Twitter user @RoylePin recently tweeted an image of a Diet Coke can with a completely smooth top. That’s right: no opening, no pull tab, no ridges. Just a flat, unblemished surface, with all the soda trapped inside.
If you’re a fellow skeptic of the internet and all that gets posted on it, you might immediately think this is Photoshopped. But in fact, this Twitter user is one of many people who have come across this factory error from Coca-Cola.
A TikTok posted by user @11aliceprism11 in April shows a regular can of Coca-Cola with the same smooth top and no tab opening. Four months ago, a Reddit user also posted multiple photos of their fully smooth Coca-Cola can.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only type of soda can error that can leave you still thirsty with a fizzy beverage in hand.
How soda can factory error affects Coke products
Another factory error that multiple consumers have come across is when the can of soda is fully sealed and pressurized, but totally empty. Twitter user @Dani_in_Bristol encountered this error with their Diet Coke can:
A great segment on How It’s Made details how soda cans are produced without their tops (label, varnish, and all), then get shipped to a separate facility where they’re filled with product and closed off with aluminum tops. This video of a beer canning line shows that the tabs are already punched into the lids before the lids are added to the cans, so it is in the processing of the lid itself that the mistake is made.
The only true way to detect a defective can without opening it is by weight, as YouTuber Get Muddy did back in 2020. What Get Muddy is quick to point out is just how valuable this particular error can be when you take it online.
A community of collectors exists on eBay that will pay top dollar for this particular error in manufacturing. When I say top dollar, I truly mean top dollar: these cans are listed for suggested prices of thousands of dollars, and often sell for hundreds. One even sold in April for $1,000. The old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” definitely applies here; other than possibly earning you a customer satisfaction coupon from Coca-Cola or a five-cent recycling deposit, these empty pressurized soda cans don’t carry any value that I can determine.
History of flat-top soda cans
While the empty pressurized can error could make for a valuable sale on the internet, it does nothing for those who are still thirsty and want a drink. On the bright side, for those who find out too late that they have purchased a defective can(s), there is hope.
There was a time in history when soda cans did not have that convenient pull tab as they do now. In fact, prior to the 1960s, all soda cans were sold with a perfectly smooth, flat top and had to be opened by a special opener called a “church key,” explains Slate. (Many of you might still have a church key in your house; it’s the metal bottle opener with both a flat and pointed end, the latter of which can punch a hole in the top of a tab-free metal can.) Initial pull tabs on beer and soda cans had a removable ring that needed to be discarded once the can was open, which led to the inevitable issue of kids ingesting bits of metal. The pull tab as we now know it came around in the 1970s, first on beer cans and later on soft drinks.
Thankfully, our soda can technology has evolved over the years, despite the errors that occur every now and again. If you’re faced with that challenge, you could always try a good old-fashioned can opener, being careful to avoid jagged edges by pouring it into a glass. If our ancestors could do it, there should be nothing stopping you from getting that sweet, fizzy nectar. (Or just try to sell it for the big bucks. Your choice.)