Breweriana Collectibles

Breweriana Antique Advertising Collectibles

Breweriana Antique Advertising Collectibles

Breweriana includes any type of beer collectible related to breweries and beer. Beer collectibles have always been very popular and with a recent boom in microbreweries a new generation of people are finding out about different types of beer memorabilia. Accordingly, some of the original beer brands are being reintroduced which is creating an interest in the history of beer, the breweries that once made them and their original advertising.

1953 Griesedieck Bros. Flat Top Beer Cans

1953 Griesedieck Bros. Flat Top Beer Cans

Some of the most popular types of collectibles are beer trays, corner signs, reverse-on-glass signs and tin over cardboard signs. Other Breweriana collectibles include etched glasses, tap knobs, lithograph posters, clocks, beer cans and bottles. Collectors sometimes focus on a geographical area, a particular brand, or a style of an advertising piece. Some popular brands include Anheuser-Busch, Falstaff, Hamms, Pabst, Schlitz, Jacob Ruppert, Krueger, Maier, Frank Fehr, August Shell, Wm. J. Lemp, and smaller regional companies such as American Brewing Co., Griesedieck Bros., Hyde Park and Columbia Brewing Co. Breweriana items that typically command the highest value were produced prior to Prohibition that started in 1919, and these items can be worth several thousand dollars or more when in good condition.

Brewery Signs in High Demand

Breweriana Vintage Advertising Signs 1870-1950's

Breweriana Vintage Advertising Signs 1870-1950’s

Some of the most desirable types of Breweriana advertising were corner signs, reverse-on-glass signs and lithographs with early brewery factory scenes on lithographs. Corner signs were commonly made from tin, porcelain, brass and a glass called Vitrolite. The corner signs were placed outside the local saloons and were plentiful in the early 1900’s as revealed in old photographs. It is rare to find these signs today which make them very valuable. An example of a corner sign is from The Bluff City Brewing Co. in Alton, Illinois depicting the company’s logo. These corner signs are typically worth several thousand dollars in good condition.

1905 Self Framed Tin Sign

1905 Self Framed Tin Sign Wm. J. Lemp

Reverse on Glass (ROG) signs are signs that incorporate a process of putting advertising on the backside of glass. They are considered rare and valuable due to the breakage of glass over the years. The paint could peel off of the backside of the glass due to moisture, heat, and many other factors.   Many pre-Prohibition signs were ROG’s but the process was still popular in the 1930’s-1950s. Tin over cardboard (TOC) signs have always been one of the most collected type of signs in the Breweriana world. TOC signs were used both before Prohibition and heavily again afterwards until the 1960s. A celluloid cover was sometimes placed over the tin advertising as a way to protect the design on the sign. TOC signs were eventually replaced with signs made strictly from cardboard because they were cheaper to make, easy to put up, and could be thrown out when the sign was worn due to weather or the advertising changed.

Beer trays originated in the late 1890’s and are very popular collectibles today. Most beer trays were lithograph designs on tin depicting the company’s logo or other image. Some trays were also made out of brass or porcelain. Most trays were circular, rectangular or oval and were used by servers to carry beer to patrons. Popular brands of these trays to collect are Budweiser, Miller, Pabst, and ABC Brewing. Tip trays also generate interest. They were smaller trays about 3 to 4 inches in diameter and designed for people to put tips in but also used as coasters and ashtrays. Chargers were oversized trays and were intended to hang on the wall of saloons for advertising.

Beer Popularity and Prohibition

One reason Breweriana is so popular is that beer is a favorite beverage of many and has been around so long. Although it’s not known when beer originated, it most likely came along when the cereal agriculture was developed about 12,000 years ago. In the United States, the popularity of ales and lagers was at its peak just before Prohibition when over 1300 breweries were established.  The beer industry dramatically changed during the national Prohibition from 1920 through 1933. Beer was labeled as intoxicating liquor by the government making it illegal to make, transport or sell beer. Breweries were only allowed to make “near beer” or beer with less than half of 1% alcohol content. A few of the most widely known near beer brands were Bevo produced by Anheuser-Busch, Pablo by Pabst, Vivo by Miller and Famo by Schlitz.

Prohibition Ended December 5, 1933

Prohibition Ended December 5, 1933

Some breweries remained in business during Prohibition by producing other products such as colas or mineral water. Pabst, Miller and Schlitz focused on using their malted grains as an extract for malted flavored dairy drinks or baked goods such as bread, tea biscuits and sweets. However, many consumers bought the malted grains to illegally make their own “home brew” as a way to get around the alcohol ban. Anheuser-Busch began making ice cream because they already owned refrigerated trucks and therefore reused them for transporting the ice cream. Adolph Coors’ Glass Works originally produced bottles for Coors beer and also had a pottery and ceramics division, so ultimately they expanded their non-beer division during Prohibition. The national Prohibition ended on December 5, 1933 and enabled the breweries to focus on beer production again.

West Bend Brewing Co, Stoneware Beer Mug, West Bend, WI. Ca. 1905


Featured is a nice stoneware souvenir or giveaway beer mug from the long defunct pre-prohibition era brewery in West Bend, Wisconsin. This mug advertises their celebrated lager style of beer.

Aberdeen Brewing Serving Tray, Prima Lager Beer, Aberdeen, WA. Circa 1905


Here is a beautiful pre-prohibition era serving tray from the long defunct Aberdeen Washington brewery. This particular tray is colorful, and advertises proudly their Prima brand of bottled lager beer. The use of a nice patriotic USA colored shield helps provide more color and eye appeal. One of the fun facts about this brewery is…

Gilt Edge Beer Serving Tray, Union Brewing Co, Detroit, MI. Circa 1905


Featured is a stunning pre-prohibition serving tray from the Union Brewing Company out of Detroit, Michigan. This particular metal tavern or saloon tray advertised a well known turn of the century beer in Detroit called Gilt Edge. The tray incorporated a lot of patriotic colors in the design, not surprising as patriotism was at a…

John Eichler Brewing Co. Serving Tray, New York, N.Y. Circa 1905


The John Eichler Brewing Company which was based in the Pre-Prohibition days in New York City was proud of their Pilsner German style beers. In fact, they were so proud that much of the Eichler Brewery advertising uses the reference to their German style beer products. This particular tray features an older gentleman almost toasting…

Waukegan Special ROG Brewery Beer Sign, Waukegan, IL. Ca. 1900


Featured is an amazing Reverse on Glass sign from the Besley Brewing Company Brewery which was in Waukegan, Illinois outside Chicago prior to prohibition.   This particular ROG sign might be one of the many brewery signs which were found unfinished in the Western Sandblasting Company find of the 1980’s.   I am not sure however.  The…

Fred Sehring Brewing Co., Beer Mug. Joliet, IL. 1907


Here is a very early pre-prohibition era pottery style beer mug from the Fred Sehring Brewing Company which was located in Joliet, IL.   This brewery put out a different colorful mug each year, so today collectors can find them dated each year over a dozen years or so.  This brewery was a major competitor to…