If you walk into a bar nowadays you may not think twice about being served a cool beer drawn from a tap at the bar. You'll notice the name of your chosen beer clearly displayed on the tap handle itself, but you probably won't think about the history behind it. Certainly, the chances of most patrons thinking about vintage beer taps when ordering a draft are very remote indeed.
The truth is that it goes way back to the time of Prohibition – or more properly the time when Prohibition became a thing of the past. This was when a new regulation came into being. Every keg of beer had to have a relevant beer tap attached to it, clearly depicting the exact beer that was inside.
As you can imagine, these beer taps have since become much sought after by collectors. Every beer company has its own unique brand and appearance, and this has appeared on its beer taps down the decades since Prohibition became a thing of the past. As brands change and modernize, so the new branding appears on the beer tap.
Some of these taps are called beer knobs because of their small round shape. A good example is the Old Tavern Lager Beer knob dating back to the 1940s. This has appeared on eBay in recent times. Not all knobs are round in shape though. The Pabst Blue Ribbon knob from the 1940s is in a rosette design with the ball shape behind it. Others are proper handles and you'll sometimes see job lots of these vintage ones for sale online.
Searching online for the taps you want is one of the best ways to find what you're looking for. EBay might seem to be an obvious choice but lots of private collectors will occasionally sell some or all of their vintage pre-1970s taps and there are some good finds to be had here.
Consider whether you want to look for taps from a specific brewery or those from a particular decade. If you're after ball taps you'll be looking at the Thirties and Forties primarily, with such names as Miller, Select, Hyde Park, Budweiser and Fox Deluxe making an appearance among others.
Fairs, yard sales and even second hand stores are other potential sources of vintage taps. It's worth reading up and educating yourself on what to look for, so you get a better idea of what you want and how much you can expect to spend on it.
You'd better think of budgeting for the earlier examples of beer taps too, especially from the Thirties and Forties. The 1940s Old Tavern example mentioned earlier was almost up to forty dollars in a recent online auction and it still had three days to go. However, the beauty of an online auction is that sometimes the sellers don't realize how valuable their tap handle is worth and you can get some great deals if you are thorough and diligent in your searches.
The best thing about vintage beer taps is not just the range of designs and styles you get. It's the fact you're holding a little slice of history in the palm of your hand.
If you are interested in some fast, cheap, tap handles to spruce up your display room, buying in lots might be perfect for you! Usually these type of auctions or sales will offer newer tap handles. So while not usually rare and vintage when looking into lots, you can get a nice selection of sizes and beer brands for your tap collection at huge savings! Later, you can replace them as you obtain older, collectible pieces, but until you do, you'll still have a nice looking room with some inexpensive brewmania taps adding to the atmosphere of your display.