They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and the phrase couldn’t be truer than beer cans.
During the festive season many people down several bottles and cans of beer without as much as thinking about the thousands of shillings they are throwing away.
As soon as they are done downing the beer cans, many revellers toss them away or crash them without a second thought but not one Mr Peter Macharia.
Mr Macharia has a passion for collecting beer cans and has collected over 5,000 used beer cans from all over the world so far.
“I was inspired by the beauty of beer cans. They are an amazing work of art and they are collectables with wild, eye-catching designs — exotic and gaudy. I started with just one can and I now have over 5,000," he said.
Mr Macharia, who grew up in Murang’a County, schooled at Ngamba Primary School, Kamacharia Secondary School and Kirinyaga Technical Training Institute before moving to the USA in 2003, innocently began his hobby in 2005 which has since grown to be worth thousands of shillings.
“I collect special beer cans and anything to do with beer, including advertisements, beer mirrors and everything else that comes with beer," he said.
His collection of cans from over 90 countries includes some as old as 83 years of age, dating back to 1935 when the first beer cans were produced is now a work of art.
That feat saw him noticed by Brewery Collectables Club of America (BCCA), the world’s biggest association of brewery collectors, who recently awarded him a certificate of compliance and recognition on May 25 2018.
“I joined the world’s biggest association of brewery collectors that collect beer cans and breweriana, or anything related to beer, and I now have my BCCA personal number which cannot be given to anyone else worldwide,” said Macharia.
The recognition means Mr Macharia now joins a distinguished club of brewery heritage preservation and can exhibit at brewery trade fairs for free.
He also gets to meet other collectors and executives of brewing companies. He is currently the only collector from Africa registered and certified by BCCA.
Mr Macharia, who is currently on a full-time job as a technician at a Mercedes Benz dealership in New Jersey, got the collection idea from a long-time landlord at a previous residence in the USA.
“He realised I had a few cans that I didn’t throw away, and that’s when he told me I could actually turn beer can collection into a hobby and business,"
He got his first can in April 2005 and started his collection in 2011.
“At the time I had nowhere to display the cans and I could just collect them and put them in a box. But now, God has been good and I have a place where I can display them. I value the cans as every can has a beauty of its own kind,"
The hobby of collecting beer cans is a lucrative one, as collectors get to sell the cans from as low as one dollar to up to as much as $1,000, depending on the age, historical value and aesthetic considerations of the cans.
One such lucrative collector is Mr Jeff Lebo from York Haven, Pennsylvania, who is on record as having the largest beer can collection in the world worth an estimated $1.9 million.
Mr Lebo currently has 87,000 cans neatly stacked in his Brewhouse Mountain holiday home that doubles up as a $500 room-a-night hotel. It took him 40 years to collect the cans and two years to neatly put them together.
Macharia’s collection can fetch anything between Sh500,000 and Sh3 million, as the cans are a fine blend of old and new.
Macharia’s friends say they are amazed by his hobby which sees him spend countless hours and every free minute he can get down his basement museum arranging and taking stock of the collection.
"It’s an interesting hobby and a unique one at that,” says Mr Eutychus Kang’arua, Mr Macharia’s friend who runs Latha Foods, a nyama choma business, in New Jersey.
“He amazes us all with how patiently he collects these cans,”
Mr Macharia’s hobby, however, doesn’t come cheap. He travels far and wide to collect the cans, although he mostly purchases them on the e-commerce platform, eBay.
Married with two children — Beatrice, 13, and one-year-old Briana — Mr Macharia hopes to, one day, ship his cans to Kenya and open a museum of collections.
“In 10 to 20 years, I see myself with the biggest brewery museum in Africa,”
Interestingly, with all his collection, Mr Macharia is not much of a drinker himself.
“I’m not a beer drinking fan, but one for the road is not a sin,” he says.