Question: Is there a premium on beer cans that still contain the original brew? I have an extensive collection and I'd like to show it. If I empty the cans, is there a way to do it without damaging the can or marring the exhibit?--C.T.
Answer: Collectors say it actually doesn't make a great deal of difference whether the can has the original stuff in it. But if you do decide to empty the can, there is a way not to do it.
Don't open the collectible beer can from the top, as you would to drink the contents. Use a church key to make the opening on the bottom instead, so that the holes can't be seen when your collection is displayed. Otherwise, say collectors, your collection won't attract much attention, and its value will take a nose dive.
Most collectors, incidentally, do empty the cans, if for no other purpose than that they are obviously lighter to lug around.
Additionally, cans that are rusted or dented shouldn't be shown unless they are extremely rare, for the same reason--your display will look more like a garbage dump than an exhibit.
That isn't to say a garbage dump isn't a source of collectible cans if you can stand the smell. There are plenty of stories about collectors finding rare beer cans with minor dents in such unlikely places, rather than at more conventional flea markets or swap meets.
Unlike with some other collectibles, it's not taboo to touch up a rare beer can if you can match it to the original colors and design. To do this properly, however, you have to know how to work with enamel and metallic paint.
Q: Here is a difficult one. We have a fully functional radio from a B-17 World War II bomber. Is there a market for such an item?--S.C.
A: It's difficult to answer your question without a close inspection of the radio. Floyd A. Paul of the Southern California Antique Radio Society says your best bet is to bring it to one of the society's meetings.
The society has more than 600 members, so your chances of getting some information about the B-17 radio's collectible value should be good.
Contact Paul at 1545 Raymond Ave., Glendale, Calif. 91201, telephone (818) 242-8961.
Our recent piece on cigarette cards included the mention of the London Cigarette Card Co. Ltd., the oldest (founded in 1927) and probably the largest supplier of such cards.
The company's director, F. C. Doggett, wrote us to say his firm has an inventory of more than 300 million cards from about 13,000 series produced worldwide over a period of more than 100 years.
"Two of Britain's largest tobacco companies still issue cards with their cigars, but most collectors over here prefer the pre-World War II series, especially those featuring film stars, sportsmen, trains, military uniforms, etc., many of which are still readily available in mint condition at about $10 to $20 for a complete set.
"It is these that are also most popular with the American collectors, who account for almost one-fifth of our turnover."
Doggett's firm has published a new three-volume, illustrated catalogue for 1989, covering 11,500 series. It's priced at $34, including postage.
The firm's address: London Cigarette Card Co. Ltd., Sutton Road, Somerton, Somerset, England TA11 6QP.
Another resource for cigarette card collectors also surfaced. Delores Haddon, who, along with three other individuals, owns a shop called Atterdag Classics in Solvang, Calif., says: "We have sold (cigarette cards) for at least two years." Write to 444 Atterdag Road, No. 6, Solvang, Calif. 93463. Telephone (805) 688-9449.