Would You Pay $90 for Six Empty Beer Cans?

Would You Pay $90 for Six Empty Beer Cans?

A standard 12oz beer can is made out of about half an ounce of aluminum. These days, that aluminum is worth about 1.4 cents. The can itself, maybe closer to two cents.

Surprisingly, this was not always the case. According to NPR, in 1884, half an ounce of aluminum would have cost a hair over $15 in 2022 dollars.

There's no telling exactly what a beer can would have cost back then, because they weren't worth making. It would cost $90 just to get the raw aluminum for a six pack!

Sarah Laskow reports in The Atlantic that although aluminum is one of the most abundant metals on earth, it was extremely expensive to refine with premodern technology. 

This resulted in some attempts to show off that are rather amusing in hindsight. In the 1820s, France's Emperor Napoleon III would reserve his aluminum tableware for his most distinguished dinner guests, while snubbing others with gold-plated tableware.

Portrait of Napoleon III

Portrait of Napoleon III, Aluminum King via Wikimedia Commons

Not to be outdone by the French, the young United States showed off its wealth by capping off the newly constructed Washington Monument with six pounds of aluminum in the 1880s. Shortly after the completion of the Washington Monument, improvements in aluminum refining caused the cost of the metal to plummet.

By 1959, aluminum was dirt cheap, and Coors debuted the first aluminum drink can. It took some time to catch on, but aluminum was slowly recognized as the better alternative to relatively expensive and non-recyclable steel cans.

Sprecher agrees. Drink like a French Emperor--get Sprecher Soda and Beer in cans! 

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