When I was growing up in the mid-1950s, I had a newspaper route, delivering the Lowell (Mass.) Sun seven days a week. Every Saturday, I would go to the newspaper office and settle my account. Afterwards, I would stop at the local drug store to celebrate with a Coke and maybe some ice cream. I don’t recall the cost of the ice cream, but I do remember that the Coke was 5 cents. Little did I realize that I was enjoying the final days of the nickel Coke.
For decades, the traditional retail price of Coca‑Cola (sold in the 6 ½ -ounce bottle or at the soda fountain) remained at a nickel. By the late 1940s -- with production costs soaring -- a handful of bottlers broke from the normal cost structures and charged dealers 90 cents to $1 per case, rather than the standard 80 cents.
The result: The cost of a bottle of Coke now varied between 6 and 10 cents. The first recorded price increase occurred in 1946 in Los Angeles, with bottlers in Louisiana, Illinois and the Pacific Northwest quickly following. Still, the movement away from the nickel Coke was slow to develop. By 1950, only approximately 125 (or 5%) of the 1,100 U.S. bottlers had raised prices. Most bottlers held to the standard 80 cents case price until economic pressures forced prices up in the years 1957-1959.
Atlanta was one of the last major markets to increase prices when it finally imposed th e $1 wholesale case price in March 1959. By 1960, with a few isolated exceptions, the nickel Coke had disappeared from the American scene.
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