Behold the Beer Can, Its Beauty Faded in the Eyes of the Young

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HUBERTUS, Wis. -- Kids collect a lot of things these days: Transformers action figures, American Girl dolls, baseball cards. Then there's 10-year-old Randy Langenbach. He collects beer cans.

"I just like how they look," Randy says of the 200 cans that line the walls of his bedroom here. And, no, "he doesn't drink the beer," his father says.

The problem for the once-thriving hobby of beer-can collecting is that Randy is a rarity: a collector under the age of 30.

As the beer can nears its 75th birthday in January, many hobbyists are crying in their brew over their inability to lure young people to a pastime that hooked many of them when they were youngsters in the 1970s.

"We'd ride bikes to each other's houses and start trading cans," says Dan Baker, 47, an Illinois collector who started when he was 10. "That's what all the kids did back then."...

... The first beer can -- the Krueger's brand from the now-defunct G. Krueger Brewing Co. of Newark, N.J. -- was sold at a store in Richmond, Va., in January 1935. The BCCA and other collectibles groups will commemorate the occasion in February at the annual Blue & Gray show in Fredericksburg, Va.

Breweries embraced cans because they could be transported more cheaply than bottles. By 1950, cans accounted for about 19% of beer sales in the U.S., compared with 52% for refillable bottles, according to the Beer Institute, a trade group in Washington. Today, cans represent 49% of all sales volume, bottles 41%.

Can collecting soared in popularity in the 1970s, fueled by brewers' publicity and the creation of formal collecting clubs. Collectors scooped up cans along the side of roads, and even took to digging up old dumps and outhouses to find buried treasure...

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