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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!
JUMP to the Diamond with a bottle design information
JUMP to the Harlequin design information
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 seperates 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.
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 its 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 thay 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!
Click image for a higher resolution picture
The third and final change, which made its 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 ealier 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 its 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 debute, 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 its Portland, OR plant. This is an extremely tough find and is considered a very rare can!
The first larger 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.
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