Many collectors, cursed with a lack of space for their treasures, follow the path of least resistance. These collectors acquire and preserve various small paper items issued by breweries, such as menu sheets, stock certificates and stationery. Breweriana collectors are true historians of the Mellow Nectar, and one of the greatest ways to research, record and follow a brewery’s lineage is to follow the paper trail. The three items mentioned supply these industrial archeologists with addresses, graphics, building renderings and other lithography to quench their thirst for history.
Menu sheets generally measure about the size of a standard letter folded in half. They were produced with advertising at the top, bottom or sides and sometimes with a full border. The center was left blank so that the restaurant or tavern could type the daily specials and insert them into the main menu. These courtesy items usually contained colorful graphics, including examples of the beer’s packaging, along with slogans or taglines supporting the various brands.
Menu sheets offer a great way to trace a brand’s marketing evolution. The artwork featured bottles, cans, coasters, openers, glassware and other collectables from the era. Rarely, these items are known to exist as only as artwork. More commonly, the graphics incite a quest for the tangible trinkets of the time.
Stock certificates have always been an engraver’s work of art. Because of the purpose they serve, these mimic the same quality of paper and printing processes as those of currency and postage stamps. Most stock certificates contain the corporate logos of the time, and many also showcase trademarks and other advertising items. This is a great way to trace the different ownerships and incorporated names that breweries have operated under over time. With the exception of Anheuser-Busch, Coors, and a large find every now and then of a particular defunct brewery, most certificates tend to be on the rare side.
The greatest amount of history can usually be found on various items of stationery, such as letterheads, envelopes, invoices and business cards. Such items are the best sources for early logos and typefaces, and they often incorporate great renderings of the buildings used for brewing, malting and packaging.
The interesting interpretation that the artists would give these factory scenes needs a little explanation. Embellishment was the general rule. Many large cities had a section where most brewing ventures concentrated, usually along the waterways and railroads. Lots of times, drawings of the factory had to be tweaked because right next door or across the street was the brewer’s direct competition. To avoid promotion of the competitor, the artist would replace neighboring buildings with a park setting or horizon.
For obvious reasons, the one collectable that contains the most concise information is the business card. These little buggers even to this day give any researcher the proper corporate name, address, phone number–and now fax numbers and even web addresses. The fact that business cards usually are no bigger than a baseball or playing card makes them highly desirable when space is at a premium. Business cards are currently one of the hottest segments of breweriana collecting.
"Beer Dave” Gausepohl has collected breweriana since 1974 and has a personal collection of half a million items. He has visited over 1,500 breweries.