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COM: January 2014

Retro Cans

Retro Rainier 1. Retro Rainier 2.

This month let's look at some retro can designs. In this case, not just cans made to look old-fashioned, but cans made to copy designs previously used by that same brand. This month's is a very recent entry into this category, a Rainier made to look like the Jubilee series produced from 1952-1964. Specifically, this can is made to look like one of the "Brewery" set which was sold from 1957-1964, in this case, the "More Life ...Naturally" design. (Thanks Josh for the can!)

Retro Cans

Sometimes you see a can label that was purposely made to look old-fashioned, or "retro." Sometimes a new design is created that copies a design style or specific elements of a past design. In contrast, I am using "retro" to refer to a deliberate attempt to copy as closely as possible a previous label design in order to appeal to a sense of nostalgia. It's the difference between a label invoking tradition and one made to say "look at this cool can just like the one we sold in 1935!" (or 1950, or 1970, or whenever.) In the case of the Rainier above, they didn't just make a colorful can with similar graphics, they made the can look as close as possible to the original from fifty years ago. You can compare the two cans back, 1957 vs. 2013 below. While there are differences it's clear the new design copies the original in many, although not all, aspects.

1957 can. 2013 can.
The original, 1957-1964 The retro, 2013.

Other Retros

There are other retro examples from the past few years. Sometimes the new label is designed to be the regular new label, and sometimes it's meant to commemorate a past design, and is meant to be used for a short period of time. I'm concerned her with the latter, those labels meant to be temporary.

Anheuser-Busch is one of the first examples of this I can think of. In 2005 they issued three different retro cans designed to look like earlier labels. The first was the gold can used from 1935-1950 (see below). The second was the gold/red/white can used from 1950-1955 or so, and then the last of the series was the red/white label used in the mid 1950s before the current version.

Bud retro. The back of the Bud retro.
The Budweiser retro.
They even included the OI panel.


Some of the other breweries that have issued retros include...

Coors: This is a four-can set issued in 2011. The first one of the set isn't a retro can design, it copies an 1880s bottle label. The other three cans in the set copy can designs from the 1930s through the 1950s. They issued another set in 2012.

Genesee: The New York brewer issued a set of cans to copy the Genesee cans used from the 1930s into the 1960s. In 2012 they reissued Genny Cream Ale in can that copied the classic all-green cans used from the early 1960s through the 1970s. (I drank Genny Cream Ale in college from these cans. It was good stuff. Not quite as good as Little Kings Cream Ale, but still quite good!)

Genny Ale retro.

A few years ago Genesee issued a five can set that copied Genny Beer labels. The first one looks like a design used from the 1930s through the 1940s. The second can resembles the "Victory" can of 1947. The third one copies the design used from the late 1940s into the 1950s. There is a gold one that also copies a 1950s design. (I don't have that one) The white label was used from the early 1960s or so, and then for several decades (with some small changes) thereafter.

There are five cans in the set. I do not own the 4th can, yet.


Schlitz: Schlitz issued a brown & white can that looked like it’s late 1940s designs. Issued to make the anniversary of the end of World War II, ironically Schlitz cans that did exist at the end of the war were really olive drab. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.

Schlitz retro.

Miller Lite

Miller Lite.

Miller returned to their original 1970s Miller Lite label. I like this one because it's also a cabottle, a 1970s design on a 21st century can. I picked this one up at National's Park in DC.


There are a lot of other examples, as this seems to be a popular tactic now. Busch Beer did it. Tecate out of Mexico issued a 1960s-style label in 2012. So expect to see a lot more of these!

Show Cans

There is one other category of retro cans I should mention, cans made for breweriana shops as a souvenir. Every year the BCCA puts out a commemorative can for its members at Canvention. They're air-filled (i.e. empty) and are often are made to look like a real can from the past. Other clubs and shows have done the same. The Rainier Chapter of the BCCA put out a three-can set made to look like cans from the same jubilee set as the can I featured this month. And a few years ago the Blue-Gray Show gave out a two-can set designed to look like the original Krueger's OI cans from 1935. These cans generally have little monetary value, but they are fun.

Rainier Chapter Retro.

The Rainier Chapter retros. (2 of the 3).
Note that the back shows club members dumping for cans.



Links open new windows.

Thanks to Brian Artzberger for his help and for the Genny Ale can.

Thanks Carl for the Rainier club cans and to Carl and Josh for the Rainier retro 16 oz.

Jim Suhr, Associated Press Budweiser Promoting its History with Vintage Cans. USAToday (15 February 2005). Accessed 1/1/14. The article gets some of the can dates wrong.

"Coors Banquet released in commemorative cans from past eras" Denver Post. (2 February 2011) Accessed 1/1/14.



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