Two beer cans from 1930s sell for £2,270

Two cans of pale ale from Welsh brewer Felinfoel, believed to be the first beer ever canned outside the US, have sold at auction for £2,270.50 including buying fees.

Image: Chiswick Auctions

The beer, believed to have been canned around 1936, was made by Felinfoel Brewery in Llanelli in Wales. The present brewery building dates back to 1878 and the brewer began canning in the mid 1930s owing to a close relationship with the Welsh tin plate industry.

After the onset of WWII, Felinfoel supplied the Ministry of Defence with cans which were transported as far afield as north Africa to troops commanded by Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery.

The cans were put up for sale at Chiswick Auctions in London yesterday (19 September) with a guide price of between £1,000 and £1,600. They eventually sold for £2,270.50 (including buying fees) to the managing director of Felinfoel Brewery Philip Lewis.

Speaking following to the drinks business, head of wine and spirits at Chiswick Auctions, Sam Hellyer, said: “The cans have been in the same family but weren’t stored in a cellar, at one point they were even kept on a desk. It’s testament to the durability of the cans that they have survived and are in such good condition.

“Felinfoel Brewery knew we were selling them for some time but I didn’t know they would be bidding until the day before the sale.

“The cans had attracted early bids, but once Philip got involved it drove the price up and up. As he commented at the time, now they’ve come home.”

Hellyer added that last year, three similar Felinfoel Brewery cans were sold by Welsh auctioneer Peter Francis for £1,300 including buyers’ fees. In a similar move, Felinfoel also bought the cans back.

“I believe the cans we sold were in much better condition and we have certainly smashed the previous record, achieving £2,270.50 for just two cans,” Hellyer said. “We’re now trying to establish if these are the most expensive beers ever sold.”

Unlike in the US where beer was pasteurised before being put into cans, Felinfoel solved the problem of the beer reacting with the tin by coating the interior in wax.

The conical shape of the cans meant that they could not be stacked and still required a bottle opener to be accessed. The modern-day shape did not come into being until the 1960s.

Image: Chiswick Auctions

The cans are still full with some evaporation from the base of one of the cans. They are described as being in “exceptional condition” with one can having “minor label damage” and a weak seal.

The cans will now go on display at Felinfoel brewery.

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