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Value of Cans

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I'm often asked how much a can is worth.  Somebody once told me that the value of a can is "the most that a fool is willing to pay for it."  In the case of eBay, it takes just two fools to make the price sky rocket. 

Beer cans are like other collectibles.  For the most part, the value is determined by the item's condition, its rarity / scarcity, and personal appeal.  To determine condition, most beer can collectors use a grading scale from 1 to 5 with further refinements within each level. 

Grade Description
Grade 1+   (mint) Truly without imperfections. An overused term since most cans receive small scratches and dents in their trip from the can company to the brewery and from the brewery to the store. Perhaps the term "Store Condition" would more accurately describe the extremely top grade cans.
Almost 1+   (A1+) Excellent condition.  Upon close inspection the can has a few minor imperfections but nothing distracting.
1 to 1+   (1/1+) Very good condition.  Can has several small imperfections that may be slightly distracting.
Grade 1 Good condition. More noticeable signs of aging. Top quality with no dents, rust spots or easily noticeable imperfections. Slight scratches that are noted may keep a can in this grade.
1 to 1-   (1/1-) A can with some obvious imperfections but still displays very well.
Grade 2 A fair quality display can, but may have small scratches, dents or rust spots. An unpainted top (or spout) and bottom may be rusty. The sides must be in good, clean condition.
Grade 3 Satisfactory display can, but it has easily seen scratches, dents, faded, or rusty areas. However, it still retains a good degree of it original appearance on all sides.  One side looks fairly nice.
Grade 4 This is a "dumper" can that is a poor display can with major flaws such as large faded or rusty areas, dents, or many scratches. All areas must be readable.
Grade 5 Very poor condition with major imperfections on all sides making it difficult to read or see the original colors and design. Generally, these are not saved.
Book values for cans are base upon good condition cans. Defects such as scratches, slight fading, or minor dings can greatly depreciate its value. Outdoor cans with a lot of rust usually fetch only maybe 10% of its book value, simply because top collectors seek clean indoor cans.

The next major factor determining the value of a collectible is rarity or scarcity.  Yes, the law of supply and demand applies here.  Crowntainers were used by small breweries that did not can nearly as much beer as the national breweries.  Some brands of crowntainer survived with many cases of cans in good condition.  These "easy" crowntainers may sell for about $50 in good condition.  On the other hand, there are some crowntainer brands where only a handful of cans are known to exist in good condition.  The "extremely tough" cans typically sell for over $1000 in good condition. 

The last factor is personal appeal. Some collectors specialize in cans from a particular brewery, a particular state, or a particular style.  Since their collections are specialized and limited in scope, there is more appeal and desirability for them.  One of the highest known prices ever paid for a beer can was $20,000 for a Budweiser prototype crowntainer.  This can had everything going for it: it was in excellent condition; it was one of only two cans known to exist; and it appealed to Budweiser collectors.

Again, the value is determined by whatever a fool is willing to pay for it.  If you have a good clean crowntainer that I don't have, please contact me...I'm the fool you're looking for!


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Last updated 04/18/18

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