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Why Can’t You Get a Coca-Cola for a Nickel? Blame the Bottle

Coca-Cola Stall
Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Coca-Cola is everywhere. The drink is sold in just about every supermarket, drug store and gas station across the country and throughout the world. Not much has changed since the product’s inception except, of course, the price.

Way back in 1886, a single bottle of Coke cost just one nickel. That may seem like ancient history, but it wasn’t that long ago that Cokes stopped costing a nickel. In fact, the last five-cent Coke was sold in 1959.

How is this possible? Part of the blame falls on its famous container. Two lawyers bought the first rights to sell Coke in bottles in 1899. Until that time, Coke was only supplied by soda fountains. The Coca-Cola Company didn’t foresee the potential for bottling their product until after they signed the contract with the lawyers. In fact, they became an instant hit almost overnight. However, any profit from price increase wouldn’t go into their pocket, because of the contract that they signed with the attorneys. Thus, the only thing they could do was just to sell more Cokes at the same rate.

They were able to keep stores and suppliers from increasing the prices simply by announcing their famous nickel price in all of their advertising. This not only prevented stores from overcharging their sodas, but it became a fixed price in their customers’ minds thanks to its endless advertising campaigns.

The nickel price even stayed the same as the company started selling its soda in vending machines. It was too costly to produce a machine that would accept dimes, and the company also failed to convince the U.S. Mint to issue a 7.5 cent piece that the machines would accept… they were stuck for many years at the five-cent sales price.

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