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 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
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
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
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.
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!
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
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
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
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,
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
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.