Confessions of a Collectaholic: Experienced Collector Share Insights About a New Beer Can Collection
"Hi, my name is Steve and I'm a collectaholic." "Hi Steve." Yep, I'm a collector. I've been collecting something my entire life. It started out with baseball cards and then slowly morphed into baseball and football cards. I think I finally topped out at 60,000 cards before I gave it up. I've also collected beer cans (I'll get back to that later), stamps, coins and comic books. Oh, and recently I've started picking up autographed sports autobiographies.
Why do we collect? For me, I think it's genetic. My mother was a collector. She collected everything from salt and pepper shakers to Bossons Heads (look them up on eBay, very 70's). I would categorize her as a collector of collections. She was a cook and so one day someone gave her a chef statue. That was the beginning of her chef collection. Some people collect for an investment. That's not me. When I buy something for my collection it's never with the thought of making money on it someday. Even though I've sold numerous collections it was usually with a heavy heart that I did so.
So, fast forward to today. I just received five beer cans in the mail. They are the first beer cans I've purchased in over 30 years. When starting a new collection, and this one is basically new for me again as I haven't collected beer cans since I was a kid, how do you figure out what you want to collect? Someone new to baseball cards might easily get overwhelmed at the sheer number of cards out there. Do they collect them all? Seems unlikely. Do they collect certain sets? This is how I started my baseball card collecting career, as a set collector. Or do they collect certain players or teams? I had this same issue when deciding what I wanted to collect as far as beer cans go.
Looking on eBay there are almost 25,000 beer cans in their US cans subcategory alone. So I'm starting small, buying what is attractive to me. I think I really like the cone top cans from the 1930's-1950's the best, although, I've picked up a couple of flat tops as well that I thought just looked cool. I also want to zero in on beer cans from the southern United States. I would make it more exact and say old cans from North Carolina, my home state, but there doesn't seem to be very many breweries in North Carolina that made steel cans (I refuse to even acknowledge aluminum cans as collectible).
The first can to arrive was a Wagner's Gambrinus Pale USBC #188-23. I find that it is really helpful if whatever you're collecting has been cataloged by someone, that way you know when you are finished. That's the OCD in me coming out. I purchased it off a website and probably paid too much but I think it's a remarkable looking can. It grades out as a 1/1-. Figuring out how your particular collection is graded is extremely important as most collectibles are worth more, and therefore cost more, the better condition they are in. Beer cans are graded on a 5 point scale with pluses and minuses.
After I got my first couple of cans in the mail I decided it was time to see if there were going to be any beer can shows in my area coming up. I remember my parents used to take to me to the beer can shows put on the by the Knights of Columbus when we lived up in the Northeast. That's when I found the Brewery Collectibles Club of America (BCCA for short). They had lists of upcoming shows. There's one not too far from me next month. If your hobby has some type of membership organization I would highly recommend joining it. I seem to recall there was a movement in the card collecting industry to get one started but I don't think it ever came to be.
So, whether you are collecting for fun or for an investment, collect something you are passionate about. Learn as much about the people and history of what you are starting to collect. Talk to the "old-timers" to get some advice and to hear the old stories about how they started. But, most of all, enjoy what you collect.
By Steve Freedman