Inside the world of collecting monster energy

When David Verle tells me that he works the night shift at a dairy near Ghent, Belgium, I immediately assume that is how he fell into his hobby. But no, 46-year-old Verlé doesn’t drink the über-caffeinated Monster Energy to stay awake. In fact, he doesn’t drink it at all – he just collects it.

Verlé had never heard of the unique American energy drink — created in 2002, currently the second best-selling energy drink in the world after Red Bull — until last April, when he visited a friend’s house and saw his teenage son enjoying them. Verlé was immediately drawn to the Totally X-treme design and owned Monster Energy font. The next time he was at the grocery store, he bought eight or nine different cans. And that was just the beginning.

Remarkably, Verlé is not alone in his obsession with collecting cans full of taurine that he prefers. Twitch gamers and nu-metal aficionados, and peddled past Tiger Woods. He belongs to the niche world of rare hypebeasts who not only collect Monster, but Red Bull, Mountain dew, obscure Japanese soft drinks even Four Loko with the same fervor as the most hardcore bourbon aficionados.

However, what sets Monster Energy collectors apart from their bourbon counterparts is the scale at which the energy drink is produced. With so many products rolling out so frequently in so many countries, it’s not only a pointless task to collect them all, it’s almost impossible to keep track of every release.

Isn’t there a public master database of Monster inventory? “That question is very popular. A lot of people ask me that,” says Verlé. The answer is no.

Collectors learn about what’s out there by searching the Instagram feeds of fellow collectors like @monsterenergy.collector@monster energy collector jerk and @monster_collection, among thousands of others by Verlé’s estimate. “Only older collectors still use Facebook,” says Verlé. He buys, sells and trades with this network of friends all over the world: in Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Japan and even Russia. (He notes that these days packages from the latter are often held in customs for two to three months at a time.)

New promo releases stay on shelves for about a month in each country and they should be snapped up immediately; discontinued releases are much harder to find. For Verlé, part of the appeal of collecting lies in collecting the same releases from different countries and noticing the subtle differences in can size, letters or health labels. Take, for example, the Mexican edition of crazy mangothat warns of “excess calories”/”excess sugars” (“excess calories”/”excess sugar”), or his rendering of the Ultra Rosa release with versions from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Even the color of the liquid can vary from country to country, depending on which ingredients are and are not allowed in each region. With such minimal gradations, “it’s sometimes hard to decipher your own collection,” says Verlé.

Unlike most liquid-based collectibles, it is perfectly acceptable, if not expected, to drain your Monster cans, otherwise they will degrade or explode over the years and then become worthless. This is done by adding two small holes at the bottom to keep the pull tab intact; it does not lower the value. Verlé rarely tastes the contents when he empties his cans, as he actually doesn’t like the taste, citing “too much sugar” as the main culprit.

Verlé gives priority to acquisition full sets of specific cans and interesting promotional variants, such as a series that pays tribute to the Formula 1 superstar Lewis Hamilton or “Canadian Gronk”; he may not have the most Monster Energy in the world, but he has one of the most “diversified” collections, he tells me. In fact, he has no relation to those collectors who chase every SKU ever made and then are forced to hide their prices.

“I would never want to do that; I like looking at it, I like posting pictures of it,” he says.

Last summer he even took a two-week road trip through Switzerland, France and Italy – ‘on vacation with [my] cans,” he jokes — to show them in front of special backdrops, including the top of Mount Pilate or the Royal Palace of Turin. He tells me that fellow collectors thought he was crazy for taking such a precious load on the road, because some of those cans are worth 200 euros each.

If you’re curious about what the Monster Energy equivalent of eg Red Hook Ryeit would definitely be the 2015 Canadian release Java Monster Salted Caramel. (“Not a very nice can,” Verlé admits.) It costs around 300 to 400 euros these days and has been rising rapidly in value lately. Another white whale known as “Old Camo” is a camouflage-colored Monster Assault can released around 2007-2008. It currently has a similar value, although like bourbon it is booming.

“Prices have risen in the past two years,” says Verlé. “It’s a bad time for new collectors because everything is so expensive. Many quit the hobby.” Just like in the bourbon world, Monster collectors are now in the game to flip purchases for quick cash. They don’t have the passion for the claw-shredded cans as Verlé does.

He dreams of one day making the pilgrimage to the headquarters of the Monster Beverage Corporation in Corona, California, 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles. There are no tours or tasting rooms, but they do offer free water bottles with a Monster Group label. Once acquired, Verlé would display the bottle in an attic he and his wife use it as a second living room. The final destination for his collection is a 12 by 12 meter outbuilding that he is converting into a man cave, complete with a snooker table and a large screen.

Verlé’s wife, like many outside the collector’s community, does not fully understand his collection, and is hesitant about the cost of acquiring some of his cans.

“The people who don’t collect it think it’s crazy,” he says. “If I die, whoever inherits my collection will probably just throw it away.”

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