Pump clips

Pump-clip collecting sits within list of pastimes which may also include the collecting of coins, stamps, postcards, record albums, etc. Unlike the aforementioned items, however, pump clips are still viable collectibles, as the underlying technology has stayed the same. (Good ol’ beer taps!) The following are a few notes and information on the beer drinker’s hobby…

Collecting pump clips

Collecting pump clipsNaturally, no exact date for the beginning of pump clip collecting – or even the date pump clips were invented. We do know that the first mention of the term “pump clip” appears in a vendor’s catalogue entitled “Yesterday’s Shopping” in 1907. According to the Pump Clip Museum (see below), the first large-scale pump-clip collector was a bloke named Frank Bailie,


who began amassing ‘clips in 1968; this sounds more like personal reminiscence than actual fact, however.

We can assume that the phenomenon is primarily a post-World War II hobby, as this is when plastic- and paper-based pump clips made the devices well more affordable for even the smallest brewer.

The Pump Clip Museum

Birmingham is home to the Pump Clip Museum, certainly the world’s largest pump clip collection. Some 1,600 are on display, but as many as 30,000 (!!!) pump clips are housed in the Birmingham collection – enough that museum proprietor Mike Gatenby admits “I don’t count them anymore!” Gatenby, a pump clip collector of 40-plus years who takes this responsibility very seriously indeed, as he goes about the U.K. handing out awards for stuff like Outstanding Pump Clip and Most Unusual Pump Clip.

A whole lot of pump clips are on display on the Pump Clip Museum’s official website (go to the very bottom of his extremely long-running page. Near the top is seemingly Gatenby’s single all-time favourite, Salamander Brewery’s Blue Moon Stout.


Bazens Brewery pump clips

You bet you can still find Barzens’ Brewery pump clips; here’s one dealer who’s got the very nice Puritans’ Porter clip up for grabs, and lots of others.

The best pump clips ever made…

Naturally, any such list will be completely subjective and, with at least 25,000 or so pump clips in circulation for the collecting (at least according to Mr. Gatenby), hundreds of images are yours for the perusing online.

Pinterest is a particularly fertile breeding ground for collections of pump clip images; here’s a pretty decent sampling of 193 pump clips, including some commonly-seen, nearly obligatory collector’s items such as the Weltons quaff Our England; a few one-time releases such as Bateman’s England Expects brewed in advance of the 2014 World Cup; and some real rarities like Beer Geek Brewery’s Legend of the Golden Geek.

…and the worst

On the other hand, there’s certainly little debate about how *not* to design a pump clip. Back in August 2011, the Guardian published a bottom-12 list of the worst pump clips ever made and, whoa, it’s pretty tough to debate most of these. A few easy cardinal rules for creating such designs would appear to be obvious from the Guardian’s selection of uglies: Using a pun in the beer’s name immediately starts one off with a handicap; sexist themes are not appreciated; and forget anything which involves a male displaying wingwang or buttocks.

With enough freelance graphic designers virtually anywhere in Europe or the Americas, we can also confidently state that hiring a relatively with some (apparently) mad skills to draw something on the cheap is an intensely bad idea. Just consider the Derwent Brewery’s Parson’s Pledge, the Northumberland Brewery’s Drew Peacock, and the truly horrifying Hart Brewery’s Almost Adder the next time you time it’s a good idea to hire your nephew for illustration work.

Tips for pump clips

As a form of advertising, pump clips naturally attract the attention of those in marketing. In September 2012, The Journal ran a piece entitled “Using your beer pump clips wisely to attract interest,” which included some decent tips for brewers looking to design those subtle little pieces of propaganda. Anglia Ruskin University senior lecturer in marketing Tim Froggett advises that beer drinkers at the pub should be “given the information they need rather than brewers putting personally significant names on pump clips that have little meaning outside the immediate catchment area.”

Froggett also found, in querying pubgoers who had ordered beer, that few remembered the actual name of the brew (thanks to over-busy labels without iconic imagery), but could almost always remember the colour of the pump clip. As a small brewer, says Froggett, ““You’ve got no marketing budget, you’re in an industry dominated by the giants, and the one thing you’ve got is your pump clip. Use it wisely.”