BEAUTY may be in the eye of the “beer-holder,” but the rare design feature of a three-bedroom home at Charlestown offers plenty of wow factor and a whole lot of history.
The walls, and even the rafters, of the lower level of the house are lined with thousands of colourful beer cans, collected from all over the world and across Australia, since the 1960s.
The collection was the handiwork of the late Kent Murrells, a former printer at the Newcastle Herald, who began collecting beer cans in the early ’60s while living in a little flat in Washington.
“He’d drink a beer, and put it on top of the TV, and that’s where it all started,” his son, Kent Murrells Junior, said.
“When he was living in the US, every state he’d go to he’d pick up a number plate and beer can from that state.
“We had a whole stack of number plates too, which are not with us anymore.
“He was always an avid collector. We found a book of stamps too.
“But beer cans were more his thing.”
Kent Murrells Senior died in April, after a battle with motor neurone disease.
His sons, now based in Canberra and Sydney, have been back at the family home for the past few weeks, preparing it for sale.
“There are a lot of old cans here, although some of the best ones have been picked out by one of the collectors to be preserved and sent away,” Mr Murrells Junior said.
The National Museum in Canberra had shown an interest in preserving a small part of the collection, with some of the more iconic Australian cans.
“But if not, we’re going to put it on the market and sell it as part of the ‘ultimate man cave,’” he said.
“We were a little dubious at first, but the real estate agent suggested it, and we’ve come around to the idea.
“We can see someone coming in here, having a few people over and watching the State of Origin on a plasma screen on the wall.
“There’s a lot of Australian history in these cans – a lot of commemorative cans. It’s a bit of a time capsule.
“If they can be preserved, fantastic. If not, so be it.”
Scott Murrells said they had a lot of good memories from the house, and from the “Kent can room” in particular.
Their cousin, now 60, had recently visited, recalling she had celebrated her 21st birthday in that room.
“We had loads of parties down here,” he said.
“Grand finals parties, 21sts. We used to come back from town on the bus with our mates and we’d all crash down here on mattresses until the morning.”
Occasionally, a can or two would get knocked over and crushed.
The family said there was about 10,000 cans in the collection at final count, although not all of them had been on display.
About 7000 had been stored in another room.
“He drank some of them, but he didn’t drink them all,” Mr Murrells Junior laughed.
“Everybody in the can collecting club would trade with people around the world.
“You’d drink your Australian beers, and then send them to a guy in Canada or France or the US, and they’d send you back a box of their beer. And that’s how it grew.
“He made some good friends all over the world.
“When he retired from the Herald, he went and visited them. He had a fantastic life.”
There are also a lot of Coca Cola cans in the collection, including a Ghostbusters-themed can, and a Coke Christmas series.
One could walk around the room, studying the cans, and admiring the colours and the details, for hours.
“It’s a work of art, it’s a curiosity. It’s got a wow factor,” Mr Murrells Junior said.
“A lot of people come in and say, ‘I remember these old XXXX steel tins. I used to drink these back in the day.’
“Back in its hey day, in the ’80s, this was one of the premier collections in NSW, and one of the better ones in Australia.”
Mr Murrells said some of the remaining cans were worth between $10 and $50, but they were only really of value to collectors.
“During the Newcastle earthquake in ’89, Dad was down here writing some correspondence,” he said.
“When the earthquake hit, the whole house shook in an east-west direction. So loads and loads of the cans from the two end walls shook and all the cans came tumbling down.
“But the other two walls were fine. The cans on them pretty much stayed still.”
The Charlestown house, including the collection, will be put on the market through Darren Penn, of Ray White, within weeks.