Tegestology, or beer mat collecting in Poland

23 Oct

One of my memories of the Czech Republic was how many different kinds of beeer there were. Almost every town had a brewery, and the Czechs themselves were avid beer mat collectors, especially if they could be swiped off the pub tables.  In Poland, collecting beer mats is marginally more popular than collecting beer bottle tops, but it is gaining ground, as  Kamil will testify. He  is an unashamed beer mat anorak. He has a large collection of about 100 different beer mats, nothing, according to him, compared to the 200,000 he has heard that one or two own. Kamil has  attended  many a beer mat expo, or tegestologist’s convention, in Poland. There was one in Poznan he went to recently, and these are not the slick professional affairs the nomer might suggest. They are informal occasions, deals being made over pints of beer in rooms in pubs, and even bidding for some of the rare ones done in the spirit less of a posh auction, and more in  the style of  ‘I’ve got a Kutna Hora up for grabs. Excellent nick. Sold to the gentleman with the large anorak, huddled over a pint of Zywiec in the corner.’

    Kamil was very excited by his visit to Poznan: ‘ I bought 100 different types of beer mat for only 10 zlotych, [about 2 pounds] ‘ he said. Apparently, tegestologists welcome people from all walks of life, from doctors to taxi drivers, from plumbers to TV execs.  His fellow beer-mat collectors, a number of whom are his friends, after they’ve made their exchanges or bought new ones, do what the rest of us do,  and order a drink to celebrate and to make boasts and jokes.

    They then play  a game, not, alas the one where you pile beer mats all on top of each other, flick them into the air and try to catch them with one hand – too risky for the beer mats, and too easy to knock an unsupecting beer glass over. But the game seems equally pointless. You try to flick a coin so that it bounces once on the table and then drops in to a cup specially placed in the middle of the table, a sort of coin-in-the-cup-tennis meets-table basketball. Of course, if you miss, you have to have a swig of beer.  If you score, you can nominate the next person to have a go.

  All these high spirits make the whole art of tegestology much more fun than collecting them over the internet, which is a method a lot of people prefer.  The beer mat is in decline in Europe at least, as the main European factory for making them has gone out of business, which will probably eventually make them quite valuable. If you want to feast your eyes on British beer mats, the uber tegestologist, alas now with God, Mr. Calvert, had (and still has) a gallery of his collection on the internet at



2 Responses to “Tegestology, or beer mat collecting in Poland”

  1. Bob Cowan May 14, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Hi, I met a couple of chaps in a pub some time ago who said mats swapped for a beer in Poland, sounded too good too be true – I have about 6/700 to dispose of.

    • makrotantalo May 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

      I didn’t know that. A lot happens in Poland that I don’t know about.

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