The beer can collection of Adolf Grenke will break new ground on September 20-21, when it becomes "the first major beer can collection to be auctioned other than on eBay", according to breweriana expert Dan Morean.
The collection began in 1972 when Grenke, a former plastics industry boss and president of an elevator company, started to collect rare beer cans in the finest condition after seeing a presentation from a Meister Brau salesman about collecting beer cans.
Today, the collection contains over 4,000 items, including 500 antique beer cans and around 400 beer taps.
"One of my sons spotted beer cans on the side of the road near a golf course. I was all dressed up, but we pulled over, and soon I was in the mud pulling up beer cans right along with my sons," explained Grenke enthusiastically of his first encounter with the hobby.
Grenke is now one of the world's foremost experts on breweriana. The auction house's Dan Morphy commented: "Whenever a new book on beer cans was in the works, invariably the author and photographer would end up at Adolf's home."
One of Grenke's favourite cans is an exceedingly rare and desirable Apache Export example. Featuring great Native American graphics and a low-profile cone top, the can originates from Arizona and is one of only five or six recorded examples. It will bring an impressive $25,000-35,000 to the sale.
Grenke is also fond of his Peter Hand Meister Brau can, commenting: "During World War II, Meister Brau sent their beer overseas to US soldiers. As far as anyone knows, this is the sole survivor." The can is estimated at $12,000-18,000.
The top lot in the sale is expected from a unique example of the Gibbons Bock low-profile cone top can, which is the only known graded example in existence. It is expected to sell for as much as $50,000, meeting all of the criteria that collectors look for - rarity, eye appeal and excellent condition.
Among the breweriana on offer is a charming Tally Ho Beer illuminating sign, which is also the last of its kind. Signs manufactured by Gillco of Philadelphia are coveted by collectors due to their outstanding quality and the fact that production runs were often limited to only 10 signs per design. The Tally Ho Beer example will sell for $8,000-12,000, followed by 40 or more signs from the company.
Remarkably, Adolf Grenke is said to rarely drink beer.