Breweriana is a hot area of antique advertising collecting. Breweriana is a collector term used to describe anything collectible as it relates to beer and brewing. This typically includes beer cans, beer trays, advertising signs, lithographs, steins, glassware, tap knobs, and much more.
Values: Beer cans and advertising signs are generally the cream of the crop in breweriana. Beer trays are a close second. Anything has a chance to be rare and worth a lot of money; it is just easier for the above three areas to get the big money. Rarity, condition, and the issuing brewery are the main factors that drive values and prices for antique breweriana items. Rarity and condition are fairly self-explanatory. Some people collect one certain brewery because that brewery had the best advertising items. Others might only collect breweriana items from a certain geographic region.
Beer Cans: There are thousands of different collectible beers cans out there. Most are worth $10 or less. Rare beer cans can be worth thousands of dollars. This is a highly specialized and competitive area. Small differences in can construction or design artwork can result in a huge price difference between two seemingly similar beer cans. You definitely need to work with an expert (like us) in order to establish the true value of your beer can.
Beer Trays: Beer trays are usually broken down into two different areas. The early and much more valuable trays are from the pre-prohibition era (aka pre-pro). Everything else falls into the later and less valuable post-prohibition era. The earlier beer trays typically have much more imaginative designs that we associated with antique advertising motifs. Rare beer trays can be worth $1,000 or more. Most trays, especially relatively modern trays, will fall into the $10 – $100 price range. There is a sweet spot in there for old, somewhat common, but very popular beer trays. Those are generally worth around $200- $500.
Signs and Lithographs: Some of the larger breweries did lots of porcelain advertising across the country. However, most breweries were regional and did small scale advertising. This means that there are lots of rare items from small breweries across the country. A large porcelain sign from a rare brewery could easily sell for a couple thousand dollars. Some of the larger neon signs could be worth even more money. There is a special niche within breweriana advertising reserved for lithographs. These lithographs usually depict the actual brewery in action. Other lithographs are more typical for the period and show classic scenes with women, animals, or Native Americans.
The appeal of breweriana memorabilia is wide reaching. Some people are just looking to reconnect with that hometown brewery where an ancestor worked. Other collectors are just generally interested in local history and want something tangible to own. However, I think most breweriana collectors just find it easy to like the over-the-top animation and dramatization of late 18th and early 19th century American life.