Soda Cans

A Brief History of Soda Cans

The history of the soda can is less documented than that of beer cans, though there are many parallels within the soda can collections that Steel Canvas has worked with.

The first pop cans appeared in 1938, though there is dispute as to whether it was the Clicquot Club in a Continental Can Company cone top or the Dr. Phillips. What isn’t disputed is that neither was a success, adding to the rarity and value of these early cans for soda can collectors. Problems with the first soda cans were similar to the first beer cans: taste issues and the physical ability of the can to handle the increased pressure of the carbonated beverage, causing leakage and the occasional explosion. As you might imagine, this can really hurt any hobbyist’s soda can collection!

Most early soda cans were of the cone top variety. Also disputed is whether the prevalence of cone tops was due to compatibility with the bottling line or can strength concerns. However, by the 1950’s, that would change and most soda cans would be flat tops that were opened with a church key. As for the first flat top soda can, that is also in dispute. The leading contenders are the Handi can, the Can-A-Pop or the C & C from 1953 or 1954.

In the beer can world, the success by Krueger in 1935 was immediate and the big 3 brewers (Pabst, Schlitz and Anheuser-Busch) were quick to utilize the new technology. The opposite is true of the heavy hitters in the soda world and among serious soda can collectors. Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi were reluctant to put their company’s lifeblood in soda cans. But just as the competitive pressure the big 3 felt when smaller breweries were eating away at their market share with beer in cans, Coke felt when Royal Crown had success with soda in “non-returnable” cans. As with beer cans, soda cans were much more expensive that bottles. Coke moved slowly in 1955 by testing Coca-Cola in soda cans for export to Japan and the Pacific. By the late 50’s both were on board with soda in cans and that’s when soda can collections became much easier to find.

By the late 50’s, 15 million cases of canned soda beverages were sold across approximately 40 different brands. By 1960, production had exploded to over 820 million.

In 1964, zip codes were added to most soda cans giving soda can collectors an edge in dating their cans, though this is not fail safe. And in 1973, UPC barcodes started showing up on soda cans, giving collectors another strategy for dating cans within their unique soda can collections.

We at Steel Canvas specialize in beer can collecting, but also have a place in our hearts for those neat soda can collections too! Contact us today with stories or pop cans that you might like to share.