a special opener, which was hooked under the rim of the can. These cans were quite a novelty in their day; people were not accustomed to drinking out of cans. For this reason, they contained opening instructions which were printed on the body of the can (hence the name).
These three rare flat top cans (Budweiser Bock, Murray's and Fort Pitt Ale) are all valued at $1,000+ in grade 1 to 1+ condition. Most flat tops are not nearly this rare or valuable. Most flat tops in grade 1 to 1+ condition will be valued at between $30 and $250, depending on their rarity. However, there are many exceptions to this rule of thumb for very rare cans.
One of the drawbacks of the flat top can, (in the eyes of the breweries), was that it required them to install new (and very expensive) canning lines in their breweries, which many of the smaller brewers could not afford. The cone top beer can was first marketed by Continental Can Company to fill this niche. By producing a can that opened like a bottle, it was possible for breweries to use their existing bottling lines to fill and cap these cans. Rare American cone tops and flat tops generally command higher prices than non-US (foreign) cans of equal rarity. This is because there are more "serious" collectors of US cans than there are of non-US cans. However, there does seem to be a resurgence in international can collecting in recent years, resulting in steeply upward price trends, especially for very rare non-US cans.
Flat top cans (1935- +/-1965) have a heavy steel construction, unlike the lightweight cans of today.
These three rare cone top cans (Wacker's Little Dutch, Old Dutch quart and Nick Thomas crowntainer) are all valued at $1000+ in grade 1 to 1+ condition. Most cone tops are not nearly this rare or valuable. Most cone tops in grade 1 to 1+ condition will be valued at between $50 and $350, depending on their rarity. However, there are many exceptions to this rule of thumb for very rare cans.
The economy, of course, plays an important role in the prices of beer cans. In times of a booming economy, people generally have more disposable income to devote to things like beer cans. In more uncertain times, collectors are usually less willing to pay premium prices. The number of active collectors is also a large factor in pricing, just as we saw in the example of the six common tab top cans pictured above. During the high point of the hobby in the mid-seventies and early eighties, there were perhaps 50,000 active collectors in the United States alone. Largely because of the fact that there are fewer collectors now, there is an over-supply of many cans from this time period. As a result, cans from the 1970's and newer generally have little or no value. Many of the collectors of this era were teenagers, (like myself), who were attracted to the new craze which was sweeping America. By the mid-eighties and early nineties the craze was over, as many of these teenagers went off to college and started families of their own. We are seeing now that many of these same people are returning to the hobby as adults, helping to invigorate the values of rare cans. The number of active collectors now stands at perhaps ten to fifteen thousand active collectors worldwide.
Cone top cans were produced from the mid-1930's to the late 1950's. These cans always have value.
Probably the easiest way to determine if you have cans that are of any value is to simply look at the tops. Look at this photo. These are later tab tops and sta-tabs. If the tops of your cans look like these, they probably aren't worth much, if anything. On the other hand, if the tops of your cans look like the ones in the photo below, then it is likely they will have some value. In this photo the top two cans have flat tops and you can see how they were opened with a can opener. The third can in the top row is an early type of tab (circa 1962) called a zip tab. In the bottom row are three types of early tabs which will have value, the zip tab, fan tab and insert tab. Notice the shape of the openings. This is what you will want to look for to determine whether your cans are valuable. In addition to the tops, take note of the weight of the can. Heavier cans are earlier and generally more valuable. Lightweight aluminum cans, in most cases, will have little or no value.
Any flat top, zip tab, fan tab or juice tab cans will have some value. Also, just about any cone top, quart cone top or crowntainer will be valuable, except for a couple of notable fakes like Milwaukee and General Pulaski cone tops. Smaller, independent brands tend to be more valuable than larger or national brands such as Budweiser, Falstaff, Schlitz and Pabst. Some brewers produced special bock beer in cans. Bock cans tend to be more valuable than regular beer cans because bock beer was only available for a limited time of the year.
The condition of a can is very important in determining it's value. Cans are often graded from 1+ down to 5, with 1+ being mint condition and 5 being very rusty, scratched, dented, faded, and/or full of holes. Most serious collectors demand cans in the 1 to 1+ range, although there are some who will collect cans in "off-grade" condition. It must be noted however, that value drops exponentially with condition. Take a close look at the photos below in order to grade your cans.
Here is a guide to grading beer cans from the Brewery Collectibles Club of America, with some added notes:
Grade 1+ Virtually Perfect Can. No noticeable imperfections. Only a few cans even come off the line in 1+ condition.
Grade 1/1+ (Roger Wilco) Extremely minor scratches or dings around the rim. Lids may show some discoloration or tarnishing. No humidity spots, no rust or dents. No other imperfections. Many dealer websites quote values based on this condition.
Grade 1 (Rheingold) Very minor scratches, marks, or humidity spots on the surface.
If the tops of your cans look like these, it is unlikely that they are old enough to be of value.
Grade 1- (Tech) Very light fading of colors or very small humidity marks, scratches or dents on the surface. A can in grade 1- condition often will have only about 25% of the value of a can in 1+ condition, depending on the rarity of the brand and label design.
Grade 2+ (E & B) Small spots, blotches, scratches, dents or rust spots. Often applies to cans found indoors though occasionally a 2+ can can be found out-of-doors.
Grade 2 (Gluek's) Has a clean label, but there may be a small amount of rust or other blemishes near the seam, the lid, or the bottom. Colors may be irregular.
Grade 2- (Golden Stein) Label is somewhat clean but there is rust, humidity or other imperfections elsewhere on the can.
Grade 3 (Red Top) Multiple scratches, spotting, rusting, and dents. Label is readable and the color is still decent.
Grade 4 (Pilsen Brau) A rusted can, but easily identified by brand and label. Can will have fading, dents, rust, scratches, etc.
Grade 5 (Dingle Bay) Very rusted and damaged. Barely recognizable as to brand or label.
NOTICE THE OPENING SHAPE.
If the tops of your cans look like these, they are likely to be valuable.
If you have beer cans that you want to sell, it is very important to factor in the condition of the cans to come up with a realistic assessment of their value. As noted above, a grade 1- can might only be worth 25% of what a grade 1+ can would be; And a grade 2, 3 or lesser grade might be worth nothing, depending on the rarity of the label. Extremely rare labels, on the other hand, may be relatively valuable, even in a grade 4 or 5 condition.
The examples here would have the following approx. $USD values based on the condition they are in. Keep in mind that rarity and condition are extremely important factors when pricing cans. Note that the three cans on the bottom row are quite rare, so even though they are in off-grade condition, they are still valuable. In on-grade condition these three would each be valued at $1,000+. Very common cans are generally not very valuable in off-grade (dumper) condition.
ROGER WILCO $2,500+ RHEINGOLD $250+ TECH $100+
E & B $85+ GLUEK'S $75+ GOLDEN STEIN $50+
RED TOP ALE $175+ PILSEN BRAU $100+ DINGLE BAY $50+
If you want to research beer can values in more detail, you can click on our auction page and go to the "Past Auctions" area to see how much various cans have sold for in our past auctions.
In addition to condition, design is another important factor when it comes to pricing. Some types of cans, (like the OI flat tops and cone tops mentioned earlier, as well as their cousins the Crowntainers) as well as some early straight steel pull tab cans, (1962 to about 1969), are in much more demand than crimped steel, extruded steel or aluminum cans which were produced from the seventies to the present.
Lastly, aesthetic considerations, which can be largely subjective, play a major role in can values. Cans with interesting graphics, such as the famous Tennent's cans from Scotland, tend to be more in demand than cans of similar rarity with less eye-appealing graphics.
Thank you for visiting CanSmart Beer Cans & Breweriana. If you have any questions feel free to email Jeff Lebo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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