Value Cleaning Grading Hanging Storage
ABA Journal Article
on the Trayman
Buying & Selling Shipping Manufacturers References
The Trayman's Method Assesses Five Components of Value
What's this one worth?
 Assessing Value
Other than how do you hang them? How many trays do you have? and How the world do you display all of your trays? The most common question I get is: How much is this tray worth? Often followed by: Are you interested in making me an offer? I like the second question on harder to find trays, but sometimes I feel like I did when I was in Stereo Sales (and by the way I was really bad at it because I always wanted to sell the stuff I liked, rather than what the customer was interested in). People like to shop where the most information is available and buy where the prices are the best. In the case of folks contacting me. I was in a very nice store and we gave excellent customer service.
Unfortunately, many people would pump me for hours on information and then go to a discount store and buy. With trays, I see the gambit, some have no clue and are really interested, others are trying to get as much information as possible and maybe even get me to make an offer so they can compare it to what Dan, Brian, Ruddy, Lou, Don or other internet guys are offering. I can understand the practice, but it can be frustrating at times to see a tray you made a reasonable offer on, which you would really like to add to your collection, show up on another site or more commonly on eBay. Oh well you have to kiss a few toads to find the frog who turns into a prince I guess. I certainly have secured some awesome trays via contact for information. Check this Tray Detail Page out for a great story and a great tray.
So here is the Trayman's method of assessing the Value of a tray. I believe there are 5 basic areas to think about:
Condition (see Tray Grading)
Condition is the primary driver for the value of a tray. A Near Mint to Mint tray may bring a several times multiplier to the market value of a tray. The condition will bring bidders who would not normally be bidding on an item, as they may be upgrading an item they already own or they may only collect near mint items (yes there are collectors out there who only collect the Near Mint to Mint). Many think it is the only investment which is sure to bring a return. The value curve is exponential, not linear when condition is considered. When you get past an 8, people typically are willing to pay quite a bit more.
Age & Scarcity
The older, the better usually applies, but some of the scarcer trays are actually ones produced around the time of World War II. Metal drives were common and some newer items may have been sacrificed, while older ones were thought to be worth and as a result not as readily offered to the drive. Also production was certainly limited, as metal was diverted to the war effort. "Hmmm, should we make metal beer trays or tank parts?"
The fewer, the better also applies, but beware. When you watch eBay, be careful as some sellers will list everything as "scarce" or "rare". If you don't know if it is, ask someone who has been watching eBay for a while or has been active in Breweriana collecting.
Subject Matter Appeal
Often times, the appeal of the subject on the face drives the desirability. This certainly makes a lot of sense. Who would want to buy a boring tray when there are so many with loads of appeal. There are collectors who only collect one type of subject matter, however it is more common to run across collectors who purchase geographically, specific breweries, types of trays (ex. porcelain only) or specific time (most common being pre-pro only).
Desirability (Brewery, Regional, Cross Collecting)
Similar to Subject Matter and Cross Collecting, there are many collectors who only collect stuff from their home town or state. Others only collect from a specific brewery, as they may be related to someone who worked or owned it. Often times they just have the same last name and think it is nice to have an item with their name on it. Who can blame them? Somtimes they just picked it because they like the stuff from that brewery or it is or was their or their father's brand. If you run up against the serious collector in one of these catagories in an auction - watch out. If they really want something, they may pay well above the going rate for the item. Especially if the condition is top notch.
Manufacturing Techniques & Manufacturer
The quality of the manufacturing process can usually be identified by who manufactured the tray. If it is a Chas. W. Shonk tray, you can be pretty much guaranteed the quality of the item will be excellent. If it is the American Can Co. you can be pretty much guaranteed it will not be a high quality litho. High quality Litho's bring more money if they are in reasonable condition.
Reference Guides with Value Estimates
There are several different resources for Estimating Value. First off I would hope you find my site on some value. Now remember, I am estimating Mint to Near Mint Value and as we discussed earlier, condition is exponential not linear. The closer the condition gets to Mint, the faster the value rises. Other resourses you may want to refer to include:
- Watch eBay Prices
- Watch what trays are selling for on other Breweriana Sites
- View Auction Selling prices of past publication auctions, such as Fink's Off the Wall Auctions
- Books with Value Guides such as Straub's Collectible Beer Trays, New England Breweriana and Haydock's The World of Beer Memorabilia
Be cautious when using Value Guides, as often times they are out of date, out of line or pointing to the wrong item. Straub's in particular has many errors.
Putting it All Together
So when you ask me what a tray is worth, I will run the 5 areas, consult my resources and use my knowledge of watching auctions and listening to other collectors. It would go something like this:
Example Tray:
Goebel Beer
12" SS Dish Litho
Goebel Brewing Co.
Detroit, MI
 Condition  This tray has excellent color and the main portion of the face is intact. The rim is chipped and the back has some wear. The tray would rate as a 7+ in my estimation.
 Age & Scarcity  This tray is pre-pro and fairly hard to find.
 Subject Matter Appeal  Attractive face, with excellent colors a high degree of detail, nice font and a fairly common theme of an older guy having an appealing beer. Don't mind the fact only one third of the bottle has been poured and his mug is about full. Sometimes oddities like this also add value. For example, there is a Steg Factory tray which depicts two trains heading straight for one another on the same track. This is more highly prized than an almost identical version without the 'suicide trains'.
 Desirability  This one would attract, MI and Detroit collectors, Goebel collectors, Litho Collectors, Pre-pro collectors. Not a lot of cross collecting would be anticipated on this item. If it were a horse or a dog or a common last name, than we might be talking cross collection.
 Manufacturing  Chas. W. Shonk is one of the best producers of trays. This is a high quality, very detail Litho, which certainly adds to this tray's value.
 Reference Estimates  None I have seen. I have seen this tray sell for $500 in excellent condition, $200 or so in poor condition and I know what I paid for it. So taking all the points into consideration above, I come up with the following: Near Mint Value would be $550 to 600 with condition detracting from this particular tray. Being pre-pro and fairly scarce an add, average appeal and desirability. Addition since it is a Shonk and nice litho quality tray. My estimate would be $400 to 450 for this particular tray. If you have a better method please let me know.
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