It’s garage/yard sale season. If you live in the burbs, like me, you can’t drive more than a few blocks without seeing a sign announcing that one of your neighbors is hoping to offload his or her accumulated junk. And, as any veteran collector knows, there are sometimes gems hidden among the dross. I was watching rerun of the English version of the Antiques Roadshow just the other day, when a working-class couple brought in a one-off Lalique vase worth $40,000. They paid about five bucks for it.
While we’re unlikely to find something as mind-blowing as this in our own neighborhoods, there are still plenty of good reasons to stop at local yard sales — especially if you’re after beer collectibles. In the Northeast, where I live, one of the things I seem to come across quite often is the beer tray. Most of the time, the trays I come across are fairly unexceptional — that is, of relatively recent vintage, or somewhat bland graphic design. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t nice to look at, especially when you group them together in a single wall. Here are several I’ve purchased over the past few years:
One of the things you will notice is that, separately, these trays are fairly mundane-looking. The Rheingold and Knickerbocker trays have nice graphics, but overall are somewhat uninspired. The Leinenkugle tray, on the other hand, goes to the other extreme and is perhaps overly busy. I picked up all three of these trays at a yard sale/flea market hosted by a local historical society. I paid 50 cents each for the Rheingold and the Knickerbocker, and a dollar for the Leinenkugle (which is ironic, as the first two are vintage and the Leinenkugle is much more recent).
It’s easy to see how putting these together creates an effect that is greater than the sum of its parts — especially when hanged on the same wall. And these are three relatively uninteresting trays. If you want to get the full effect of what several dozen together looks like, take a look at our own beer tray photo page. This Pinterest page also has a number of really terrific examples. You can also see just how creative the designers of these trays have been over the years. And how about the range of different artistic motifs? Beer trays aren’t solely for lovers of breweriana, but also for those who simply love interesting and unique graphic design.
This gentleman has taken this to the point were he now possesses approximately 1500 beer trays — though he still hunts for that elusive tray, the one that will make his collection feel complete:
A COLLECTOR of brewery memorabilia is appealing to Bexley homeowners in a bid to find the missing piece in his collection.
Richard Percival, 50, who lives in Leicestershire, has collected more than 1,500 brewery trays and owns the biggest collection of its kind in the country.
One of the few trays Mr Percival needs to complete his collection was manufactured by the now defunct Reffells Bexley Brewery Ltd, once based in Bourne Road.
Mr Percival, who has been collecting the trays for more than 30 years, said: “The fact it exists and I’ve not been able to get hold of a copy means it’s one I’m really interested in.
“I know of about 100 that exist I haven’t got.”
He estimates this tray – which is made of light alloy – was used in the 19 pubs owned by the brewery shortly after the Second World War, in the late 1940s or early 1950s.
If any of our English readers come across one of these, Mr. Percival might buy you a pint for your trouble — I certainly know I would.
So, keep your eyes peeled when you’re out there looking through your neighbors’ junk. For the investment of a few bucks, and a little time, you can start your own collection — probably this weekend.