We found a 39-year-old Coca-Cola can this weekend in a drained lake - what's interesting is everything it is missing

by | Nov 22, 2010 07:00 AM ET

I have no idea why this is so interesting to me, but I will tell you the story anyway in case you might be interested too. The kids and I found this 39-year-old Coke can this weekend and the most interesting thing is what it is missing...

Near our house there is a lake with a really nice walking path around it. We go there every couple of weeks or so to take family walks, and we were there this weekend. It is known as Lake Johnson:

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=lake+johnson,+raleigh,+nc&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=51.089971,56.601563&ie=UTF8&hq=lake+johnson,&hnear=Raleigh,+Wake,+North+Carolina&t=h&ll=35.762811,-78.712749&spn=0.024376,0.036478&z=14&output=embed&w=425&h=350]

Right now Lake Johnson has been about half drained, apparently so that they can work on its dam. What this means is that you can walk around in much of the dried lake bed, which the kids love doing for some reason. You find all sorts of stuff like turtle shells and skeletons, and also a bunch of litter - everything from old tires and water heaters to the normal stuff like cans and bottles. And one of the things I found this weekend was this Coke can:

Yes, the color of the can is black like that - I guess the red pigment leached out of it. It is a steel can with a little rust that you can see in the bottom rim. It has the old pop-top style lid.

The thing that is so interesting to me about the can is everything that the label is missing. Compare it to a modern can and you can see what I mean. The label is missing:

  • The UPC code
  • The nutrition information
  • Any mention of a date
  • The 800 number
  • The URL for Coke
  • Any mention of the metric system
  • A copyright notice (although it does have a registered trademark symbol)
  • Caffeine content

It also contains sugar instead of High fructose corn syrup.

And through the magic of the Internet, I can tell you exactly when this can was produced - 1971. If you look on this page and scroll down about a third of the way, you can see that 1971 was the year when the can said ""12 FL OZ" and had a four-line ingredient label. You can also see what the can's full label looks like here.

A fun trivia fact - the first cans of Coke were sold in the U.S. in 1960 or so according to this page. Those original cans you opened with a "church key" can opener (or a screw driver in an emergency). According to this page the "pull ring tab" or "pop top" appeared in wide-scale use on beer cans in 1963. The first vending machines selling cans of Coke appeared in 1965.

One last piece of trivia: according to this page:

1950s ... Packaging innovations
For the first time, consumers had choices of Coca-Cola package size and type -- the traditional 6.5-ounce contour bottle, or larger servings including 10-, 12- and 26-ounce versions. Cans were also introduced, becoming generally available in 1960.

So the original serving size for a Coca-Cola was 6.5 ounces. That would be 78 calories. Kind of amazing when you think that the half-liter (16-ounce), or even the 20-ounce plastic bottle is the standard today. With a 20-ounce bottle you get 240 calories per serving. That probably plays some part in the national obesity epidemic.

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