According to Wikipedia, the Union Bar is home to the largest collection of pewter tankards in Europe, while there are indeed over 700 in the collection we've never been able to verify this particular claim! Some date back to the early 20th century and a few more are added each year.
Every tankard represents a volunteer position within the Union - whether that is the President or Captain of a Club or Society, an Academic Representative, or a role within one of the Constituent Unions. Each summer the name of the student to hold the role in the academic year which has just finished is engraved on the tankard.
Each tankard may only be used by the people whose names are engraved upon it and the student currently holding the position. A tradition exists within the Union Bar whereby the person with their name engraved earliest on the tankard gets priority over someone whose name is engraved more recently. If the tankard is being used by someone whose name is engraved more recently it is considered polite for them to finish their drink and buy a drink for the person whose name is engraved further in the past.
Christopher Kaye - Deputy President (Finance & Services) 2015/16 is quoted as saying:
"We are proud of our collection of pewter tankards which form a rich part of the history of Imperial College. If you've held a role that is featured on a tankard, then you will be able to bask in your past glories both now and in the future when visiting the Union."
If you would like any more information, please see the Tankards Policy by clicking here.
Each year we will engrave the latest incumbent onto the tankards during the summer period. We take the information from eActivities, each tankard is associated with a position listed on eActivities and that automatically generates a report.
All clubs will be informed when the engraving is taking place and should highlight any potential issues that could appear.