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Collector hopes to crown long fixation

By Tian Xuefei and Zhou Huiying in Harbin | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-08 07:29

Civil servant owns more than 10,000 bottle caps, wants to hold exhibition

Collector hopes to crown long fixation

Most people wouldn't think twice about discarding an old bottle cap once it has served its purpose, but for Sun Yang these small metal curios have become an obsession.

The 32-year-old civil servant from Harbin, Heilongjiang province, has collected more than 10,000 bottle caps over the past six years, including 4,500 from domestic beer brands, 4,000 from foreign beer brands and more than 2,000 from other beverages.

His collection is considered one of the best in China, where there are thought to be around 200 active collectors, but ironically - given the number of beer bottle tops he has - Sun is teetotal.

"In fact, I am allergic to alcohol and never drink it, so before 2010, I never paid attention to beer or any other kinds of alcohol," he said.

"Then, when I was on an online shopping site, a photo of dozens of different bottle caps caught my eye. It looked quite special and beautiful."

Sun sent a message to the vendor, and was surprised to discover that the man who replied was one of China's top collectors of bottle caps.

"He told me lots about bottle caps, which sparked my interest in collecting them," Sun said.

"In order to get some caps, I bought more than 20 kinds of beer from different supermarkets - but because I never drink, I had to invite several of my friends over to come have dinner at my home.

"They were all very dizzy by the time all the beer was finished."

The bottle caps that Sun collects are known as "crown corks", made of metal with a series of indentations around the side.

"Great care is needed when choosing the caps. Some look quite similar at first, but after checking carefully, you will see that caps from different periods can have lots of differences in color, typefaces and even the inner glue cushions."

For example, Sun has collected more than 160 Harbin Beer caps from different periods.

Outside of his job, all Sun thinks about is collecting bottle caps.

He has caps from almost all the provincial regions in China and in his free time, he often drives to far-flung breweries and recycling centers to see what he can find.

Not everyone understands his obsession, however.

"In 2014, I went to a brewery in Songyuan, Jilin province," he said.

"I asked the workers there if they could get me some bottle caps from the factory and even promised to pay for them, but after waiting for two hours none of them agreed. I think some of them thought I was making fake beer."

Sun didn't give up though, and on the second day, he returned to the brewery and met with the manager.

"I showed her the photos of my collection on my mobile phone and told her my stories. She was moved by my persistence and helped me find lots of old caps from the factory," Sun said.

Since 2010, Sun has spent more than 60,000 yuan ($8,850) on his collection - either buying caps directly from sellers or buying the beer that they come with.

"As I recall, the most expensive cap I have cost 400 yuan, which made some people believe I must be crazy," he said.

"Sometimes when I visit other cities I buy a new kind of beer, keep the cap and leave the rest. People often give me weird looks.

"But there are still plenty of bottle caps that I haven't got. In the future, I will continue to find more and I hope I can hold an exhibition one day."

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