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10-24-02: If one of them would happen to fall
Then Oliver Wendel of Coldwater will collect them again

The Daily Standard
    COLDWATER - Nine thousand cans of beer on the wall, nine thousand cans of beer ....
    If Oliver Wendel doesn't have the largest beer can collection in Mercer County, it's not from want of trying.
    Wendel has been steady at it for the past three decades and has a staggering 9,000 cans in the finished basement of his Coldwater home. Not just in the basement, but in a special room with custom floor-to-ceiling shelving to display his vast collection of suds cans.
    "Actually I have 5,500 in my collection and then there's another 4,000
or so stored for selling or trading," Wendel, 66, told The Daily Standard earlier this week.
    The Mercer County native began his hobby in 1971 almost on a whim.
    "We took a trip to the West Coast and I thought I should bring back something from the places we visited, something I could collect and add to if I wanted," he said.
    Wendel decided on beer cans and brought home 24 different brands and his now giant collection was born.
    "I buy new cans in six packs, add one to my collection and store the rest for selling or trading at beer can shows. That's how I have that extra 4,000 cans. Of course, when I first started I didn't even think about there
being other collectors out there, so I didnšt think to keep those first cans˛ he said, adding that Beer Can Collectors of America, an organization to which he now belongs, has more than 4,000 active national and international members.
    Wendel has his favorites although they don't get special treatment. All collection cans are cataloged and displayed in their appropriate spaces in
the beer can room.
    "I suppose the cone tops are my favorites. I've got some from the former Wooden Shoe Brewery in Minster and one from Koch in Wapakoneta," he said quickly retrieving the cone tops in question from their shelf spot.
    Cone tops, with their funnel-type tops, came on the market in 1935 and were marketed by G. Heilemann Brewing company in LaCrosse, Wisc.
    "The cone tops were popular with the brewers because they could be filled on the bottle line with the same equipment," Wendel explained.
    But, he noted, the last one was made in the 1950s. Because of their top shape, they were hard to store and the heavy flat-top cans retained their pride of place until the mid 1960s when the pop top cans took over the market.
    Wendel's cans are empty although the tops of the cans are intact.
    "I puncture them at the bottom and drain the beer out. Then I write a number on the bottom and then make up a card describing the can, where I got it and so forth," Wendel said.
    As his collection swelled in number, the Coldwater collector had to arrange the cans in classifications such as antique, international and small breweries.
    "There are very few small or local breweries any more. The big nationals have pretty much taken over. But the nationals put out several different cans each year, so I add the new ones when I find them," he said.
    The nationals also put out cans customized to certain events. The Super Bowl is one, but there is at least one closer to home.
    Wendel has two cans of Old Milwaukee customized for the Country Concert 2002 in Fort Loramie that he may take to the Wooden Shoe Chapter of Beer Can Collectors of America annual fall show at the Minster Knights of Columbus Hall on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    "The shows are great times to meet other collectors and see if you can
find a certain can you're looking for," he said noting he's always looking for the cone tops.


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The Standard Printing Company
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