Clicquot Club
Clicquot Club, with offices in Millis, Massachusetts, has the honor of being the first to put soda in cans. In 1938, ginger ale was filled in 100,000 cases of Continental's low profile cone top cans, and distributed in the Northeast U.S.

There are two known varieties of the first soda can. The filled can has a blue background. An identical can with a green background also exists, which is suspected to be a can company sample can.

Leakage, flavor absorption problems, and difficulty in handling and stacking spelled failure for the first canned soda. Better can liners convinced the company to try cans again about 1950, when Cammarano Brothers in Tacoma, Washington tried ginger ale and a lemon drink called "Up" in a 32 ounce cone top can. The same drinks were also canned in 12 ounce cone tops with "canners name and address on crown".

The last Clicquot Club was put in cone top cans about 1954 when the familiar Eskimo logo was replaced with clowns grouped around the brand name. Original Author Tom Bates


Coke Cans

COKE CAN HISTORY

Although the idea for canning Coca Cola began in the 1930's, culminating with the creation of a 16oz and a 32 oz cone top can in 1936, no real progress was made until the 1950's. Neither of these cone tops appear to have actually gone into production, but were used as samples.


The only known Coke 32 ounce cone top!

The first actual production can for Coke was a test market can which was produced out of the Hayward, CA plant for export to American Troups overseas in late 1955. A second can from the New Bedford Mass plant for export to the American troops in the far east was produced in early 1956. The Hayward can is quite a bit more difficult to locate however. There is one tell tale identifier on this can which separates it from the rest. On the side of the can above the seam, the sentence "Prepared for export only" exists. This is an extremely tough can to find and even tougher to find in very good shape. The other somewhat unique feature is in the lids that were used. The original experimental lids did not have any production information, but rather had very plain & somewhat familiar Coke logo's.


NEW BEDFORD, MA. TEST CAN FROM 1955

The primary reason for the test market being the military in the far east, was due to the question the Coke executives had about the taste of Coke in cans. It must have worked out well enough because later that year and in early 1956 a second test market can was attempted. The only difference that can had from the first was the removal of the "Prepared for export only" indicator above the seam. The common ground indicator that both of the two test market cans had that none of the later cans showed was the "REG. U.S. Pat. Off." line below the Coca-Cola in the large diamond. The first regular production Diamond can and all of the later Diamond with the bottle cans would have "TRADE MARK R" in it's place. Both of the early test market cans extremely tough cans in good condition.

That test did not last for two long a time before the executives decided they weren't quite ready for the change to cans.

The success that other canners were having did force Coke to wake up and smell the syrup, so to speak, and they did introduce the first regular production can in 1960 to enter the national market. That final large diamond can is also a very desirable can today and can be pretty challenging to locate in high grade.

1961 brought about the first real generation change in cans for Coke. They introduced the first bottle design within the diamond for the first time. The can pictured was loaned from the collection of Fred Dobbs. It is similar to the second design, which appeared in 1963, but without the large 12 OZ labels above left and below right of the diamond. The other important detail of the bottle design is that all three can be found in the earlier punch top which required a church key to open as well as with an early design of the pull tab.


Second generation diamond bottle can - probably the most commonly seen!

 

The third and final change, which made it's first appearance in 1965, for the bottle design was again to remove the large 12 OZ indicators above and below the diamond and to replace them with a single, smaller line stating "Contents 12 FL OZS" which can be found at the base of the diamond.

Although the bottle design cans are much more common than the earlier plain diamond cans, they are nonetheless, still very desirable.

1966 saw another generation change as Coke moved to the Harlequin design that is sometimes indicated as the small diamond can. The first version is available as a flat and a pull top, with the flat top being a much tougher find. The distinction between the first and second version of this can is made by the placement of the "Contents 12 FL OZS". The first version has it at the top, while the second, available only as a pull tab for the first time, shows it at the bottom.

The final version of this can made it's appearance in 1967. It was Coke's first effort at using an all aluminum design. This can is easily distinguished from it's predecessor due to the indented ridge at the top lid and the curved aluminum shape at the base with no true bottom lid. In addition, the All Aluminum statement is made on the bottom of the can. A second and more common all aluminum can quickly made it's debut, but this time the all aluminum statement was on the side of the can.

The harlequin designs remained in use until the next generation change which took place in 1970 as coke moved to it's spiral design which we are still familiar with today. Take a look at the first spiral design can, a very difficult to find two panel dull red flap top - notice that the one content line lists "Carmel Colored" as the only item. This can was also available in metallic paint. The second spiral design, released in 1971 had a shorter "Coke" on the side panel, yet still only listed one content line. It is also available in dull red or metallic paint.

An interesting aside for the Coke collector that must have every can, in 1966, Coke test marketed a 16 oz version of the harlequin design from it's Portland, OR plant. This is an extremely tough find and is considered a very rare can!

The first large scale production 16 oz can came out in 1971 and was a dull version of the first spiral design from above with one content line. It is pretty tough to find!

Another tough find is the only domestic 10 ounce can, from Gretna, LA in 1976. It's a very rare can that could easily be mistaken for a Canadian can.

Although, the cans pictured are not for sale, I periodically do have some traders that I will use to add missing cans to my collection. I am most interested in early flat top and cone top soda cans in high grade.

This article was reproduced with the permission of the original author. All rights reserved. No images or information may be reproduced without the written consent of the Dave Tanner, author. Please contact him with questions.

Zip Codes
From the United States Postal Service - The Zip Code began on July 1, 1963. It took a while for everyone to catch on, but that date marks a significant event in our hobby!

Bar Codes
The Bar Code actually began to be used on June 26, 1974 on a pack of chewing gum - the rest is history. Click here to read more...

Seldom Seen Part of the Can
The following article appeared in the December 2001 / January 2002 issue of the Can-O-Gram



Calcium & Sodium Cyclamate Cans
The following article appeared in the April 2002 / May 2002 issue of the Can-O-Gram

How 3 Piece Soda Cans are Made
The following article appeared in the August 2002 / September 2002 issue of the Can-O-Gram


Nostalgiaville
In Memoriam
We are sorry to hear about the passing of Paul Bates, an avid and long time collector. He will be missed and the hobby has lost a great promoter and enthusiast. Blair Matthews, editor of Soda Spectrum, wrote a wonderful article about Paul's Beverage Museum for his magazine and has graciously allowed us to reprint the article with pictures of the museum. Thank you Blair.

A STEP BACK IN TIME AT NOSTALGIAVILLE...
'Museum of Beverage Containers' Now Closed, Collection Up For Sale
By Blair Matthews

I'm standing in a room full of soda history that will soon be gone; momentarily as the lights are flicked on for my visit, my brain can't process what my eyes are seeing. I drop my camera bag in the place where I stand, still in disbelief that I'm actually in Tennessee - at a place where, up until a few days before, I hadn't even considered visiting. But here I am, alone. If these walls could talk, they'd speak of the trial and tribulations of the 'mom & pop' soda industry from years gone by; of cola wars ignited, fought, won and lost.

For many of the brands housed here, these containers are all that is left from a once-rich and hopeful future. Thousands of old soda cans, bottles, signs, and memorabilia line these walls in a four-floor tower on a quaint farm property in Springfield, TN.

But not for much longer.

On the main floor of the rustic tower are custom-built metal shelves that snake around the room and hold a rainbow of colored soda cans. Of course Coca-Cola and Pepsi cans are a healthy chunk of this room, highlighting cans from around the world in a variety of languages. Cans from the Olympics, sporting events and special offer cans are the first things that catch my eye. My camera catches everything else from this point forward.

Every brand you could ever imagine is housed here... somewhere. Little known store brands, to national brands like Dr Pepper, Mountain Dew, 7UP, Coke and Pepsi - and all their spin-offs and various product extensions. From floor to floor the collection includes old cone-top soda cans, ACL bottles, neon signs, clocks, syrup buckets, and a library of print material. Most certainly the largest private collection of beverage containers known to exist, this is a 'labor of love' story whose ending will hopefully escape the recycling bin. Tom Bates, and his father Paul, have seen this collecting journey through from start to finish. And as most collections go, it started out in the most innocent of ways. "Basically I started picking up soda bottles when I was a kid. Back then you'd get on your bicycle and ride around the neighborhood. If you found some soda bottles, you'd take them to the store and redeem them for a nickel a piece," Tom says. "I'd go to pull-offs and places where people were just throwing trash out. I'd end up finding some kind of neat soda and beer cans too." At the age of 12, Tom started hanging onto some of the beer cans and stacked them in his bedroom. His parents dismissed it as a passing phase; give it a few months, and he'll throw them all away, his parents figured.

Not only were they wrong about it being just a phase, but it wasn't long before Tom's dad got in on the action too. Together, Tom focused on collecting beer cans and Paul developed a love of soda cans and bottles. "Of course, I thought I was the only person in the world who collected cans. I probably had 300, and I thought I had the biggest collection in the world," Tom says of his initial beer can collection. The Bates collectors attended beer and nostalgia shows and sales and began to network with other collectors long before the Internet was ever discovered. They started going 'dumping', searching for buried can and bottle treasures. Basically, Tom says, they'd go out to old dumps or places where an old bar once stood and dig up the ground that had sat undisturbed for years. "We found quite a few dumps over the years and pulled a lot of good cans out of the ground - beer and soda. Once we started doing this, our collection just grew something great." "The older cone-top cans and flat-tops, when you dig those out of the ground, that's just like finding treasure. If the circumstances are right, if you've got a big dump with a lot of layers on top, stuff on the bottom is protected. Sometimes you'll have it where people have thrown construction material over the cans, over the years that has protected them. In a few dumps I found where people had thrown out beer and soda cans inside food cans. I guess it saved space in their trash - they'd cut the tops off the food cans and the old soda cans would fit right inside. I remember getting in a dump where they had done that to all of these cans and they were just in pristine condition when we found them." And their dump digging wasn't limited to the Tennessee area - for several years they took trips in the summer to Colorado, Michigan, northern California, and even Alaska. That's probably the last place you would expect to hear about people digging for buried relics, but Tom says it's ideal. "Up in Alaska it's kind of odd... because things are frozen at least half the year, things don't rust as bad up there. Therefore you can go up there and find stuff in pretty good condition." For the most part, when searching dumps, most of the pieces found were regional brands, but when digging near a pull-off at the side of a busy road, Tom says you could potentially find any brand since travelers often threw their garbage out the car window.

Graduating to a bigger display space (twice) After initially just keeping the cans they were digging up, they also started hanging onto the painted-label soda bottles they were finding. And with the collection overflowing at their house, in the late 1970s they bought an old house trailer, moved it into the backyard, and made it into a collection room. Later on they doubled its size and it housed both beer and soda cans.

In the 1980s, they built the first 'Museum of Beverage Containers' in Millersville, TN where the complete collection was on display in more of a warehouse-type setting for public viewing. As the collecting continued, Tom says they bought a number of private collections along the way that helped their own collection to grow." Of course, when you'd buy collections, you'd want to get your money out of it, and then make some money too. Sometimes we'd buy collections and we knew we couldn't keep some of the better pieces - we had to go ahead and sell them off to make our money back. We kept what we wanted. If we got into a good collection of soda cone-top (cans) we might be able to put four or five into the collection and sell the rest of them off. If you do that enough times you'll eventually get more and more stuff," he says. Remarkably, the complete collection has always been arranged in alphabetical order by brand name.

Along the way Tom says one of the biggest challenges they faced was how to best use the space they had to display such a large collection. Out of necessity, they developed and built metal shelves that were just wide enough to hold a can or bottle; each shelf also had a lip so that the containers couldn't fall off or get easily removed. "We also used to sell those shelves to collectors as well. We were able to sell quite a few and make a few dollars at the same time." In the late 1990s, the Bates developed gono.com (as in 'go to Nostalgiaville') as a way to help promote their collecting activities, connect with fellow collectors, and to share the knowledge they had acquired over the years.

The Farm at Nostalgiaville
In September 1998, Paul, along with his companion, Cheri, bought a 40-acre farm in Springfield, Tennessee. What started out as a dream became reality for the couple as they rebuilt, renovated, and transformed this farm property into a tranquil bit of paradise with stretching creeks and waterfalls. Over the years, Cheri planted some 18,000 spring and summer bulbs and tended to countless flowerbeds and gardens throughout the property.

It's not hard to see why Paul decided to move the soda collection to the Farm. In the summer months the property was rented out for weddings, corporate retreats, and open to others to enjoy by appointment. Walking around the property towards the 'tower' part of the fully restored barn structure (which, as it turns out, is anything BUT a barn), there are flowers everywhere you look and it's hard not to get caught up in all the peacefulness in the surroundings. Sadly, the Museum of Beverage Containers remained open to the public until 2008. Most of the activities at the Farm have been put on hold, and they're no longer accepting bookings for weddings. Unfortunately, Paul, who was the driving force behind the soda collection, has been dealing with failing health. Earlier this year he had open-heart surgery. Selling the massive collection, as a whole, is not something that was decided upon lightly. "This is something that dad wanted me to do. He's not doing as well as he used to be. At this point in time he's just not into it."

Ultimately, the hope is that someone will come forward with an offer to buy the complete collection and put it on display once again for the public to enjoy. As it stands right now, the asking price is $75,000. While there have been no serious offers for the entire lot, Tom says he's had a number of calls from collectors that are interested in buying specific pieces. Since there's no real urgency to selling, for the time being, they aren't entertaining offers to sell it off in pieces. Attention turns to Ad Art Gallery website
Tom says the love of collecting kept he and his dad passionate about the beverage hobby for so many years. In fact, Tom is still very much into beer can collecting. "To me, I enjoy collecting things," he says. "Over the years, you get to know the stuff like the back of your hand. I can tell you what breweries were in business for how long, what cans and bottles they produced." Even with the soda collection up for sale, Tom says activities are still going strong with their "Ad Art Gallery" website on gono.com, a collection of 64,000+ print ads from the past, catalogued and still growing. And as for me, well, being allowed to wander through this massive collection is a surreal experience. The view from the top floor of the tower, with rows of glass bottles gleaming in the hot Tennessee summer sun, is spectacular. I can't imagine a better way to have spent an afternoon than being here.

This article originally appeared in the print edition of the Soda Spectrum magazine, the publication for soda collectors everywhere, and is reprinted by permission. For more information about their magazine, please visit their website at: www.sodaspectrum.com.