Beer antiques come in a wide variety of items you may be interested in collecting, whether that be beer steins, bar signs or just-don't-wanna-leave-it-behinds. No matter where you are, at a yard sale, a small town auction or browsing the listings of an auction site like beerclassfieds.com, keep your head about you as you shop and mind some proper advice.
What are some of the best investments in beer antiques?
Over the years we have seen many different items come through our collections and some year-over-year standouts have emerged.
Here are some of the top collectibles that are favourites year over year and should always be a reasonable investment.
Beer cans are one of the most accessible, highly traded and appealing collectibles from brewing history. These constantly show up in our highest valued sales. They’re remarkably valuable, with many cans selling in the range of several hundred dollars; they display very nicely; they make a great collection – no collection is too small or too large… or ever complete. And every can makes a great conversation piece.
Unique lights including pool table lights and other bar lights are very saleable. Basement bars come in and out of vogue and always have some popularity. New restaurants open all the time and many of these strive for various retro appeals. Many small breweries love to purchase lights to accent their beer cred. Convincing people to buy this as an alternative to getting something more contemporary is the key. Storing these might also be a challenge, especially pool table lights but these sell constantly on places like eBay and elsewhere.
Unique mirrors with a variety of etchings or illustrations are interesting if slightly kitschier antiques and collectibles. If you can keep a mirror in good condition this helps preserve the branding or other emblem engraved or imprinted in the mirror.
Vintage clocks also offer a wonderful look into the past of beer brands and brewing. You can see how brands have changed their logos and how they have marketed themselves differently than they have in the past. These make great complementary collections for a restaurant or bar.
Anything that is branded well makes a great beer antique. Collectible really is in the eye of the beholder as we are all aware and all have seen. That said, beer has such a fascinating history all its branded items have the capacity to impress or delight. Uniqueness is a key factor as well as preservation and other factors you would expect.
Valuations and purchasing
While there are many great beer antiques out there, here are a couple of things to look for when buying:
Take a good guess at the age of the item (say, a beer sign) that you are looking at. Ask the owner of the store or garage sale what the age of the sign is. In the case of an eBay purchase like the ones you will find on this site make sure that the vendor has verified the original date of the antique. Beer steins can be as old as 19th, 18th century or even earlier.
Consult other sources on the date and verify for yourself that the antique is as old as the vendor says it is.
No matter what you are collecting, try and have a personal reason for collecting the item. While this may already be the case, be sure that the beer antique you are looking at purchasing has some value beyond its market value. That's what makes collecting a little extra special and personal.
Buy your beer antiques objectively
On the other hand, if you think something is just a good investment and you have expertise in assessing the objective value of the antique or beer collectible, by all means, make a purchase. (That's how I operate, anyway). But in either case, examine your feelings and instincts and don't be rushed into a deal.
Sometimes at an auction or garage sale you can get caught up in the pitch and forget yourself. In cases, like this take some time, maybe walk away and think for a bit, then come back when you have formed your own thoughts on your valuation of the beer antique.
There is lots of plain crappy kitsch in the world of beer collectibles. Don't get suckered in. That being said, yesterday's kitsch can be tomorrow's gold as we've seen many times in the past. More often, though, yesterday's kitsch is simply trash; leave it where it is.
A good general rule is that that something that is created with care and is valuable at point of purchase (let's say $300 or more) will keep or increase its value.