The Long Running 5-cent Coca-Cola

Retro Staff 5 Comments
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Coca-Cola's 5-cent pricing was in place for more than 70 years.

In 1886, when Coca-Cola was first invented and placed on the market, the price for a glass at the soda fountain was 5 cents. When Coca-Cola was put into bottles, the price was still 5 cents. It remained so for nearly 70 years despite cost increases to produce Coca-Cola. Why was this?

The main reason the price of Coca-Cola remained consistent is due to costs involved to retrofit all the soda vending machines that were designed to only accept nickels. In addition, there was the massive amount of signage that would have to be replaced. And don’t forget the consumer that would have revolted against a 100% increase from a nickel to the alternative—a dime.

Because of the way Coca-Cola was distributed through various bottlers, it’s difficult to track exactly when the price increase occurred. By the late 1940’s, bottlers that had been charging 80 cents per case were now charging dealers 90 cents to $1 a case. Where Coke was sold over the counter, this resulted in per bottle prices of 6 to 10 cents. The change for vending machines did not come until 1959 when vendors were produced that could take dimes. To remedy this, storeowners installed “honor boxes” beside the machines where the customer was expected to drop an additional 1 to 2 cents, to make up the price difference after they placed their nickel in the vending machine.

It’s interesting to note that Bob Woodruff, the head of Coca-Cola in 1953, wrote to his good friend and the newly elected president, Dwight Eisenhower, asking him to influence the Treasury Department to issue a 7.5 cents coin to solve his perplexing price problem. Obviously this didn’t happen and, in 1959, the first official price hike took place for bottles of Coca-Cola in vending machines.

What’s the least amount you’ve paid for a bottle of Coke?

Last updated: Jun 24, 2008
Filed under: Vintage Vending Archives Tagged with: Coca-Cola, Soda Pop