Morphy’s to auction premier Adolf Grenke breweriana, beer can collection, Sept. 21-22 On Sept. 21-22, Morphy Auctions will offer the remarkable 40-year breweriana collection of Adolf Grenke. It includes 500 rare beer cans, 400 beer taps and many scarce and beautiful advertising signs.
some of the most important beer can collections of the past few years, said the Grenke collection is “the first major beer can collection to be auctioned other than on eBay – and not that many major ones have hit eBay, either.”
Collectors look for rarity, appealing graphics and superior condition. Many cans in the Grenke collection meet all three criteria, Morean said. The only known example of an ultra-desirable Gibbons Bock low-profile cone-top can is estimated at $30,000-$50,000. Two different Krueger Bock cans ($15,000-$20,000; $18,000-$23,000 respectively), a National Bohemian ($20,000-$45,000), a Peter Doelger Bock “instruction” beer can ($15,000-$28,000) and a Rheingold Pale Double Bock Beer flat-top beer can ($14,000-$24,000) are also poised to finish in the top 10.
The Grenke collection includes spectacular 19th and early 20th-century signs, like the gold-framed 1886 Bock Beer Maid lithograph with two actual checks from the brewery, est. $15,000-$25,000; and an Anheuser-Busch Bock Beer elves and ram lithograph, possibly the only extant example, estimated at $25,000-$45,000.
A corner sign from Buffalo’s Iroquois Brewery is conservatively estimated at $20,000-$40,000. “The last one that appeared at auction was made of composition and sold for $55,000. This sign, which is made of porcelain, is expected to fly,” said Morphy.
A prized sign advertising Chicago Bock Beer depicts two rams dressed as humans in suits, sharing a mug of beer. Estimate: $12,000-$18,000. Additional highlights include signs for Edelweiss Beer and Lion Beer (Cincinnati), with other desirable lithographs and signs representing Wm. J. Lemp, F&M Schaefer, Olympia and other breweries.
A special attraction within the antique advertising section is the 40+ illuminating reverse-on-glass, porcelain-enameled signs made by Gillco, Philadelphia. Gillco signs are coveted by breweriana collectors because of their outstanding quality and the fact that manufacturing runs were so low – sometimes limited to only 10 to 25 signs per design. “Some signs were even one of a kind,” Grenke said.
The top-estimated Gillco sign in the auction advertises Tally-Ho Beer and is twice the normal size of signs this company manufactured. Its image is of a horse-drawn Tally-Ho coach with well-dressed, top-hatted passengers. “It previously belonged to a beer can collector in California who has since passed away. No one I know has ever seen this sign before. It might be a prototype,” Grenke said. The sign is estimated at $8,000-$12,000.
Other Gillco signs advertise Tannenbaum Beer, Old Town Lager, Lowenbrau Munchen, Atlas Prager Beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Trommer’s White Label Malt and other brands. Approximately one dozen are light-up “bullet” signs with beer bottles on the front. Yet another, which features an image of three horses jumping a fence, may well have been a salesman’s sample, as no particular product is shown on it.
An excellent assortment of beer tap knobs will be offered, as well as a selection of trays, knobs and “smalls,” including promotional buttons, watch fobs, match safes and pocketknives. Breweriana expert Les Jones, who cataloged the items, explained that the smalls were company giveaways or given to customers at bars, while