How to Grade Cans
Posted: 6/5/2008 • Last Updated: 5/29/2012
Representing Beer Can Condition/Grading
The most widely accepted grading scale for beer cans assigns numbers (refined with pluses and minuses) from 1 to 5, with grade 1 cans being in the best condition and grade 5 cans being in the worst condition. There is enormous variation in application of this scale. Grading cans has proven to be highly subjective. One person's grade A1+ is another person's grade 1/1-.
Our philosophy at Breweriana.com is to show each can to viewers in as much detail as possible. We post at least four high quality photos of every can. These photos are taken in a photography bubble with two 500 watt photography bulbs and plenty of field lighting. This method of photography reduces glare and shadows and practically puts the imperfections of cans "under a microscope." We believe that the condition of a can should be fully apparent from the photos. Breweriana.com cans graded 1/1- have later appeared on other lists graded as high as A1+. This is why it is important to either see a can in person under good light or to see at least four high quality, well lit, low shadow photos. Collectors may agree or disagree with an assigned grade but, in either case, will know what imperfections exist on a Breweriana.com can by its photos. The grading at Breweriana.com is among the strictest, most conservative grading in the hobby. We grade so strictly because we want to exceed our customers' expectations. We often receive feeback which indicates that cans are much better than anticipated.
Below is a description of how Breweriana.com applies the grading scale along with some examples. Since the vast majority of beer cans handled by Breweriana.com fall somewhere in the grade Grade "1" category, Grade 1 is broken down into every refinement below. Grades lower than one, are more briefly summarized.
Perfect condition. Breweriana.com rarely assigns this grade to a can. It is more of a theoretical grade. Almost every can, no matter how wonderful the condition, will have some minor flaws upon close inspection. A tiny bit of tarnish on the side of a rim, a minuscule knick in the paint, a blemish on the seam, or any other tiny defect will rule out applying a grade of 1+. A conservative grader will have few or no cans graded 1+.
A1+ means almost 1+ or almost perfect. We graded this Apex Beer cone top A1+ because, in our judgement, the minor tarnish in the original gold surface on the spout and rim edges was enough to keep it from being graded 1+.
Grade 1/1+ cans have very few imperfections. Vast majority of can is near perfect. A few small flaws, one or two of which may be noticeable from 3 feet or more.
This Edel Brau Ale can is close to an A1+ but the scratch to the left of the insignia at top, the darkening of the rims, a little tarnish on the top lid, and a few small scratches on the back added up to enough to downgrade it to a 1/1+. A can graded 1/1+ on Breweriana.com is a very high condition can!
The faint spots above the left horn of the goat and the small scratch above the "E" of "Feigenspan" (along with some minor imperfections on the back) put this Feigenspan Bock Beer at a grade 1.
The few imperfections on the Gibbons Bock Beer cone top would put it somewhere between a grade 1 and a 1/1-.
A very clean can, completely indoor found. A 1/1- can may have flaws but none that are very major. No holes, no significant rust pits or spots.
This Crystal Rock beer can was graded a 1/1- because of a few scratches and spots. Note that the overall gold metallic paint is untarnished and clean. Imperfections remain relatively isolated on 1/1- cans.
A grade 1- can is an indoor found can with more significant imperfections.
In the case of the Pilser's Extra Dry Pilsener Beer can above, there were many small imperfections, but no major imperfections, to warrant this grade.
-------minus and plus refinements continue with numbers below but omitted-------
A grade 2 can either is an indoor found can in the poorest condition for an indoor can or about as good as an outdoor found can gets. Noticeable spots/scratches. Larger spots, minor rust, and minor fade may exist on can.
The Krueger Bock above is an indoor can with noticeable humidity spotting.
[Photo Courtesy of Steve Fernades]
Heavy spots, rust, scratches and more significant fade may exist as can be seen on this Travis Dark Beer cone top can. Very noticeable imperfections but everything on can is readable
May have holes, very poor condition, at least half of can is readable. This side of this Waldorf Golden Bock Beer can has pitting, rust, bubbling and overall heavy wear but most of the text/graphics can be seen.
Very poor condition, most of can not readable/visible. Major rust, holes, etc.
We hope this discussion and these photos prove helpful for those who are new to grading beer cans. For assistance grading a can, feel free to send us an email or to call us toll free at 1-888-423-3722.