Beer Collectibles Go Beyond Good Taste

Learn About Collecting Breweriana

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Magic Beer Barrel Trade Stimulator. Photo Courtesy of Morphy Auctions

Most beer companies prominently displayed their logo on advertising pieces many years ago, just as they do today. The more clever the advertising display, the more beer the brewery would sell, or so they hoped. In fact, many older advertising displays are more elaborate than those used today because there were no television commercials to reach beer consumers back in the day.

While many collectors of breweriana look for beer items in general, others focus on their favorite brands. Regardless of the preference, all beer-related of memorabilia holds potential for finding a good home in a brew lover's stash, and there are many fun ways to build a collection. 

Themes in Beer Memorabilia

When it comes to appealing to men as the target market for beer campaigns, beautiful women have always been a popular theme. In the Value Guide to Advertising Memorabilia by B.J. Summers (Collector Books - now out of print but available through used booksellers), a very risqué framed cardboard sign for Arrow Beer sports a shapely nude woman with a "Matchless Body" to go right along with the beer. This item has a very 1930s look to it and sells for several hundred dollars, according to the book.

Although you might not be able to picture a piece like that one over the sofa in your own home, those pictures likely complemented a smoky barroom quite well back in the day. There are many other framed signs that offer crossover appeal blending in nicely with a number of décor styles with vintage flair ranging from game rooms to man caves.

Perhaps a pair of hunting dogs framed in a light-up Budweiser sign might be appealing? Or, how about a lovely Victorian woman with a colorful peacock selling Schell's Carbonated Mead? This one's definitely tasteful enough to hang on a living room wall, no doubt about it, but it won't come cheap. The book value is $1,350 for this wonderful example of artwork, and it wouldn't be surprising to see such a nice item to sell for even more at auction. The hunting dogs go for far less, perhaps a hundred dollars or so, making them a more affordable alternative for a man cave.

Variety in Beer Collectibles

Of course, part of the fun of collecting beer memorabilia is seeing what you'll round up next. Whether it's flea market shopping for a $10 pair of Schlitz salt and pepper shakers, or a $25 wooden shoe hawking Heineken's Holland Beer, the thrill can definitely be in the chase here. And don't forget that bargains can indeed be found if you're trying to stick to a budget.   

When you're out foraging around in thrift shops or cleaning out the garage, remember to look for functional pieces adorned with beer advertising as well. Even tappers, the often-ornate handles seen atop tap spigots in bars, can be worth some money these days. A relatively new St. Pauli Girl tapper, complete with a drawing of a lovely maiden serving up beer, can sell for around $15. Tappers with more elaborate tops can sell for even more, especially models dating back to the 1920s or earlier.

You'll also want to keep an eye out for neon and mechanical beer signs of all ages, clocks, metal serving trays, old bottles, and paper goods also known as ephemera. These paper collectibles can range from match book covers once distributed in bars to unused bottle labels, and even interesting calling cards handed out by beer distributors and other sales professionals in the trade can be quite interesting. In other words, anything with a beer logo can be considered collectible, even the small stuff.

So get out there and see what you can dig up. You don't have to be a beer lover to drink up all the unique and varied ways this revered product has been advertised over the past 125 years.