For most beer drinkers, as soon as a bottle is empty, it goes straight to the recycling bin, label and all. However, there's a small margin of beer drinkers whose devotion to the label has made classic adhesives collectible. Search eBay and you'll find hundreds of collections and hard-to-find labels from touchstone breweries, many that are vintage or limited edition.
While investing in photo albums full of old labels might not be every beer drinker's speed, small beer makers can take inspiration from the trends and visuals that make classic labels collectible. Limited edition labels can commemorate a company anniversary, inaugurate a new variety and even pose a challenge to consumers to collect them all. For many up-and-coming companies, throwback branding has lent credibility and a sense of tradition to newer brews trying to emerge as the next big thing.
Custom label printing can take a boring beer label to the next level with style and clever attention to detail. There's no telling which labels from today will be valuable in 20 or 30 years, but making a play for collectible immortality can help shape label strategy to be as exciting and memorable as possible. The asking price for one label on eBay, a Portage Brew by the Epstein Brothers, is $640. Made before 1918, the rare label depicts an illustration of Native Americans carrying a canoe. While it's unlikely a label printed in 2015 will gain value for decades, makers can evoke that strong visual tradition with artful labeling.
Investing in an industrial label printer can give your company the freedom to define its own brand representation. By studying the best practices of classic labels, your brand can emerge with authority and style among its competitors.