Breweriana 101: What a Collector Needs to Know

Breweriana 101: What a Collector Needs to Know 1254 836 Gaslight Square Shoppes

Vintage Bar in New York Contains Breweriana CollectiblesBeer cans, serving trays, bottle openers, tap knobs, coasters and bottle caps are only a few of the interesting collectibles that fall under the breweriana category. Beer has been brewed for centuries, so there’s plenty to learn about. Grab your Schlitz or Pabst. Let’s explore the long history of beer-related collectibles.

Collectible Beer Cans and Bottle Caps

No, the beer cans in your recycling bin aren’t collectible (yet). However, many vintage beer cans are quite popular with collectors. Beer cans were first used in the 1930s by the Krueger Brewing Company. Most beer cans are worth just a few dollars to a few hundred, but rare and high quality ones can reach into the thousands.

Flat Top

The earliest cans were heavy and had a flat top like a can of food, requiring a church key to open. The earliest ones also had opening instructions printed on them!

Cone Top

Cone top cans with screw tops were popular with smaller brewers who could use the same bottling lines as glass bottles. However, they disappeared when most small brewers were squeezed out by the big guys in the 1960s.

Pull Tab

First launched in 1963 by Pittsburgh’s Iron City Beer and popularized nationally by Schlitz, self-opening cans had a brief decade of popularity.

Stay Tab

The beer cans we know today have the stay-tab, and are rarely collectible. Special editions, misprints and test cans are the main contenders.

Bar Decor and Clocks

Large, electric clocks emblazoned with brewery logos, animated and neon signs, thermometers, calendars, and more were issued by breweries for display in bars. Many are highly collectible with values well into the thousands.

Steins and Glasses

Mugs, steins and pint glasses are all very popular collectibles. German Mettlach steins are particularly valuable. However, beware of reproductions and fakes.


From wall mount openers and church keys to key rings and risqué openers, these small metal pieces of breweriana are easy to find and run the range of values from a dollar or two to a few hundred.

Tap Knobs

Mounted on the top of a bar’s beer taps, branded tap knobs are an interesting collectible. They range from a couple of dollars to a few thousand for very rare knobs.

Trays and Tip Trays

Antique beer trays in large, serving sizes and small, tip sizes are an attractive, easily displayed collectible. Unusual ones in mint condition can bring in a few thousand, but most are worth around two hundred dollars.

Whether you’re decorating a man-cave or just enjoying the nostalgia of vintage breweriana, most antique stores have some fun finds for you. Looking for something specific? Stop by the Gaslight Square Mall and talk to the Gaslight Antiques team.  Also be sure to swing by Otto’s Beer Garden in downtown Minocqua, WI that has a number of historic and museum quality steins on display!