Black Light Beer Cans for Touch-ups

(Aug / 2011)

 ----   For many antiques and collectibles, "conservation" and "restoration" work is often done. More and more "conservation" is often the higher goal for many owners. Major museums and other groups have elaborate operations doing such work and currently nearly all such work by mainstream groups is well documented with the work details available on any items offered for sale.   

    For beer cans, the safe step is to shine a Black Light on any apparently on-grade can to check if the surface has been repainted.  In most cases, if the can has been touched-up, under a Black Light such areas will be highlighted by a sharply different color, often a fluorescent-like yellow or another strikingly contrasting shade to the normally seen color.


    ----Information on the subject.

          -- Black lights - how used, and a book on the subject, check for the topic:

                                                    "Check those cans for touch ups with a black light" 

           --The BCCA Magazine for June/July 2009 has a detailed article by Matt Menke on the "restoration" techniques; ways to identify the work done; ethics of selling "painted" cans; and risks to collectors who are not up-to-date on the subject.

            --"Airbrushed Cans":    check,,  by Matt Menke which has a topic on this subject, along with pictures of a number of can examples that have been "restored".

--Important: Use a Black Light safely - know and follow procedures


 ----   Background. 

    --"Conservation" of beer cans is important for collectors and most do all they can by waxing and keeping cans in lower humidity conditions.

     --"Restoration" - beer cans have been touched-up by amateurs for decades and the work was easily seen. 

            However, when a professional "restoration individual" started working on beer cans around the mid-1990's, later many of these cans were resold at "all-original can" prices to the dismay of collectors who later learned the cans had been "painted".  The resale market for known "restored cans" may only be 10-15% of an all-original example for those fewer collectors who do choose to pay up for such cans, but often have a zero value, for the many more collectors who don't save such cans. 

    As of the summer of 2010, "restoration" work on beer cans has been done mostly on enamel surfaces, not metallic, but work may be more successful in the future on metallic surfaces.  A person who has been familiar with some of the "restoration" work done in the past has given information that a "restoration individual", at least as early as 1996, was doing professional level "restoration" on beer cans.          When first done, these particular "restored" cans had an orange sticker with the letter R, but upon resale, that label was often removed leaving many cans without any easy-to-see markings, nor any documentation, that they had been "restored". Later some cans may have been engraved with the letter R.

        The number of cans that have been "restored" has not been publically announced but may be in the hundreds?  The main "restoration individual" doing work on beer cans has chosen to remain mostly anonymous and hasn't often taken credit for the work done.  Actually the results can be high quality, looking just at the workmanship factor.  In most fields, recognition is wanted when quality work is done, but such is the lot of those who work secretly, providing little/or no documentation that goes with the cans done - a practice typical of forgers.

    ----Replaced tops and bottoms: A related subject beyond the scope of this topic involves the replacement of tops and bottoms of cans, which later can be difficult to see the changes, but such activities are generally less an issue for most collectors than "painted" cans.     

    ---- Conclusion: this subject only applies to apparently on-grade cans.  The subject is not an issue for many, many collectors who have long known to collect only cans they have bought across-the-counter, have dug, or know the full history of a canSuch collectors look for the excitement of finding cans discarded in pits and want cans that have gained "character" by being subjected to weather conditions under the mottos: 

                                   "Trust Rust" or "In Rust We Trust" - the best guides for most collectors? 


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