It's been a hot day and you decided to kick back and enjoy a nice cold beer. But wait a minute, don't toss that empty can or bottle since it may someday be a collectible.

Today, people — and not all men — love their beer, from the cans to the bottles, beer signs, glasses, trays to bottle caps and coasters, too. Anything that has a brewer's name or logo on it is and can still be a collectible. But perhaps the most popular beer collectible I have found recently are signs, though cans and labels are popular as well.

Galen Lohrenz, of Pine Island, has 80 beer-related items at Treasures Under Sugarloaf, Winona, within Angie's Vintage Rust booth. He said, "Collecting or owning beer memorabilia is a hot item right now as many people (men in particular) want signage or other related beer items of their favorite beverage for their garage, home bar or man cave."

Glenn Miller, of Miller Antiques, Hixton, Wis.,said, "I sell my beer items to men and women. I would say 60 percent men, 40 percent women. The beer items that I'm most well-known for are signs and advertising items.

"My favorite items are the vintage raisin board lithograph beer pictures, of which I have several. They have a unique story behind them and are really an eye-catching item for a home bar or man cave."

Barry Travis, originally from Dodge Center, but now in St. Paul, has been collecting cans since he was a kid and is a genuine beer collector with a webpage, "I have an extensive collection of beer items that include items before the 1960s, such as cans that took an opener to open them, bottles, taps, bottle caps and signs made of metal and glass.

"I have a nice collection of Hamm's that include two large lithograph prints, both dated 1901, featuring Victorian ladies and Hamm's advertising. To find one in good condition can be quite the find," Travis said. "A lady bought them in a box of rolled posters in the mid 1980s and had the foresight to frame them so they wouldn't be damaged. I paid $700 each for them, and it was worth every penny."

Find beer collectibles

"There are many types of beer-related collectibles out on the market with prices ranging from a few dollars for a small sign or beer glass to hundreds of dollars for a neon sign or old beer case from an old closed brewery," Lohrenz said. "One of the most popular and most expensive is the neon beer sign. Multi-colored neon looks really neat in a man cave and there is no better way to dress up your bar area. Many items, like mirrors or signage, have fishing, hunting or auto racing identified with a beer manufacturer so you can dress up your bar area."

Of course, there are many more highly collectible items that can be added to your collection — just check out any flea market, websites and antique malls.

Lohrenz also adds, "I have found the popular beer items in our area are anything with Hamm's on it, Leinenkugel, Budweiser, Schmidt, Old Style and any local brewery that is no longer in business, such as Bub's beer, which is a hot item in the Winona area."

"My wife's grandfather was also the brewmaster at Hamm's, starting in 1958, so it has a special place in my collection," Travis said. "The most valued collectible items of Hamm's are the signs that were made for taverns and bars, particularly the motorized Scenorama signs made in the early '60s by Lakeside Plastics of Minneapolis. There may be rarer signs, but this is the one people remember from the neighborhood tavern. It has a continuous scroll, with moving water and campfire and is mesmerizing to watch, even today."

Also popular with collectors are labels. Not everyone has room for beer bottles or cans, but an extensive label collection can be easily stored in quality albums or boxes. It takes a little effort and a bit of soaking in water to remove a label, but the result can be interesting and potentially a valuable addition to a collection. How valuable? It depends on the labels. Labels can be found directly from the breweries when on a vacation trip of not just beer like Leinenkugel or Budweiser but even that of new craft beer breweries popping up. While most labels sell for just a few dollars, many older and rarer labels can range from the $50 to $100 range and up.

Along with the above stated antique malls, according to Travis, "I look for new items daily and always consider it an accomplishment to add an item I don't have. As an advanced collector, it's harder to find unique items. I can find cheaper items at garage sales but I search Craigslist and eBay regularly, as well as newspaper classifieds, antique stores and even at Oronoco and Rochester Gold Rush Days." I have found the website of great interest to collectors.

Sandy Erdman is a Winona freelance writer, dealer, speaker and workshop appraiser. If you have an antique shop, hobby collecting anything or restoring antiques or collectibles and want to share within this column, contact Sandy at

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