Mark Rigney


Beer Cans

Yes, even writers have hobbies. Mine (one of mine) is collecting very old beer cans. Possibly you have some old cans yourself, and you’d like to get rid of them? I hope so, and if you do, perhaps you’ll consider selling them to me. Yes, I buy old beer cans, including entire collections. Yes, I also buy old soda cans, including entire collections. Yes, I will buy related advertising: signs, trays, clocks, tap knobs, you name it. To sum up: I BUY OLD BEER CANS!

What do I want to buy? Old cans in clean condition. By “old” I mean made before about 1970 (for U.S. cans) or before about 1978 for non-U.S. cans. By “clean” I mean not rusted, faded, scratched, dented, “doctored,” faked, or smashed flat. (That said, I will buy “flat sheets,” unrolled can blanks that never got rolled and lidded to make complete beer cans.) Condition matters! Rusted or otherwise damaged cans are generally worth very little, a tiny fraction of whatever price they’d command in on-grade condition. I look especially for cone tops, punch tops (also called flat tops), zip tops, and other early versions of self-opening cans.

What is a flat top, anyway? Well, they’re cans where you had to use an external can opener to punch through the lid to get at the beer inside. Take a look at the second photo in the slide show. Every single can in that image is a flat top.

The third photo shows a variety of self-opening cans, plus a single flat top (for reference). These are all early examples of the form. The cans with a Y-shaped opening are called zip tops. The rest are various ring-pull cans. Note that all of these cans feature indented lettering (if they have lettering at all), which is a quick way to ascertain their age. On later cans, made after 1970, the lettering was raised, more like Braille.

The bottom line: if you have any old beer or soda cans and they are in good condition, I would very much like to hear from you.  No set of cans is too large or too small––it’s just a matter of age, condition, and relative rarity. My email is at the bottom of this page, and if you have photos you could attach of what you have, that would be ideal.

Thoughts on Rarity and Value

Beer cans, first released in 1934, became hugely popular as a collectible in the seventies and early eighties, and cans made during those years tend to be worth zilch, zip, nada, nothing. Why? Supply and demand. Collectors bought those cans by the caseload.  Because of this, some supposedly valuable cans are worthless. These include: Billy Beer, MASH 4077th, World’s Fair, all generic beers, and pretty much anything made of aluminum or crimped steel. (With straight steel cans, like those pictured in the slide show, the edges of the can do not indent before meeting the top and bottom rims.) Beware also cans made especially for the collector’s market, such as Olde Frothingslosh, Andy’s, and the various punch top “brewery series” cans from Huber.

Basically, the cash value of any collection is contained in the older cans: those made before 1970. There are exceptions, of course (there are always exceptions), but this is a good place to begin––and to anchor your expectations.

Even if you’re not local, it’s easy. I will drive many hours for great cans, and if need be, cans are easy to ship. For long distance transactions, I cover shipping costs, and I usually pay up front via Paypal or a check. I’ve purchased cans from more than half of the fifty states plus at least four Canadian provinces, and I’d be more than pleased to work with you next.

Meanwhile, please take a moment to visit the rest of my site.

After all, my real work is writing…

©2020 Mark Rigney