A&P Coffee Can

Coffee fuels my preservation thoughts. I love coffee. And yet, hopefully I’m not the only one who did not know that coffee used to come in a can that required a key to open said can. Am I (aside from my youngest sister)? Hmm. What kind of self respecting coffee addict aficionado am I? I must study. When my mother sent me the image below, I wasn’t quite sure what she was talking about. Behold, the unopened coffee can with a key.

Drip Grind A&P Coffee.

The top of the coffee can. It


The bottom of the coffee can. That key comes with the can and it fits in the metal tab on the side.

The side of the coffee can. The key fits into the black spot. Once opened, you have a reusable lid.

Aside from the fun retro factor, my mom is wondering a few things about this coffee can.

(1) When did companies stop making such cans?

(2) How much would something like this be worth?

(3) Does anyone have any information about such cans?

(4) Do you think the coffee is still good?

Ha! Just kidding on that last one; Mom will keep this for fun in her kitchen. She remembers them in the 1950s and 1960s, but not after that. If you could help us out – if you happen to a true coffee aficionado, please fill us in. (These photos are from a cell phone, but if you’d like better quality images, let me know.)

We like to know the stories of our belongings. Who has a good theory as to why this was never opened?

Enjoy! And thanks!


9 thoughts on “A&P Coffee Can

  1. richard waldrop says:

    Coffee cans like that were most widely sold in the 1930’s, the vacum pot the lid mentions became popular around 1932. By the 1940’s the the cans were in decline (but still available) due to both instant coffee and the coffee becoming stale in the can. They were really big into dating coffee at the time so i’m suprised the can doesn’t have a date. You could get a more exact idea of dating by what the can says, the advertising is very time specific they changed they slogans pretty often. In most print ads of coffee from the 40’s and 50’s the coffee is sold in bags like we buy today. While ads from the 30’s show the can with the key. The A&P company was one of the major coffee companies and has quite the interesting history (the Walmart of the 20’s and 30’s) They sold three brands of coffee, 8′ oclock, red circle, and bokar in order of cheapest to best. For more information you should check out the book Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Richard, thanks for the coffee lesson! I take it you are a true coffee aficionado, huh? I will definitely take your leads on advertising dating and the book.

    • John Hlumyk says:

      Wow Richard, great coffee history! My mom has a bag of Eight O’Clock coffee from the 1950’s. She mistakenly bought the whole bean instead of ground and its been a family heirloom ever since.

    • Kaitlin says:

      That would be an excellent story to tell! My mom bought the coffee can just this week from a furniture restoration shop/antique dealer on Long Island. Maybe the person who had it before she bought it kept it in a bomb shelter. =)

  2. Kimber says:

    Interesting! How much is stale coffee going for on Long Island these days? I not only remember coffee cans with a key, but I remember OPENING them! You would thread the end of the key with a little tab on the key, then turn, and turn, and turn, ending up with a razor sharp flat coil of metal,…(It’s a wonder my mom let me do it!)…it would end up looking almost like a mainspring of a winding watch….Oops- you wouldn’t know what THAT was either!

  3. Kevin Frushour says:

    I came across this page after remembering a story my grandparents (both died in their 90’s this year) used to tell:

    My grandfather traded in their 1939 Pontiac for a 1949 Ford. The dealership was in South Bend, Indiana so it was a 120 mile round-trip. On the way there the boys (one of whom was my Dad) had to go to the bathroom so they used the coffee can they kept under the seat for such emergencies and called the “pee can”. Dad said it was a wide red metal coffee can with a key you had to turn to open it – this was the days before plastic lids. At the dealership they got the new car without a problem. During the ride home,one of the boys said he had to use the pee can. That’s when they realized they had left it under the seat in their old car, with pee in it. My grandparents always wondered what the dealership’s reaction was.

Have a thought to share?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s