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Why Coke Cost A Nickel For 70 Years
November 15, 2012 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Why Coke Cost A Nickel For 70 Years
posted by spiderskull (44 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I heard this on NPR this morning. Very interesting.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:58 PM on November 15, 2012


Wow, that really is interesting. Thanks for posting this.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 6:59 PM on November 15, 2012


The most amazing part was where Coca-Cola asked Eisenhower to create a 7.5 cent coin! That's kind of nuts, why didn't they just make a vending machine that could take pennies on top of a nickel?
posted by mathowie at 6:59 PM on November 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Prices haven't changed as much as you think. A 44-ounce Coke is still 99 cents at the convenience store by my house, and the 5-cent Cokes were all 8 ounces or less, so I would bet if you account for inflation a Coke is actually cheaper (per ounce) now.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:07 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was amazed by the same thing as Matt. Imagine if the US currency had been fundamentally changed in the interest of a single corporation...
posted by jeudi at 7:19 PM on November 15, 2012


In a glass bottle for 99 cents?
posted by Brocktoon at 7:19 PM on November 15, 2012


a 7.5 cent coin

I await the Euler's number coin and the pi bill. Tremble, accountants.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:22 PM on November 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


You're gonna have to answer to the Coca Cola Company!
posted by dhartung at 7:29 PM on November 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


"I would bet if you account for inflation a Coke is actually cheaper (per ounce) now."

I just listened to the Planet Money episode this morning, Spoiler: at the end of the episode, someone points out that if you buy a 2 liter bottle on sale, 8oz is still $.05.
posted by straw at 7:56 PM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


mathowie writes "That's kind of nuts, why didn't they just make a vending machine that could take pennies on top of a nickel?"

A mechanical coin op that'll reject slugs and other tampering (eg: people pouring sugar water in the slot and other vandalism) is pretty complex; it's got more moving parts than a mechanical watch and they have to work with almost as much precision. Making one that will accept and integrate the value of two different coins is much more difficult. And a mechanical coin op costs more than the vending machine it's attached to; replacing the installed base is very capital intensive.
posted by Mitheral at 7:57 PM on November 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I was amazed by the same thing as Matt. Imagine if the US currency had been fundamentally changed in the interest of a single corporation...

Shit, move to the right country and you can experience your whole political system being fundamentally changed in the interest of a single corporation.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:11 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


A 44 ounce bottle is 1.4 litres (had to look it up): that is a lot of Coke for 99 cents. Around here (Canadia) you may find a 355ml/12 ounce can for a dollar, but it's usually more - at the gas station the bigger 16 ounce plastic bottles are nudging two bucks with tax (and it never tastes so good out of those things, too warm or something).
I do have fond memories, circa 1982, of when an 8 ounce glass bottle cost 35 cents, plus a 5 cent deposit. With provincial sales tax this meant scrounging 42 cents. You'd drink the Coke on the sidewalk outside the variety store and then buy a sour soother with the 5 cents from the bottle.
posted by Flashman at 8:12 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great story, but actually the BEST part is the Ron Paul acolyte in the comments who is all "This is wrong. Your monetary system is fundamentally flawed".
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:45 PM on November 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


Flashman, 44 ounces for 99 cents is a Coke from the fountain, not in a bottle. Think Super Big Gulp from a 7-11, but from a dirty fountain in a greasy gas station.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:58 PM on November 15, 2012


Shit, move to the right country and you can experience your whole political system being fundamentally changed in the interest of a single corporation.

move?
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 9:11 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fascinating find. This is why I come here. Thanks spiderskull.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:38 PM on November 15, 2012


I remember reading an anecdote in the 80s (shamefully, it was probably in one of my grandmother's Readers Digests) about a classic glass bottle Coke vending machine situated on an army base when Coca-Cola was finally raising the nickel price.

Rather than retool the coin acceptors, the company raised the effective price to six cents per bottle by stocking them with every sixth bottle empty. There was never a line at this vending machine after that, but it was watched closely. Whenever someone walked up and put in a nickel to receive their empty glass bottle, they would turn around to see a lineup of exactly five soldiers had formed behind them.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:47 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Long story short: lawyers and restraints on trade combined with price-fixing.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:53 PM on November 15, 2012


When I was a kid I used to occasionally go to church at a place that still had a nickel coke machine. With bottles. Reach in and pull. This was in a less developed area of the US, about 25 years ago.
posted by wuwei at 10:02 PM on November 15, 2012


wuwei: When I was a kid I used to occasionally go to church at a place that still had a nickel coke machine. With bottles. Reach in and pull. This was in a less developed area of the US, about 25 years ago.

They had one of those at the roller rink I used to go to, back in the early 80's, in the West Village in New York (hardly the middle of nowhere!) It was still a nickel a bottle. I loved that place!
posted by otherthings_ at 10:15 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I might still be enjoying Coke if they'd had the good sense to stick to 8oz bottles. But I was drinking 1 litre bottles when I was 18, and then my stomach said "nope", and now I only ever get just a taste.
posted by Goofyy at 10:54 PM on November 15, 2012


I might still be enjoying Coke if they'd had the good sense to stick to 8oz bottles. But I was drinking 1 litre bottles when I was 18, and then my stomach said "nope", and now I only ever get just a taste.

I have a hard time even finishing a can of soda. I've never been one to drink it much, always preferred water and juice, but sometimes I just want one, you know?

Some sodas come in smaller sizes, but the cost per ounce is usually almost double what it is in the normal cans. So I end up just buying larger ones and never finishing them!

I wish you could get a cheap, small, good tasting soda without overpaying.

The only cokes I ever liked were the ones from Mexico in the glass bottles. You can get them at the Walmarts here in Texas.
posted by Malice at 11:18 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid in 1970s Seattle, the nearby Stop 'n' Go store sold 10 ounce glass bottles (nonreturnable) for $0.21/each. 10 oz is a good size, and I'd love it if that was the default small size again, but it would be nice if 8 oz bottles were affordable, too, instead of having a premium price.
posted by litlnemo at 12:18 AM on November 16, 2012


The vending machine at my office dispenses a cold can of Coke for a single quarter, but I'm pretty sure that's because my employer is subsidizing the cost.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:56 AM on November 16, 2012


The vending machine at my office dispenses a cold can of Coke for a single quarter, but I'm pretty sure that's because my employer is subsidizing the cost.

Off-brand sodas at the local HEB grocery store and sometimes Walmart go for a quarter, too. Fifty cents at most. Quarter at the vending machine, fifty cents at the gas pump.

And let me tell you, HEB root beer is better than name brand.

And caffeine free!
posted by Malice at 2:27 AM on November 16, 2012


The vending machine at my office dispenses a cold can of Coke for a single quarter, but I'm pretty sure that's because my employer is subsidizing the cost.

Coke by the case is about $8 / 24 cans. That's 33 cents a can. If they own the machine and get product when it is on sale, they probably just about break even.
posted by gjc at 4:46 AM on November 16, 2012


Most generic soda brands' Diet Cola is just a diet version of their cola, but if you're a Diet Coke fiend, Kroger's Big K Diet Cola is a direct Diet Coke ripoff for half the price. For the first week it's a decent substitute, and after that you won't even notice. I pretty much only buy Diet Coke from machines or at restaurants anymore, and I've got most of my family buying the Big K stuff. It's cut my soda spending just about in half, which is very nice.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:24 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


whyareyouatriangle: "Shit, move to the right country and you can experience your whole political system being fundamentally changed in the interest of a single corporation.

move?
"

Assuming in the US, yes. You see, in the United States of America we have a political system called "democracy", which means multiple corporations get to have a say, which is just and right. The comment you're replying to was about an authoritarian system where only ONE corporation has a voice, and that's just not fair.
posted by symbioid at 6:13 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


See also: Wal-Mart
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:17 AM on November 16, 2012


Same thing with Nutty bars - they've been 25 cents since the '80s. In this case they make the economics work by reducing the quality of ingredients until, now, Nutty Bars contain 80% sawdust. But they're still ¢25!
posted by dirtdirt at 6:30 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have a hard time finishing a 355 ml (12 ounce) can of any pop these days. I like those wee cans you can get now (150 ml / 7.5 oz), but man, are they expensive! The best price I can get is 6 for $3.50 on sale, which is highway robbery.

And Flashman, your story reminded me of Montreal summers when I was a kid. My sister and I would get some coins left by our beds before our mother left for work. We'd count them out, then spend 10 cents each on the bus to the local pool, swim for free with the badges pinned to our suits, then scrounge for discarded bus transfers (the blue one with punched codes and cryptic pink lettering) to ride home for free. Then we'd use the remaining coins for a drink each plus candy, then use the bottle deposits for more candy.
posted by maudlin at 6:52 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Current soda hierarchy, in order of best taste: fountain soda (best, obviously); canned soda; glass bottles; 2-liter plastic bottles; smaller bottles.

JUST SAYING.
posted by liketitanic at 6:54 AM on November 16, 2012


Fountain soda? Ewwww. Too flat and sweet. The true hierarchy is glass bottle, can, small plastic bottle, cupped hand, large plastic bottle, fountain soda.
posted by maudlin at 6:57 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can, glass bottle, plastic bottle, fountain.
posted by windykites at 8:08 AM on November 16, 2012


Mexican Glass Bottle > Everything else.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:00 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I was a kid we cracked the coloured pen code on the caps of bottled coke (19 cents a bottle) so we could win free colas at will. Basically, the bottler-distributors wanted to spread the winners around so they used coloured markers on the cap using a colour and positional code to indicate which bottles had free bottle cap liners. Somehow we figured it out.

Then we were a cola consuming swarm of bmx locusts and spent two summers cycling from one store to another and raiding their cola fridges of all the colas that had the right combination of blue, green and black markings on their caps. I'm guessing we made the entire population of our corner of Mississauga feel like complete losers when they consistently failed to win a free cola.

I think we probably also retarded our development as BMX racers due the fact that the entire gang was riding around with unstable centres of gravity due to all the cola sloshing around in our bellies.

I spent most of high school buying a cola on the way back to school at lunch at one store and then drinking it on the walk and returning it for the deposit at another store on the way.

The very best of times.
posted by srboisvert at 9:05 AM on November 16, 2012


Kroger's Big K Diet Cola is a direct Diet Coke ripoff for half the price.

I don't have access to a Krogers. Any other close cheap substitutes?
posted by srboisvert at 9:08 AM on November 16, 2012


Weed is another commodity that seems to have defied inflation. Back in high school in the late 80s it was ten bucks a gram, 70 bucks or so for a quarter ounce, and every time I've bought it since (most recently this past August) the price per gram has exactly been the same.
posted by Flashman at 9:15 AM on November 16, 2012


I remember 10¢ glass bottles of Coke in vending machines, late 60's. My memory says 16oz. bottles, but they may have been 10oz.
I recall weed at $10 an ounce then, so there's some inflation there as well, maybe having to do with paraquat in Mexico.
posted by MtDewd at 9:30 AM on November 16, 2012


Fountain soda? Ewwww. Too flat and sweet.

You have to find the McDonald's (or other junk food restaurant of your choice) in your area that correctly calibrates the carbonation level in their fountain. When my wife says to pick her up a "fizzy soda", I know what she means, and I know which McDonald's to stop at.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:38 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am now reminded of tkchrist's tragiawesome dad vs coke machine commentstory which I am too lazy to track down.
posted by elizardbits at 9:51 AM on November 16, 2012


I am putting off doing work, so here it is.
posted by rewil at 10:20 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Before I heard this, I happened to be telling my wife that the only continuity in my life since high school has been this: Arizona Iced Tea is 99¢.

Then I heard this story and did the quick math in my head and realized that I've got another 40 years before it catches up to Coke's 5¢ era and I can be the grumbling old fart who tells kids back in the day I could get a huge can of Arnold Palmer Tea for less than a buck and dagnabbit, we liked it that way. Of course they'll be impressed anyone would walk around with cash, much less cash in so small a denomination as a mere dollar, the same way I can't even be bothered to keep nickels around my car now that the parking meters don't take them any more...
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:20 AM on November 16, 2012


You have to find the McDonald's (or other junk food restaurant of your choice) in your area that correctly calibrates the carbonation level in their fountain. When my wife says to pick her up a "fizzy soda", I know what she means, and I know which McDonald's to stop at.

McDonald's is the BEST purveyor of the fountain soda, in general, though I also like Sonic because CRUSHED ICE.
posted by liketitanic at 1:08 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


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