Dubbo Photo News & Dubbo Weekender

A big show of the poor man’s hobby

Items shown at previous Canfest events include this Traders Can box of cans. Photo: Supplied. Items shown at previous Canfest events include this Traders Can box of cans. Photo: Supplied.

Thousands of beer cans and other collectables will be on show in Dubbo this weekend in a unique display of Australian memorabilia. The event is called Canfest and organiser Jill Major says it’s now in its 25th year.

“Canfest began in 1992 in Brisbane. Back then it was just beer cans but now it’s gone out to all collectables, it doesn’t matter what they are.”

Describing beer can collecting as “the poor man’s hobby”, Jill said the annual event doubles as a swap meet.

“It’s a poor man’s hobby but if people want to spend money, they can!”

Jill has heard of single cans fetching up to $1000 each, due to their rarity.

“This time around, there are a couple of cans that might reach $800. There was a Dick Smith can that sold for $1000 – there were only 20 or 30 made.”

To preserve their appearance, cans are opened from the bottom to consume the beer.

“We don’t keep them full,” Jill explained. “There are even can enthusiasts who are non-drinkers. They have nice neighbours or friends for that chore.”

Collectors come from all over Australia to attend Canfest and they meet in a different centre each year.

Dubbo was chosen for its central location and good amenities. The Orana Collectables Club will also be represented at the one-day fair.

Other collectables include Arnott’s biscuit tins, Coca Cola memorabilia and various brands and historic pieces.

Jill says that with their array of images, cans illustrate aspects of Australian history including bridge openings, yacht races, cricket and football matches. There’s even a special Dubbo can that’s been made to commemorate this weekend’s event which features elements of the zoo. The cans also represent the many changing faces of Australian brewing.

“It’s Australia’s history. Beer cans came to Australia in 1957 so they commemorate the old breweries. Along with bottles and labels, it’s retaining the history.”

Jill points out that most of the big brewers have been sold to foreign companies, with Cooper’s remaining as one of the only large breweries left in Australia.

“Coopers Brewery kindly fill our commemorative beer can each year,” Jill explained.

This year, there will also be a raffle of a rare can commemorating Dr Tim Cooper’s 60th birthday, with funds raised going to the Cooper’s Foundation which directs funds to medical research.

Canfest is hosted by the National Beer Can Collectors Inc whose shared passion led to the establishment of a club in 1979.

Jill became involved where she grew up in Tasmania, with a small collection leading to something much more significant.

“It became a bit addictive,” she laughed.

The swap meet is also something of a social gathering for Jill and her fellow enthusiasts.

“We don’t collect much anymore but we have made so many friends over the years. A lot of it is socialising and people enjoy having a drink while they’re there.”

Collectors are of all ages, with one of the youngest club members starting out at just 14. He’s now in his 20s. Another man is a third generation collector.

“It’s mostly older people who started their collection when they were younger and are still collecting. It’s nice to see people still collecting, especially in this disposable society. It’s a piece of history.”

What Where When

  • Canfest
  • Dubbo RSL Club Auditorium
  • Saturday, January 7, 9.30am to 4pm
  • Sunday, January 8, 9.30am to 3pm
  • Entry is free.