As with any popular hobby, there is always a list of slang words, abbreviations and terms that are well known amongst collectors or hobbyists familiar with the subject, but it might as well be gibberish for an outsider! Collectible beer cans are no different. From this page you will learn most of the jargon and slang words used in the beer can collecting world. Bookmark it and come back as often as you need to for easy reference.
Not only will you be more comfortable amongst your fellow collectors by knowing these meanings, but also you'll be able to make better decisions when purchasing a vintage can, especially on eBay. When doing a search on eBay these terms can be very helpful in narrowing down a specific can you are seeking. Many of the abbreviations are also used by the sellers in their titles or descriptions.
We've probably missed a few elusive slang words or abbreviations, but most of what you need can be found right here. We've nailed the vast majority of common terms needed to familiarize yourself with enough jargon to hold a conversation with even the most avid of beer can collectors!
Breweriana is "collectible historical Brewery advertising," as described by former NABA President Larry Moter, Jr. Essentially, it is any item bearing the name of a brewery or a brand. Such articles can include bottles, cans, coasters, cases (wooden or metal), labels, openers, signs (tin or neon), stationary, and trays.
Dumping is the term used to describe the search for old cans. Areas of search for "dumpers" are old campgrounds, old farms, wooded areas, and sometimes abandoned industrial areas.
Grading is a system established to rank the overall condition of a can. The system runs on a scale from 1 to 5, with a grade 1 can having a "like new" appearance and a grade 5 can having extensive damage. This is a subjective system, based on the "graders" impression of the can's condition.
Mint is the term used by some collectors to describe a can with no imperfections to such a degree that it is above a grade 1.
Off-Grade describes a can that is a grade 2 or below.
On-Grade describes a can that is a grade 1.
Pit-Dumping is searching in trash pits for beer cans. Typically, the "dumper" uses a high-quality metal detector to find a location, and then they dig a deep pit to find the item. The Pacific Northwest has more pit-dumpers than the eastern region because the soil conditions are optimum for digging. This method has helped collectors discover numerous cans which were previously considered rare.
Point of Sale (POS) is a retail term referring to where a consumer could purchase the product. It was used in breweriana advertising that was typically displayed in taverns or stores that sold the product.
Pre-Prohibition (Pre-Pro) describes any breweriana produced before Prohibition in the United States in 1920. Beer cans cannot be Pre-Pro since the first beer can was not produced until 1935.
Scatter-Dumping is when the "dumper" uses a metal detector to locate cans not deeply buried. Scatter-dumping is usually done at campgrounds or pull-offs in the eastern region because the large amounts of leaves provide a certain protection for the cans.
50s Cans are those cans produced during the 1950s when breweries were struggling and had to develop a promotional campaign to generate business. These breweries created cans with a variety of colors and designs, horoscopes, characters, seasonal and holiday cans, trivia questions, sports and outdoor scenes, and various other attributes to make the cans more attractive to consumers. Some concepts were more popular than others.
70s Cans are those cans produced from approximately 1975 through 1985. 70s cans were created to be collectibles, as this was the height of can collecting. These cans are common.
Air Filled refers to a can that has a top lid and a bottom lid but has never held beer. Either the can was created as a sample or for a display. Display cans hold special interest for collectors, but are not usually worth any extra money. (Actually, they are sometimes worth less money.)
Bank Top cans were usually produced by a company or brewery as a souvenir. They have a slot in their lid for coins to fit through. The cost value of a bank top can is roughly the same as one that was used to hold beer.
Beer Can Flats are a solid sheet of printed beer cans that were never clipped and shaped into individual cans. This term is interchangeable with the term "unrolled cans" and is sometimes used to refer to a single unrolled can.
Camouflage Cans were produced from 1944-1945 specifically for the United States military. The cans are olive green, as was customary for all U.S. military supplies in that era. Because many of these cans were shipped overseas to the troops, they are not easily found in the United States and are therefore rare and highly coveted to can collectors.
Can in a Can is the term used when a can is found inside a larger can. Typically, this was done before being thrown out. These cans can be found in dumps, and they are usually in better condition than other cans found in the dump.
Church Key is a gadget that was created with the beer can. Its use was to punch holes in the lid of the can for the contents to be poured out.
Cone Top cans were manufactured from 1935 through 1960, with the majority being produced in the 1930s and 1940s. The different designs included crowntainers, high profile, low profile, and j-spouts. These cans were similar to the existing beer bottles, so they were easily marketed. However, cone tops were phased out of production because flat tops were easier to fill on the production line, they were easier to stack in people's refrigerators, and people grew accustomed to drinking from the flat top cans.
Crimped Steel cans consisted from three pieces: the body, the lid, and the bottom. The can's body was indented slightly at the top and bottom to fit into the lid and the bottom. These cans were produced throughout the 1970s and 1980s. This, along with the "straight steel" can, was one of the two designs of the "three piece can".
Crowntainer cans had a gradually reducing neck. They were manufactured in the 1940s and 1950s by the Crown, Cork and Seal Company, and most commonly found under the labels of Eastern and Midwestern breweries.
Drinking Mugs were cans made by the brewers as promotional or souvenir items. The cans did not have lids, and the manufacturer rolled the lip of the can so the sharp steel would not cut the drinker's lips. A handle was attached for holding.
Error Cans are exactly what their name implies: they were made with an error or a mistake such as having a double print of the label, miscolored labels, upside down labels, parts of different labels on the same can (i.e., soda label part printed with beer label part), misprints, and other such errors. For collectors, error cans are plentiful, so there is little real value to them. Double-printed cans were sometimes used as a marker for the end of a can production run. These cans, as well as many misprinted cans would get past inspectors and were rolled and packed like the others. A can with two top lids or two bottom lids were also put into circulation by accident. When can collecting became popular in the 1970s, employees at can companies would purposely make error cans to sell to collectors. Error cans from the pre-World War II era and other cans from that era that are rare are the exception, but would still only be worth the same as if the can had no error.
Flat Bottom cans were produced from 1935 to 1936, and some were produced by American Can Company in the 1950s for some eastern breweries. These were the original bottoms for cone-top cans.
Flat Bottom, Inverted Rib (FBIR) were the design of the first conetop cans made in 1935 by the Continental Can Company. In 1936, this design was replaced by concave bottoms which did not cause filling problems at the brewery and with raised ribs which did not retain moisture causing discoloration of the metal.
Flat Top cans had a flat top with a slight lip. The method to open the can is through a "church key" that punched a hole in the lid. The invention of the pull tab in the 1960s replaced this style of can.
Full Cans still have the original product in it. The can is not worth more with the beer still in it, but pre-1960s full cans may sell for more.
High Profile is a term to describe the design of a cone top can with a "high" spout.
Humidity Spotting or Humidity Rust is used to describe the tiny spots of surface rust on a can that discolors the paint and cannot be removed or cleaned. This is especially common on cans with metallic paint or metallic finish. Humidity spotting decreases a can's value.
Internal Revenue Tax Paid (IRTP) was a message imprinted on cans of beer in the United States pre-1950. It meant that the brewer had complied with the law and paid the necessary federal taxes. There are many variations of the message printed on cans before March 1950.
J-Spout is a term to describe the design of a conetop can with an elongated spout. These cans were only produced between 1937 and 1942 by Crown, Cork and Seal.
Keglined© cans had an inside lining that prevented the beer from touching the metal. It is a slogan that was copyrighted by the American Can Company.
Long Opener refers to those flat top cans produced between 1935 and 1936 which had the large pictures of the opening instructions printed on them. The picture was placed along the side of the can and showed the church key and how to use it to open the can. As people became accustomed to how to open these cans, the pictures became smaller. The term has also been used to refer to the first church keys, which were over 5 inches long.
Low Profile (Lo Pro) is a term to describe the design of a conetop can with a short or "low" spout. Lo Pros were mainly produced by the Continental Can Company between 1935 and 1942, though some western breweries continued to use them into the late 1940s.
Never-filled cans are missing either their top or bottom lids and have never been filled with beer. These cans did not have the top or bottom attached at the factory, and the lip is unrolled.
Olive Drab cans are also called camouflage cans. These cans were produced from 1944 to 1945 for the United States military, who ordered all of their supplies in olive green. These cans are difficult to find in the U.S. because the majority of them were shipped overseas to the troops.
Opening Instructions (OI) refers to the picture instructions printed on the sides of the original flat top cans instructing consumers how to open the cans with the church key.
Paint-Over is used to describe cans whose original painting has been altered. Some collectors in the 1970s would repaint cans to "restore" paint that has faded or to mask rust or humidity spotting. This term also refers to cans that have another label printed over the original label. This happens when unsold or unused cans are sold to another company by the production factory and the new label must be printed over the old label. Other instances of paint-over happened predominantly in the 1950s when home art projects would suggest using old beer cans to make other household items such as a sprinkling can for ironing. The overcoat of paint can usually be stripped away with rubbing compound.
Paper Label is the term used to describe the cans that had either a paper or a foil label instead of the label being painted or imprinted on the metal can. Because these labels can wear or peel off, these cans are rare.
Pop-top cans are cans which have a tab on the top lid which is pulled off, rather than using the church key. This term is interchangeable with "pull tab".
Private Labels were created for the exclusive sale by the client. Bars, clubs, grocery stores, liquor stores, and restaurants were known to have their own labels created for sale at their establishments.
Pull Tabs were created with a tab on the top lid which could be pulled off. These replaced the church keys. Pull tabs were replaced with statabs in the late-1970s./
Push Button Tops were created in the 1970s to replace the pull tab. The consumer would push a round, hinged piece into the can to open it. They were short lived because it was too difficult to push the button open.
Relidded refers to cans that have had either their top or bottom piece replaced. Typically, this is done to repair the can, but relidded cans are usually considered less valuable.
Repainted cans have had the original paint "touched up" or redone. Repainting is usually done to mask or "repair"damage on the can.
Soft Top is the term used for those cans whose lids were made of aluminum, a softer alloy that made punching through the lid with a church key easier than the steel lids. Soft tops were produced from 1960 through 1963, when they were replaced by pull tab cans. Some soft tops were produced again in the late 1970s in response to an anti-littering campaign against pull tabs.
Statab Top has a lever-tab that pushes a hole in the lid of the can. Sta-tabs were created in the late-1970s and have replaced pull tabs.
Store Brand cans were created and sold with the name of a certain company imprinted on the label. Also called "private label"cans, these were sold to various places such as bars, clubs, grocery stores, liquor stores, and restaurants.
Straight Steel cans are comprised of three pieces: a body, a lid, and a bottom. The sides are straight, instead of crimped.
Tax Stamps were placed on cans in the 1950s and 1960s to show that the brewer had paid the required state tax. These stamps are helpful for collectors because they indicate a range of years that the can was produced.
Three Piece Cans has three pieces to it: a bottom, a body, and a lid.
Touched Up refers to cans that were repainted either in whole or in part. Some collectors would paint areas of a can that had faded or had humidity spots. The focus was on returning the can to its original coloring or condition.
Two Piece Cans had only two pieces that needed to be assembled: the body and the lid. The bottom was not separate from the body.
Unrolled Cans were never cut and shaped into individual cans. This term is interchangeable with the term "beer can flats" and is sometimes used to refer to a single unrolled can.
Withdrawn Free cans were produced before March 1950 and sold both outside the United States and on U.S. military bases. These cans included camouflage cans as well as standard cans. These cans are usually marked with a statement similar to IRTP, but stated that no federal tax was due and was not paid.
Zip Top was the original term for "pull tab".
American Breweriana Association (ABA) is the second largest collectors group. Their purpose includes preserving the artifacts and memories of America's breweries. For more information on this group, visit www.americanbreweriana.org.
Brewery Collectibles Clubs of America (BCCA) is the largest collectors group, having almost 4,000 members from all 50 of the United States and 27 foreign countries. The group was founded in 1970 under the name Beer Can Collectors of America, and has been holding its annual Canvention since then. For more information on this group, visit www.bcca.com.
East Coast Breweriana Association (ECBA) is a collectors group whose focus is on the other collectibles such as labels, openers, signs, stationary, trays, etc. It was founded the same year as the BCCA. For more information on this group, visit www.eastcoastbrew.com.
National Association Breweriana Advertising (NABA) is another collectors group who concentrates on pieces other than cans. NABA was founded a year after BCCA and ECBA. For more information on this group, visit www.nababrew.com.
The Rusty Bunch is a group of collectors who enjoy "dumping" and other ways of hunting for cans. It is a chapter of the BCCA which was founded in 1985. The Rusty Bunch has actually helped beer can collecting progress over the past twenty years by discovering cans from the 1930s and 1940s that were not known to collectors, by publishing a monthly newsletter discussing various methods of finding cans and the variations of cans, and by establishing the most active discussion board for beer can collectors on the Internet.
American Breweriana Journal is the magazine produced bi-monthly by the ABA. It contains information on activities, news, exchange reports, events, and other information for members.
Beer Cans Unlimited (BCU) was a book/magazine published by Maverick Publishing of Missouri in the late-1970s and early-1980s. This was one of the first publications to denote a potential monetary value to beer cans. Many sellers and collectors continue to use BCU numbers to refer to a specific can (i.e., the 4th can on page 85 would be referred to as BCU 85-4).
The Beer Can Collector's Bible (Bible) was written by Jack Martells in 1976. It contains photos of flat-top cans and pull-tab cans from the United States measuring up to 12 oz. The Bible is not a good reference for the estimated value of a can, but it does contain reference numbers, approximate date of the can's appearance, and other interesting information including the different types of cans, how to date a can, and more.
The Breweriana Collector is a quarterly magazine published by NABA.
The Keg is the quarterly magazine put out by the ECBA that contains various information on dumping, the members, conventions, breweries, auctions, events, and anything else that has to do with breweriana.
United States Beer Cans (USBC) was a book published in 2000 by the BCCA. This book contains photos of conetops, flat tops, and gallon cans produced from 1935 through the mid-1960s in the United States.