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Back in the late 70's, I was a canologist's assistant; that is, I helped my teenage son collect beer cans. The hobby was a fun one, but since it's now passe, and since the 77th anniversary of the beer can is just around the corner (Jan 24), I'd like to reminisce:
Due to their amazing color, text, and lively images, those cans were gorgeous. My favorites were the Olde Frothingslosh (Do you remember the fat lady on the label?). But my son preferred the Billy Beer cans and his one cone top, a real collector's item. The more than 300 bright and shiny tins--in their especially made shelves--enlivened one wall of my son's bedroom and his Beer Can Bible sat propped--just so--on the desk nearby.
"The most sought after cans for trading came from family vacations," said my now 43 year old. "It was one of the reasons I liked going on our trips. I remember finding a lot of really old cans in the woods behind that tavern we stayed in on the Platte River. And how about when we went to Cancun?"
That same summer, my boyfriend and I drove through Germany. Rest stop after rest stop on the autobahns, we loaded up on empty beer cans from the trash receptacles, and in Munich, we purchased a "huge one," drained it in the sink at the hotel, and added it to "our" collection.
All in all, we had a blast! But going through customs on the way back was like a bad hangover: One of three extra large trash bags split open, and beer cans rolled everywhere. We were, of course, embarrassed, but to ease our discomfort, the well suited gentleman in line behind us, opened his briefcase to reveal six of the tin treasures he was taking home for his son's collection.
Nowadays, some (mostly in their 40's like my son) are digging their collections out of the attic, parents' basement, or a storage facility and are wondering what to do with them. A few have put them back on shelves, or--using fish line--have strung them up in rows, to decorate bars, dens, or rec. rooms. Others have used their "metallic malted beverage containers" to make suits of armor, Trojan horses, rafts, forts, tanks, etc. And then there's the occasional guy who still trades, goes dumping, or looks for cans on EBay although the rarer ones (mostly from the 30's and 40's) are hard to find and in poor condition.
When it came to drinking, beer was never my preferred "social lubricant"; nor did I become a labeorphilist (beer bottle collector). However, I have the fondest memories of those can collecting days with my son.