Your eyes will have to do all the drinking if you attend the Blue Gray Breweriana Show in Herndon, Virginia, because all the cans are empty.
The show brings together collectors and enthusiasts of everything imaginable with a brewery name on it.
Beer can collecting, which gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, has evolved to include all sorts of advertising.
“Most serious collectors are looking at items from either before prohibition (1919), or from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s,” Larry Handy, the Blue Gray Breweriana Brewery Collectible Show’s coordinator, said. “Things before 1960 are of top interest.”
Items on display include everything from ashtrays and bottle openers to signs alive with bright neon colors, ascending bubbles or perhaps a revolving diorama depicting a horse-drawn carriage in a snowy landscape.
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Go to the show and you might expect to be directed to a ballroom or exhibit area with tables and booths, but that’s not the case. This event takes place in the individual hotel rooms of participants.
Some rooms might be piled haphazardly with items. Others have beds stacked with organized trays or items arranged in shelves as if on museum display.
People attending the event buy, sell and trade collectibles of varying value, ranging from rusted old cans to works of art.
“If you look through some of the collectors’ rooms, you’ll see pieces that are very ornate, attractive scenery and, especially on pre-1970s items, attractive women,” Handy said. “High-quality printing processes … everything’s gone plastic now-a-days, but the further back you go, you see some real quality-produced items.”
As for what things are worth, or what you might spend?
“You’ll see everything from free cans in the hallway — just help yourself — to lithographs, prints or reverse glass signs in the thousands of dollars,” Handy said.
The Blue Gray Breweriana, Brewery Collectibles Show is at the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport in Herndon through Saturday.