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Billy Beer Can
Don’t waste your money!

Is any of that junk in your attic worth some money? How do you sort the trash from the treasure? CBS News Saturday Morning continues its series with collectibles expert Tony Hyman.

This time, Hyman says you may not be richer than you think. Classified ads across America offer Billy Beer by the can or six-pack, asking up to $600 a can. Should you buy it? Hyman says, "No." Billy Beer appeared in the mid-70s, an attempt to capitalize on President Carter’s flamboyant beer-drinking brother Billy. It was a good idea gone awry, in part because the beer was downright undrinkable. As one not-so-kind critic said, "Pour it back in the horse it came from."

Why do people think it’s worth so much to collectors? There was a flurry of publicity when, insiders claim, clever promoters suckered the news media into covering the sale of a single can for $600. Then, they sent representatives into liquor stores offering Billy Beer at $500 a case. They knew retailers didn’t have the beer in stock. "It was all just a scheme to generate interest," says Hyman.

If you have a six-pack, full or empty, the cans are what experts call "squashers," good only for recycling their aluminum content. Hyman warns that the same is true of JR Beer, named for the character on the television series Dallas.

This is the Billy Beer can. No, it is NOT rare. There were Millions of cases sold by 4 different breweries in the late 1970s. The lowest estimate of the number of Billy Beer cans made is 2 BILLION. As a result, it is worth about 25 cents at most and then only if it is in very good shape, and if you can find a collector who actually needs one. It is not worth more if it is still full or if it is "air filled." The same lack of any value is true of World’s Fair Beer, JR. Beer, MASH Beer, Bicentennial cans, Hudepohl Bengals and Reds cans, etc.

How Did This Urban Myth Begin?

Why do many people think this can is rare and valuable? Unfortunately in the late 1970s a fastback artist took out ads in a paper in Chicago offering to sell Billy Beer cans for the outrageous sum of $1,000 a six-pack. He then was able to advertise his cans as a "bargain" at "only" $200 per six-pack or so. Since then, Billy Beer has become an ’urban legend’ and the BCCA (Beer Can Collectors of America) have been fighting this rumor ever since.

Warning: someone has been apparently been ’shill bidding’ on Billy Beers on Ebay lately to drive the prices up. This is a scam and several knowledgeable collectors have asked Ebay to investigate the possibility of fraud.

CBS News - 23 November 2003
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