Are My Beer Cans Valuable?
The value of beer cans varies from less than $1 to thousands of dollars. So how do you determine if your beer can is one of the more valuable ones? Below are some guidelines to help separate the better cans from the less valuable. Most pull tabs from the 1970’s or later have little monetary value. This is due to the beer can hobby becoming popular in the early 70’s. Most cans during and after this period have been saved in large enough quantities to exceed demand. Yes, that means Billy beer cans are worthless other than as a conversation piece or a bit of nostalgia.
This can is called a cone top due to the spout on top of the can. Pictured to the left are 3 types – high profile, low profile, and J-spout, respectively. These cans were sealed off with a bottle cap. Cone tops were produced from 1935 until 1960. They are highly sought after due to their age and unique shape. In mint condition the value ranges from $40 to $1000+. There were a few phony cone tops produced that have no value such as Milwaukee Brand & General Pulaski.
This style can is similar to a cone top that has a spout. Like the cone top these cans are sealed off with a bottle cap. This type of can was in production from 1945 until the mid ’50’s. In mint condition the value of these cans ranges from $50 to $1000+. This style can usually does not have the same demand as a cone top or flat top as most are not very graphic and lack color.
These cans pre-date pull tabs and required the use of a can opener to open them. Flat top beer cans were produced from 1935 until the late ’60’s. The rarity ranges from very common to rare with values ranging from $5 to $1000+. Cans that have the “Internal Revenue Tax Paid” statement on the lid were produced prior to 1951 and tend to be more valuable than cans without this statement. The most desirable flat tops are called instructionals and depict how to open the can, as shown below.
These cans have an illustration showing how to open the can. When cans were introduced in 1935 it was not self-explanatory how to open them so can manufacturers included instructions. As the public became more familiar with beer cans there was no longer the need for the instructions. These cans were produced starting in 1935. For the most part the instructions were dropped in the late ’40’s; however a few brands continued to display instructions until the early ’50’s. These cans appeal to the collector due to their age and the graphic nature of the instructions. In mint condition these cans are worth $40 to $1000+.
A pull tab has a ring or a tab that you pull to open the can. Pull tabs are also referred to as pop tops. These were first introduced in 1962. The earlier versions were called zip tabs and produced until 1965. The photo to the upper left depicts the typical pull tab from the 1970’s. Please note “Dispose of Properly” is embossed on the lid. Due to recycling laws this statement as well as “Please Don’t Litter” were added to pull tab lids during the early 1970’s. During the mid 1970’s they started to produce sta-tops and by the early 1980’s this style was used on most beer cans. The left lower photo shows what this style lid looks like. In general, pull tabs have little value. This is especially true on pull tabs produced after 1969. If the beer can has a gray versus a shiny metallic bottom then the can was probably manufactured after 1969.
We put together a list of better pull tabs you can access by clicking HERE. If the beer can is not on the list then the can likely has a value of about $1.00. Almost all aluminum cans have little value. It is not uncommon to find pull tabs that are mistake cans (i.e. missing a color). These cans typically have little value.
This style can was introduced in 1962 and manufactured until 1965. Zip tabs were the first generation of pull tabs. Don’t mistake a common pull tab for a zip tab. The photos depict 2 variations of the zip tab. There are a couple things to consider when identifying a zip tab. On the lid it will have a slogan imprinted on the top that says something like “Lift tab and pull”. If the slogan says “Lift ring and pull” it is not a zip tab. The distinction is between the word tab and ring. Also, zip tabs will be constructed of steel and have a shiny bottom instead of a dull gray bottom. Collectors like zip tabs because they were produce for such a short period of time. In mint condition, these cans range in value from $10 to several hundred dollars. The can is more valuable if opened from the bottom with the top and zip tab intact.