Bottle opener display at Fremont library
By Angie Landsverk
When a small display of bottle openers in a restaurant caught Dan Mayville’s eye, he soon found himself starting his own collection.
“I thought it was unique,” said the retired Fremont resident. “I grew up with my parents drinking beer, and I drank beer.”
Mayville began collecting bottle openers about 15 years ago.
Today, he has more than 500 of them in his collection.
Many of them are currently on display in Fremont’s Neuschafer Community Library and will be through Monday, Nov. 16.
“I have a lot of this stuff put away,” he said of his collection, “so as I come across it and find more pieces, I bring it over and put it in (the library’s display cases).”
What is nice about having them on display is it allows him to clean the display case in his home where he normally stores the items, he said.
“I have a case that is about five feet long, four feet high and two feet deep with four shelves,” Mayville said. “I got it from the old Springer Hardware Store that used to be down the street.”
Most of his collection fits in that case.
He finds bottle openers at rummage sales, flea markets, yard sales, antique malls and on eBay.
“I found my first one at a rummage sale. I paid $4,” Mayville said. “Now it’s probably worth $50.”
That first opener was a Blatz one, and he believes the most valuable bottle opener in his collection is worth between $75 and $100.
Prior to Prohibition, there were only bottles, he explained.
Later, when flat top cans appeared, so did can openers, Mayville said.
Since starting his collection of bottle openers, he has learned the stories behind some of them and how many had more than one purpose.
“Just for Openers – A Guide to Beer, Soda and Other Openers” is a source of information for him.
He enjoys seeing how they were used for more than just opening a bottle.
Bottle openers in the shapes of cars often include advertising for a garage, Mayville said.
“Back when cars used gas headlights instead of electric headlights, there was a bottle opener that was also a Presto light key,” he said.
Quite a few of the old bottle openers also had screwdrivers on one end, he said.
The spinner bottle opener was popular in taverns.
“You put it on the bar and give it a spin,” Mayville said. “When it stops, the person it points to has to buy the round. Bars or breweries would give them out to their big customers.”
Other bottle openers were giveaways in flour bags.
“It was a spoon on one end and a bottle opener on the other end,” he said.
Mayville said many of the bottle openers had multi functions, including opening a box of cigars or cutting the end off of a cigar.
“They were so inventive back then. It was easy to get a patent, because many of them say, ‘Patent pending,’” he said.
Two bottle openers in his collection show what was taking place in Wisconsin’s beer market at one time.
He has a Schlitz opener which says, “The beer that made Milwaukee famous,” and a Rahr opener, which says, “The beer that makes Milwaukee jealous.”
Mayville said that was a little dig at Schlitz when it was trying to take over the beer market in Green Bay.
“Rahr fought back with that saying,” he said. “I love it.”
Mayville buys, sells and trades bottle openers.
He said he is happy to help people learn about what they have and is also always looking to add to his own collection. People may reach him at 920-538-1476.
In addition to collecting bottle openers, Mayville also does metal detecting.
“I like old stuff better than new stuff,” he said. “Every once in a while, my two hobbies come together.”