With just over 96,000 cans, American Jeff Lebo owns the world's largest collection of vintage beer cans.

Featuring cans from all over the world, the collector has a huge range of traditional, limited edition and rare examples lining the walls of his House of Beer Cans, Brewhouse Mountain.

World's biggest beer can collection

Built between 1998 and 2001 with the help of Jeff’s father Fred, friends and other family members, the house, and the collection itself, are divided into geographical regions, with a room for each region.

Jeff began collecting cans when he was just 13-years-old, now, it is worth over $1.6m and he even owns the first beer can ever produced in 1935.

Remarkably, the collector is a huge fan of Scottish beer cans and has some incredible examples in his collection.

The Pennsylvania native explains that he is a big fan of Tennent’s in particular and has more than a few in his collection, particularly cans from the Lager Lovelies series.

Picture: Jeff Lebo

He said: “The Tennents Brewery was a real innovator in marketing their products in cans and was the first to feature photographs of historically significant sites, provincial parks and buildings of Scotland and England on their cans way back in the early 1960s.

• READ MORE: The story of Tennent’s Lager Lovelies

“In all, there were 80 different scenes of the English and Scottish series, which were produced from 1960 to 1964. I have been collecting beer cans since 1975 and I am still missing about thirty of the scenes, which tells you how difficult these are to come by.

“To make things even more challenging, all 80 cans were produced in Lager, Sweet Stout, Pale Ale and Export. So, when you factor that in, I’m actually missing more like 270 cans from those series. It is extremely unlikely that I’ll ever get them all.”

Jeff explained that the history behind the famous Glaswegian brewery’s limited run of cans featuring young women on the front was captivating because it happened almost by accident.

He said: “Tennent’s is famous for putting photographs of beautiful women on their cans. This all started because of one of the English Series cans from 1962 to 1964 which was titled ‘Young Lady in Trafalgar Square’.

“The photo featured model Ann Johansen standing next to a fountain. It so happened that Tennent’s had contracts to ship their product to overseas military bases.

“People are surprised to learn that some of the old cans can be quite valuable. I have paid hundreds of pounds for certain rare cans in pristine condition.”

“After the emergence of the English Series, Tennent’s were inundated with letters from lonely servicemen inquiring about this young woman on the beer can. (What is her name?, Where is she from?, etc….)

“Tennent’s realized they were on to something, and went on to feature Ann in three more series: Ann ‘s Day (a 12 can series), Ann on Vacation (a 10 can series) and a third series simply called Ann ( a 12 can series). These ran from 1965 to 1980.”

Jeff stated that he also loves another of the brewing giant’s early sets. Dubbed “Housewives Choice”, it was a 20 can set, which ran from 1964 to 1965 and featured recipes using Tennent’s beer in the dishes.

The Tennent’s Lager Lovelies set. Picture: Jeff Lebo

Jeff said: “‘Ann recommends Westmoreland Beer Cake’, ‘Helen recommends Bird’s Nest Pudding’ and ‘Thelma recommends Herring Fritters’ were some of the examples.

“It is one of my dreams to one day complete all of these sets, but I am still a long way off. Perhaps there are more people out there who have some of these. If so, I would love to hear from them.”

The Tennent’s cans aren’t the only ones to feature in his unique collection.

“I particularly enjoy the older flat top cans and cone top cans. Flat tops required a special can opener to get at the contents.

Some of Jeff’s Scottish collection including McEwan’s, Tennent’s and Younger’s of Alloa. Picture: Jeff Lebo

“This type of can predates the ring pull, which started being used in Scotland around the mid to late 1960’s. The cone top cans began in 1936 in the UK and were produced until the late 1950’s. his type of can features a spout on the top and opened just like a bottle, with a crown cap on the top.”

Some of the older cone top cans, including a very old looking Tennent’s. Picture: Jeff Lebo.

With 96,000 cans already, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the collection is complete but that isn’t the case, Jeff still buys cans through his website, cansmartbeercans.com, he stated that is how he came across a lot of his rarer Scottish cans.

He added: “Over the years many people have come forward with old cans that they have found up in their lofts or in their garages, for instance. Some people find old cans inside the walls of old buildings when they are doing home remodeling projects.

“Sometimes the values of the cans they find are enough to pay for a part or all of their remodeling project. Sadly though, many people don’t realize that they are valuable to anyone, so they simply pitch them in the rubbish bin. I don’t like hearing these kinds of stories.

“People are surprised to learn that some of the old cans can be quite valuable. I have paid hundreds of pounds for certain rare cans in pristine condition.”

 

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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