My start in the hobby of breweriana collecting began with beer cans when I was about 10 years old and in the fourth grade. Beer cans made sense: they were inexpensive and could be found discarded at family functions. As I grew up, so have the hobby and the prices. What could a kid be interested in collecting today? It would have to be inexpensive and easy to acquire in a short period of time. It would also help if the items did not take up a lot of space.
The items used to advertise America’s microbreweries are a great segment for young collectors.
As I quickly found out, beer cans do take up a good deal of space. So is the answer a simple one?
The items used to advertise America’s microbreweries are a great segment for young collectors. Items like business cards, bottle caps, openers, labels, and even sports schedules are inexpensive, take up little room, and, yes, you can acquire a good-sized assortment of them in a short time.
Just over 25 years ago, the first microbrewery appeared on the scene. The most prominent item used to advertise the “little guys” is the bar coaster. I have thousands of these and they really do not take up much space. Think of them as baseball cards. The brewpub chains like Rock Bottom, Hops and Gordon Biersch have issued a number of sets over the years, as have brewers like Samuel Adams, Pete’s and Widmer. The New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins has issued some great postcards made from the same fibers as coasters with incredible graphics and slogans. Stoddard’s Brewpubs in California number their coaster releases because owner Bob Stoddard is a collector. New York Harbor Ale numbers each of their series of 107 different coasters and suggests that you “Steal Them All.”
Some breweries have issued very simple versions; economies of scale are usually at work here. The small brewpub may only be able to afford the basic one-color coaster. All in all, the graphics that the small breweries have brought back to collecting will surely amaze you.
As a kid, when my father or other relatives would return from a trip, I always got something because the gift only involved bringing home one of their empty beer cans from their travels. The same can easily happen nowadays if family and friends will pick up a few coasters from the brewpub where they had dinner at the night before. On a family trip, instead of eating all of your meals at a burger chain, schedule a visit to a brewpub. The children can see adults enjoying beer in a respectable way and see the art of beer being brewed on site. And many brewpubs produce a handmade root beer for those under legal age to enjoy alcohol. I have a sister who is not a collector, yet she must have 100 different coasters that she has picked up from her travels. Yes, of course, she saved one of each for me.
Where can you find these items? Almost every region of this country hosts a breweriana show. The best way to learn of the events scheduled in your region is to visit www.bcca.com, the website of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America. These shows almost always have coaster collectors with duplicates ready to buy, sell or trade. Here is also a great way some weekend to pickup a few items for decorating your home bar.