Collecting Articles and Features

Make Mine a Guinness – Guinness Collectables and Guinness Collecting

Guiness BottlesThe City of Dublin is often referred to as the heart and soul of Ireland, and within the heart of the City itself is Ireland’s number one visitor attraction – The Guinness Storehouse.  Opened in November 2000, it has to date, attracted over 3 million visitors including myself on a recent trip to the emerald isle.

The huge structure is breath taking and the in-depth knowledge that I gained from just one day at the Storehouse is second to none, so I highly recommend a visit, especially if you are an avid collector of Guinness memorabilia or if not, purely to soak up the history of a brewery which began more than 250 years ago.Guiness Harp

Born in 1725, Arthur Guinness was familiar with the duties of running a brewery as he often helped the workers on this family estate brew the beer, so when on 31st December 1759 Arthur signed a 9,000 year lease at an annual rent of £45 for a disused brewery in Dublin, he was well aware of the business ahead of him. Determined to make the brewery work he began by brewing a strong black beer made from roast barley called “porter,” worldwide, today, this drink is known as “Guinness.”

The first shipment was exported to England on a sailing vessel and proved a success but by 1775 the Dublin Corporation Sheriff tried to cut off the water supply where the Brewery drew its free water. Defending his right, Arthur threatened the authorities with a pickaxe and they left well alone. Arthur died in 1803, aged 78 leaving behind a large personal fortune of £23,000 and a flourishing business, which was then taken over by his son, Arthur Guinness II.

Guiness Toucan PosterFrom 1833 Guinness has been the largest brewery in Ireland, and now in 2006, 5 million glasses of the black stuff is enjoyed in over 150 countries around the globe each day. This is largely due to the successful growth of the Brewery’s business, which from the end of the 19th Century through to the 20th Century employed between 3,500 and 4,500 people at any one time.

Throughout history the brewery had family members directly involved and the influence that the Guinness family had on Dublin is evident throughout. Benjamin Lee Guinness took over from Arthur Guinness II after his death and later became Lord Mayor of Dublin along with being elected for the Parliament of Dublin City in 1865. After Benjamin’s death in 1868, Edward Cecil Guinness took the reins and was to be the first Lord Iveagh. He was also responsible for establishing the Guinness Trust, which later became known as the Iveagh Trust and provided homes for the poor in both Dublin and London. After Benjamin’s death in 1927 Arthur Edward Guinness took over and was then followed by Rupert Edward Guinness who was the 2nd Lord Iveagh. It was under Rupert that the first official advertising campaign for Guinness was launched. The final family member to be directly involved with the running of the Brewery was Benjamin Guinness who passed away in 1992. Today, the brewery is owned by Diageo, the world’s leading premium drinks company who also boast Baileys, Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker Whisky amongst others in their drinks portfolio.

Guiness BooksWith such an impressive history it made sense to open a visitors centre that paid homage to the Guinness Dynasty. So in November 2000 The Guinness Storehouse was officially opened on the site of the original brewery. This impressive seven storey high building was the first steel framed building created in the Chicago Style in the British Isles. A H Hignett carried out the architecture and the steelwork was supplied by Sir William Arroll. Taking over 3 years to complete this £30million visitor experience has been designed so that people can take a journey through the past, present and future of the world’s most famous beer.

Aside from the fact that you can spend the day discovering the ingredients, process, craft, time and passion that goes into making each individual pint, you can also relax in the lavish Gravity Bar with your free pint, which is situated above the roof and from the outside is seen as the head of a pint of Guinness. This is the highest bar in Ireland and has 360 degrees panoramic views across Dublin – an experience not to be missed.

There is also an impressive array of advertising collectables on show in the Storehouse, covering everything from vintage bottles and mugs to the more modern Carlton Ware figurines. Amongst the display is the original Harp, which today is the registered trademark of Guinness. Made in 1702 by Cormac O’Kelly of Ballynascreen it was adopted by Guinness in 1862 and is their signature piece appearing on everything from the bottle labels to merchandise.

Guiness Polo ShirtDuring my visit I was lucky enough to meet with Claire Hackett, an archivist at the Storehouse whose job involves documenting all the Official Guinness merchandise that has been produced from 1930 onwards in Ireland (the UK and overseas marked is archived in Scotland). Although the earlier items were more point of sale pieces such as showcards, the range did expand and by the 1950s items were made to target wholesalers and licensed trade. It wasn’t until the 1980s when Guinness started to produce merchandise for customers as well.  Claire explained to me that the Storehouse is used as a vehicle to show the home of Guinness and has many of the earlier collectables available on show. She also told me that the archive system is readily available to the public, so if you come across a piece of Guinness memorabilia and are not sure where it dates to, the archivists can help you find it, date it and recommend organisations such as the Guinness Collectors Club for valuations. “It is normally figurines, key rings and cufflinks that turn up and are very popular but the most unusual item I have ever come across is a hair brush that is shaped like a bottle of Guinness, which is dated to the 1970s.”

Guinness memorabilia was originally launched in conjunction with the advertising campaign in 1930. John Gilroy, an artist in his own right worked on the Guinness account from 1929 until the 1960s and designed advertisements for national newspapers, posters and television adverts. Many of you will instantly recognise these iconic images that feature a distraught zookeeper and his mischievous animal characters. The slogan “Guinness is Good for you” was first published in the British press and this was soon followed with other natty sayings such as “Thank Goodness for Guinness” and “Guinness for Strength.”

“My Goodness, My Gilroy” is a fascinating exhibition paying homage to the work of John Gilroy and is on permanent display in the Storehouse. You can wander around looking at original artwork or sit down and giggle at the vintage television adverts featuring the Ostrich, Pelican, Sea lion and of course the famous Guinness Toucan – “Toukie.”

One of the most memorable pieces of advertising for Guinness was the “Festival Clock.” Created in 1951 in celebration with the Festival of Britain it was placed in the Battersea Pleasure Gardens. Made by Lewitt and Him and constructed by Baume and Company Limited. This huge crazy piece stood 25 feet high and every 15 minutes it would perform a frenzied four and a half minute routine, where all the Guinness character animals performed to fairground music. After their award winning performance each charact er would then retire back into the clock in reverse order. This clock became so popular that Guinness created 8 more full size travelling clocks and a five-foot miniature version, which toured the British beach resorts. Two were sent to the USA and one remained in Ireland. Claire told me that she is unsure what happened to the clocks but does know that one was smashed to pieces as there was nowhere to store it, however, the miniature is still in Guinness’s possession and is currently being restored back to its former glory in the hope that it can be placed on display in the Guinness Storehouse.

There has been such an abundance of Guinness memorabilia that it is near impossible to talk about everything. Any serious Guinness collector knows that the rarer items like the 1957 Guinness Toucan Lampshade by Wiltshaw and Robinson can command a premium, as can genuine Ceramic Flying Toucans from the same year, but there are also many more affordable items out there if you are thinking of starting a collection. The Guinness Storehouse shop is the perfect place to start looking, this flagship store is jam packed with goodies from replica Gilroy posters and magnets, to clothing and mugs, and it even has a mail order website if you cannot get to Dublin. I actually spent a fortune when I was there, as there is just so much on offer and was told that it is the clothing range that has taken off with 60% of sales in textiles and 40% being the hard line collectables. I must admit the first thing I did was bag a rather trendy Guinness Toucan ladies summer vest top.

If you can’t make you way to Guinness Storehouse in the foreseeable future – although I think you should make the effort – then there are many official licensed Guinness products on the market. Millennium Collectables Limited are constantly releasing Limited Edition Guinness figurines, but be quick and get on the mailing list as these items sell out instantly. Another licensed manufacturer of Guinness Collectables is “Enesco” who has held the license since 2002. They have just introduced two Rugby ball items to their collection for 2006, the first being a clock for £18.99 and the second a money box retailing at £13.99. There is also a range of lidded boxes available which include the Heritage Toucan for £12.99 and Heritage Gaelic for £9.99.

Whatever your passion, be it the incredible history of a brewery, the mass of collectables on offer in the store or simply an insight into how a pint is produced, you really must make a trip to the Guinness Storehouse. I guarantee you that once you have explored the seven floors and finally reached destination, Gravity Bar, the only words that can describe the experience as you sip your free pint and settle down to enjoy the views of Dublin, are “Thank Goodness, For Guinness.”


Guinness Storehouse
St. James’s Gate
Dublin 8
Telephone : 353-1-408 4800
Fax : 353-1-408 4965

For the flagship store visit





  • Guinness reputedly aided the recovery of a cavalry officer wounded at the Battle of Waterloo.
  • The Harp became a registered trademark in 1876.
  • Draught Guinness was first introduced in 1959.
  • The UK is the largest market for Guinness consumption, with Ireland 2nd, Nigeria 3rd and the USA rating 4th.
  • The prohibition from 1919 to 1930s hit Guinness sales hard.
  • In 1936 a brewery was opened in London but this was closed last year and now all Guinness is brewed in Dublin – so no more saying “it’s not as good a pint as you get in Ireland because all comes from the same source.”
  • Everyone believes that the water used to brew the black stuff comes from the River Lif fey, this is not true the water is taken from the Wicklow Mountains, South of Dublin.


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