Ballantine’s three rings are an easily-recognizable symbol of the brewery and the rings represent purity, body, and flavor.
Ballantine Cuff Links
I once worked with a man who had been an employee at the Ballantine brewery in Newark during the 50’s. He worked in the lab, which essentially meant that he drank beer for a living. What a job!
Around that same time period, Ballantine’s owners Carl and Otto Badenhausen created a special beer as a holiday gift for distributors and retailers. I recall finding an article about a single bottle of this holiday brew surfacing and auctioning off for about $6,000. Apparently, there were only six known specimens at the time. I showed this article to my co-worker and he was in shock. He told me that he remembered pulling buckets of this beer off the bottling line “for testing” and that he had filled his own refrigerator with this particular beer.
One day, my co-worker surprised me with a gift. A single cuff link and some other Ballantine collectibles. Can’t seem to find any “links” to any values for Ballantine Cuff Links.
A little about the history of P. Ballantine and Sons Brewing Company. The brewery was founded in 1840 and at one time was the nation’s third largest brewer. The brewery was based in Newark, NJ until 1972 when Ballantine was sold to Falstaff Brewing. In 1985, Falstaff sold to Pabst Brewing. Pabst revived Ballantine Ale as part of their “craft beer” assets in 2014. Two months after the relaunch, Pabst sold the Ballantine name to Blue Ribbon Holdings Company for $700M. It seems that Blue Ribbon Holdings has lineage to Pabst and the move may just be moving money from one pocket to another.
Oh, for those that don’t know what a cuff link is, a cuff link is used as a fancy alternative to a button. A cuff link closes and secures a shirt’s cuff. It’s considered a men’s “jewelry” accessory.
No beer can discussion is complete without some reference to Billy Beer. When this beer hit the market in 1977, it was at the height of the beer can collecting fad and many assumed that in time this can would be worth a fortune. Rule number in collecting, it isn’t rare (or valuable) if everyone saved one.
In 1992, I had hoped to find some rare beer cans for my collection. So, I ran an ad in the local newspaper. My phone rang quite a bit and nearly all the calls asked if I wanted to buy some empty Billy Beer cans. Some callers were disappointed when I told them that they were probably worthless.
The nation loved Billy and his Billy Beer.
For those not familiar with the back story on Billy Beer, it begins with the 1976 presidential election. Georgia peanut farmer and former Georgia governor, Jimmy Carter was the Democratic challenger. He was set to face Republican Gerald Ford who assumed the presidency when Richard Nixon resigned. While trying to get some background on the earnest Jimmy Carter, the press stumbled across his younger and irreverent brother, Billy. To say that Billy was a reporter’s dream was an understatement. In his own words, he said that his neck was red, his socks white and his beer blue ribbon. He was a cartoon character and the nation ate up his redneck persona. He was the Ying to his older brother’s Yang.
Enter Falls City Brewing
In 1977, failing Kentucky brewer, Falls City leaped at the chance to ride Billy’s popularity and produce Billy Beer. It was said that Billy was paid $50,000 and was given a choice of some sample recipes that would carry his moniker. He must have been buzzed at that sampling because what the beer had in promotional steam, it lacked in flavor. Even Billy Carter himself quipped that Billy Beer was so bad it caused him to stop drinking beer. Billy would attend promotional events for the beer and in a tipsy state, he would admit that he still drank Pabst Blue Ribbon.
This was one of the beers I subjected my father to drink just for the can. He asked to have it poured down the drain.
It was probably 1984 and while I was in St. Louis for a work-related convention, I had a little time to kill. While others might flock to the infamous arch or sights on the Mississippi River, I headed (where else?) to the Anheuser Busch brewery.
I recall the tour was great, clydesdales, wooden escalators, huge copper kettles and a tasting room. The tour guide whisked us from site to site and one particular stop snagged my interest. In the lobby, there was a huge glass display case filled with Budweiser beer cans. The guide told the crowd, “this is every Budweiser beer can ever made.” It was a really an impressive display but I zeroed in on what would be the “rare” cans. Not to be “that guy”, I asked the tour guide privately about Budweiser Malt Liquor. I knew the can existed (I actually owned one at the time). She looked perplexed and told me that she didn’t know and she would ask someone. A short time later a guy in a suit came out and asked me what I knew about this can.
I didn’t really know much other than Budweiser Malt Liquor was produced for a short period of time, from 1972 – 1974 and it was part of a small test market release. I’ve seen a red and a white version of this can in a reference book. The black one is more common and can still be purchased on-line for less than $10. I think I gave this guy a project.
I didn’t want to tell him that I thought Budweiser also made drab green/non-metallic cans for WWII. I’ve yet to see one of those.
It doesn’t take long to figure out why this cone top beer can is my favorite can from my collection. As you can see, the label is misprinted and appears upside down on this particular cone top can. I’m not sure how many ended up this way but considering the condition and the fact this can is more than 70 years old, it’s got a lot going for it.
I acquired this can via a friend that owned a baseball card store in the early 90’s. He knew I collected cans and one day, a “little old lady” walked into his store and pulled this can from a thick wrapping of toilet paper. She tells my friend that her husband drank the beer, put the cap back on and wrapped it up assuming it would be worth something someday. My friend assumed the husband died and the widow was selling off his belongings. In typical fashion, he asked what she wanted for it. I think the price was agreeable and I believe I paid him $20 for it.
What’s my beer can worth?
No references anywhere to be found. It seems that a “regular” Silver Noggin in similar condition sold on eBay a couple of years ago for $155. I’d have to say the misprint could easily double the value and I’d put it north of $300. When I’m gone, I’m hoping my wife reads this before she tosses all my collection in the recycling bin.
As I mentioned in my post on a Krueger Beer Can, cans were introduced in New Jersey by Krueger in 1935. Others followed suit and some even began producing beer cans like this one that mimicked bottles, cap and all. Frankly, I thought cone top style vanished by the mid-40’s but I’ve since read that they were still in existence into the 50’s.
The American Can Company did a great job using marks to indicate where a can was made and the year the can was printed. On my particular Schmidt’s Silver Noggin Cone Top Can, I found in the tiniest print “10 – A” and then a baseball diamond with two dots to the right of the diamond. The 10 indicates that it was made in Brooklyn. The baseball diamond marking means 1946. Who knew? I thought cone tops vanished by the early 40’s.