--- Following the G. Krueger Brewing Company's introduction of the beer can to the public in early 1935, other breweries quickly began using beer cans, which had advantages over beer bottles:
(1) brewers could describe and promote their product better with a label covering all sides of the container.
(2) for sellers and drinkers, a beer can was individually lighter in weight than a bottle; wasn't associated with heavy/bulky wooden cases; could be efficiently stacked; and most importantly to have value for later collectors, were disposable and most cans were not saved.
--- Early on as most beer cans were being discarded as trash and left unprotected from the elements, a few collectors began having fun saving the "new" beer cans. Besides the relatively few cans saved by collectors and a few other persons who likely drank the contents, there have been a number of inadvertently "saved' cans found later in "on-grade" condition that have been located in warehouses; attics; walls; protected by chance in dumps; and even as baffles in compressed air tanks for a 1950's wind tunnel facility in Los Angeles.
Overall before the 1960's, compared to the numbers of cans produced, relatively few on-grade cans were saved and most were discarded leaving many cans still to be found. Accordingly, today collectors actively search for, and find, beer cans from the 1930's-1950's in pits/dumps, in varying conditions but as decade-by-decade passes such cans, on average, are becoming increasingly weathered. More rarely, collectors and others still find cans protected by buildings - in "under-the-house" condition or even "on-grade".
--- There is information on a few persons who might be called "original collectors" (those saving beer cans in 1930's to 1950's) who lived around the United States and in some other countries. Today, occasionally more information on early collectors is uncovered from past newspaper articles or from descendents, but as time passes the chances lessen for additional information being uncovered about these early collectors.
Among these "original collectors", as examples, selected ones from just three states are mentioned below, for which there is documentation connecting them with saving beer cans. While a few of these have been known to some current collectors, the information on several of the earliest collectors is typically fragmented and not complete.
A number of these collectors and their cans assembled are among the articles written by Matt Menke, Dave Lang, etc. in BCCA magazine.
---New York metropolitan area:
(1) Ernie Oest, BCCA#108 and the first BCCA Hall of Fame member is probably the most documented of the early collectors. Ernie said he began collecting labels from beer bottles around 1930 when living in the Ocean Hill section of Brooklyn; then including beer cans when they were available and becoming more active with beer cans as the years passed..
(2) Paul Daniels in New Jersey saved a number of 1930's cans that later were divided up among Ernie Oest, Joe Veselsky, and Joe Allis - some of those cans, or the brands, are pictured on this website.
(3) In the Bronx was a musician, who sold his early can collection to a BCCA member on Long Island; who in turn sold the cans in the mid 1980's - most of these cans had the tops cut out such as a trio of New Yorkers, Pilser's Half and Half, etc.
(4) A brewery worker on Long Island, who saved a small group of 1+ beer can "mugs" that included several rarities, Neuweiler's bock, Trommer bock, etc. These cans were located by Dan Baker BCCA #2048, beercansplus.com, in 2008 and is an example that the cans from past collectors can still be found.
(5) Joe Veselsky, BCCA #226, who only started collecting in 1956 but purchased many rarities from earlier collectors, sold these cans to Wally Gilbert in 1975. Whenever a rarer brand example was needed in preparing Beer Cans Unlimited, Art Ressel said he spent more time picturing cans at Wally Gilbert's home than at any other collector's - blowing several fuses as Wally would relate later to visitors. Dave Lang has an article on Joe Veselsky in the BCCA magazine.
(6) A collector who "worked in advertising" and lived in New York City during the 1930's into the 1940's, then retired to Akron, as learned by John Paul, BCCA#42, who bought his collection in 1971 (more information on that collection in ABC's of cans, G is for Greater New York Brewery.)
(7) An employee of American Can Company travelled around the country repairing canning machinery, and starting in the 1930's saved 98 beer cans of which 68 were instructionals. In 2003 BCCA member Jim Plant, through his website greenmon.com, was contacted by the employee's daughter from New Jersey about the group of cans that had been saved in an attic. Pictures of the unusual group of cans are on his website found via google under, it's greenmon's web page. On the site, click "beer cans" - then "American Can Company Find", to view rare brands such as Arrow Ale, Eigenbrot's Ale, Hopfheiser, Krueger's Bock, Peter Doelger Bock, PON, Poth's Ale, Trommers, etc.
(1) Pottstown bar: Turning up in 1972 was an extensive collection of cans in grade 1/1+ that had been donated by bar patrons, but fortunately the cans weren't kept long in the bar and thus avoided being "smoked": 2 Buckingham ales, tall 12 oz Fredericks & Ambrosia, Wacker J.; and a number of quarts, Chester, Hornung, Erlanger's, two Schmidt's bock, among other cans. As all were full as of 1972, at that time the cans were bottom-opened with an early '70's opener and the cones were left with original caps still on. This collection was written up by Matt Menke in BCCA magazine.
(2) A 40 can collection found in the early 1980's by collector Don Monroe who described the group asassembled by a "railroader" who worked on trains in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio. The rarest of these was an MC ale and included a Clipper cone with the Jamestown,NY distributor.
(3) A group of around 60 crowntainers from the Crown Can's Philadelphia plant were saved by a Crown Cork & Seal employee who passed on the cans to a BCCA member around 1980. When found, the group included around 15 labels not known before but in the years since, other examples of about half of these labels have been found.
(1) Charles Coffey started collecting in the summer of 1936 driving a truck for the Oakland Family Camp near Quincy, a small Sierra Nevada town. He saw beer cans discarded in garbage cans behind stores, and got the idea to begin assembling a grade 1/1+ can collection.
Over the next 15 years, his collection grew into an organized/diversified group of around 250 beer cans that included nearly all the rarer Calif. cans sold before the early 1950's. Those cans have been preserved in several collections, with a number of those or the same brand, pictured on this website.
(2) Marvin Schantz, starting in the early 1930s, worked on the road crew for U.S. Rt 50 across the Sierra Nevada and picked up beer cans he saw along the highway from the mid-1930's to the early 1950s. His collection is unusual in that he rarely saved a variation of a brand, once he had saved the first example he saw. An article by Matt Menke on his collection is in the BCCA magazine.
(3) A couple started collecting in 1935 when traveling around California, and the widow later lived in Clovis - some of those cans are also pictured in a BCCA Magazine article as well as on this website.
(4) Jim Bacon lived in Defiance, Ohio and started collecting cans in the late 1930's, later moving to Sacramento where he worked for the post office. Jim sold his collection to Joe Allis in the early 1960's. When Will Anderson bought the Joe Allis collection, included were around 20 olive drab (OD) cans, including several of the rarest, Krueger, Narragansett, and Rainier cone, most of which were from Jim Bacon. In November, 1970, Jim had retired to Yankee Jims, Calif., and Bob Myers visited him. Jim pointed out many of his cans pictured in Will Anderson's "Beers, Breweries, and Breweriana" book, and said how he got his variety of OD cans:
When in Army during WWII, Jim worked late most nights sorting mail and returning one night, his bunk was piled full of OD beer cans. Since removing the cans might have made too much noise, he just slept on the floor quickly realizing the joke his buddies were making.
(5) "Chico, Calif. collection" - located in a bar by Randy McMahon that included 50 or more mostly top shape cans such as Silver State, Travis, Regal India Ale, Lifestaff flat, Nu Globe, Palomar, etc. This picture was taken by Randy McMahon who got the collection from bar owner, who had much earlier bought the cans around 1970 from a now-unknown "original collector".
(6) "Long Beach Collection": a group of around 50 mostly rarer brands, including Tally Ho Ale, Doelger Bock, Town House, and Bankers Ale as described by Tom Sasseen, in brief: "working as a trash man for City of Long Beach, I picked up the cans in the 1980's." Unfortunately, the cans were kept full, poorly stored, and leaked ending up mostly in grade 1- and lesser grades. The story on these cans was learned when Tom began offering the cans on ebay in early 2003.
(7) Around 1976 Jim Mercier located a top cone collection of 55 cones in the "Lake Tahoe area".
Jim Mercier ran ads around the country looking for cans, including in the Oakland Tribune, and got a lead on a collection generally described as in the "Lake Tahoe area". Bob Myers recalls Jim telephoning and asking about the rarity on some of the cones; at the time Jim said the asking price was $100 a cone, which was a relatively high average for even rarer cones at the time. Later the collection was picked up by Jim's cousin who lived in San Ramon, Calif. (The collection may have actually been on display in a Carson City antique shop (?) and could have originated (?) with an employee of a Continental can plant.)
Shortly after getting the cones, Jim sold the 8 or so "ale" cones to several collectors including the Red Lion Ale and Beverwyck to Bob Myers. Jim Garard was very interested in buying the other cones, and with Ken White, was in touch with Jim Mercier expressing an interest to make an offer for the group when Jim was ready to sell. If the group was gotten, they planned to distribute some of the cones to other collectors too.
However around 1978, one day word got out that Dave Stark had bought the remaining cones from Jim Mercier. This was a great surprise to Jim Garard who hadn't known Jim Mercier was ready to sell. With those top cones not available, that news had a big effect on Jim Garard and his sons who then decided to focus on flat tops only. They proceeded to trade off their cones for flats from other collectors such as Dick Faletti, then of Hinsdale, IL, who wanted to specialize in cones.
(Later after one of his sons got sick, in the Spring of 1980 Jim Garard sold his flat top collection through Ken White.)
Note for picture: the ale cones are crossed out as this picture was updated in 1977 to show the cones Jim had left at that time.
1977 letter from Jim Mercier. Jim Mercier lived in Wisconsin with a relative in the Bay area. After receiving the cans, he sent a letter to Bob Myers with whom he had been in touch when making arrangements to buy the group from the Lake Tahoe area seller. Jim describes several of the key beer cans upon seeing the cans "in hand"; and at the time, wanted to sell the several "ale" cans.
--- There are likely many more "original collectors" about which little or nothing has been recorded - but the cans they collected are known in collections today.
Occasionally some beer cans will be seen that have markings connecting them specifically to past collectors, such as the 1940's-'50's cans with paper labels glued to the seam by an "original collector", J.K. Schmidt of Cleveland - click to see one of his labels put on the seam of a Burkhardt's cone.
Better known to collectors today, is "701" on the bottom of cans held by Clay Tichelar, BCCA 1974 Hall of Fame member, who engraved his BCCA number.
A number of the stolen cans from Will Anderson's collection, that were very helpfully recovered around 1978 in the Detroit, Michigan area by Jim Garard who then gave the cans to the FBI for its investigation case, have "FBI Laboratory" inventory stickers on them. Will Anderson left most of these stickers on his cans when he sold his collection in 1981 - click to see two pictures of these labels, provided by Don Wild, BCCA #25344.
--- While mostly not connected directly with the "original collector" who saved a specific can, there are "collection stickers" applied by dealers on numerous rarer cans when they sold a number of collections such as those of Jim Garard (1980), Wally Gilbert (2006), Dave Stark (2007), and Bob McCoy (2008). Along with photographs of former collections, comments by collectors, and markings on some cans, a number of rarer beer cans have at least some provenance, but for many other rare cans, their background on where found and who collected them, is often missing.
----This website focuses on "authentic" beer cans, i.e., defined as beer cans that have been confirmed to have been filled with beer, ale, porter, half and half, etc., and were actually sold to the general public for their drinking enjoyment - those cans sold over-the-counter to anyone wanting to have a drink.
In contrast, there is a small category of cans that might be described as "cans connected with brewery insiders" that were handled by brewery employees for "test" purposes, etc., or flat sheets that were later "rolled" into cans - all cans that likely weren't sold "over the counter" filled with beer.
(These "insider" examples are similar to what has happened in coin collecting, in which U.S. Mint employees have been connected with coins not officially distributed to the public, such as the 1913 Liberty Head nickel and 1933 Double Eagle - coins that while not "official", have ended up with high interest to some collectors.)
As the years have passed, today there is only limited confirmation by persons who actually drank the beer from many 1930's/1940's beer cans. However, there are photographs of persons drinking from beer cans; photos showing cans from that era displayed in stores for sale, and some descriptions of beer being drunk from cans. Otherwise, often the best alternative to know if a beer can actually held beer and is "authentic", depends importantly upon collectors who have found beer can brands discarded in buildings, dumps, pits, etc. with other trash. Today, collectors who include in their collections and look for these types of cans, represent the most active and largest group of beer can collectors.
---Beer cans might be grouped generally by condition into three broad categories:
--"inside" or "on grade" cans - well preserved examples saved by collectors or found discarded but protected in walls, attics, etc.
--"under-the-house" or "too-long-in-the-cooler" type cans that still have some characteristics of an "inside" can.
--"outside", or dumper examples that were left to the vagaries of the weather, etc. and are found in varying conditions.
---For this website the goal is to offer information that has been, or is known, by one or more collectors or based upon other confirming sources to give some verification. Accordingly, this website reflects the generous input from a number of collectors who have had experiences with these subjects, along with other contributors who offered information on specific topics. Among these persons are:
Will Anderson, Mark Benbow, Glenn Hintz, Bill D'Arcy, Steve Paddack, Tom Leo, Rawley Douglas, Bertan Ozgun, John Kretschmer, Gene DiCicco, Dan Andrews, Dick Caughey, Don Wild, Ken Ostrow, Dave Lang, Ed Scoglietti, Dan Scoglietti, Jim Plant, Bill Lester, Dan Baker, Clay Tichelar, Tom Waggoner, Marcia Butterbaugh, Bob Kay, Matt Menke, Warren Hardaker, Keith Belcher, Frank Byers, Marc Tracy, Adolph Grenke, Dan Morean, Ted Larson, Howard Strohn, Matthew Newman, Todd Brubaker, Don Fink, Wally Gilbert, Dave Stark, Norm Meier, Rich Bentley, Bob Myers, Pat Franco, Don Monroe, Larry Handy, Robin Scott, Rich Wagner, and Susan Appel.
Also letters/information from collectors such as a 1976 letter from Ernie Oest, 1980's letters from Dave Stark, etc.
Along with verified information, there is a large amount of information that hasn't been verified enough, and for the most part, this background hasn't been included. Inevitably by staying almost entirely with verified info., "gaps" are left in provenances of collectors and cans, but in time some of these gaps may be filled.
---- In conclusion, as with many historical accounts, beercanhistory.com is considered a "work-in-progress" awaiting more backgrounds on collectors and particular cans -- additional information is welcomed.