10 Discontinued Beverages Coveted by Collectors
Nostalgia hounds often seek out a variety of oddball collectibles to scratch that yesteryear itch—even unopened bottles and cans of long-discontinued beverages. From the iconic to the downright bizarre, the following gone-but-not-forgotten libations still have their fan-bases, some of whom shell out pretty serious cash for these vintage potables.
1. Crystal Pepsi – 1992-1993
Not even a splashy debut commercial featuring Van Halen during Super Bowl XXVII could stave off extinction for Pepsi’s short-lived translucent cola. The so-called “Clear Cola” hit the scene in 1992 and was discontinued barely a year later. A citrus version called simply Crystal shared a similar fate. It saw a brief resurrection in the mid-2000s in Mexico, where it sold as “Pepsi Clear.” Today, a yellowed 16-ounce glass bottle of the stuff can be had on eBay for around $40.
2. Billy Beer – 1977-1978
Another notorious beverage of yore sought by collectors is Billy Beer, a brew promoted in 1977 by the late Billy Carter, kid brother of then-President Jimmy. The younger Carter, a Georgia gas station attendant with a reputation as a drinker and a bit of a hayseed, was approached by the Falls City Brewing Company to lend his name to the brew. It was a failure and may very well have been the final nail in the coffin for the brewery, which closed down after more than 70 years in business in 1978. Today, an unopened six-pack will set you back about $50 on eBay.
3. New Coke – 1985
Coca-Cola has touted its famous secret formula for decades, but in the mid-'80s, the company decided to shake things up. They tweaked the formula and introduced “New Coke” to a dubious public in 1985. The new, sweeter flavor was almost universally panned, and Coca-Cola, responding to customers’ negative reaction, re-introduced the original formula after less than three months, re-branding it “Coke Classic” in the process. Over the years there has been speculation that the switch was merely a sly marketing ploy, but the rumors are largely unsubstantiated. Collectors looking to own some of the ephemeral beverage can find bottles or cans on eBay ranging from $15 to over $100.
4. Surge – 1996-2002
Surge was an attempt by Coca-Cola to compete for the “in-your-face attitude” territory that Pepsi’s Mountain Dew had staked out. A citrus-flavored soda, it was marketed as an energy drink of sorts, touting itself as “a fully-loaded citrus soda with carbos” (carbos!). The commercials featured teenagers doing “extreme” things like hurdling over ratty couches in a race to snag a single bottle. The drink developed a bit of a cult following, and seizing on the enduring demand, Coca-Cola reintroduced Surge in September 2014 as an exclusive on Amazon.com in 12-packs, which quickly sold out and found their way to eBay, where prices range from $8-15 per can to more than $50 for a 12-pack.
5. Josta – 1995-1999
Perhaps doomed by being slightly ahead of its time, Josta by PepsiCo is widely regarded as the first bona fide energy drink put out by a major beverage bottler. Launched in 1995, it was a fruity concoction containing guarana, one of the most highly-caffeinated plants known to man. There are no current active auctions, but recent prices online for a six-pack have hit $250.
6. Orbitz – 1997-1998
Before there was the online travel booking service, there was the soft drink. Orbitz was unleashed on the market by the Clearly Canadian Beverage Company in 1997, each bottle packed with tiny, brightly colored gelatinous balls, giving the drink a lava lamp-like appearance. The short-lived refreshment, which came in a variety of mixed fruit flavors, barely lasted a year. A bottle of Orbitz today will set you back around $20 on eBay—around the same price as an actual lava lamp.
7. Citra – 1996-2004
Citra was a grapefruit-dominant citrus-flavored soda put out by Coca-Cola in 1996. Citra graced store shelves for more than eight years before it was re-branded in 2004 as Fanta Citrus, which itself was shortly thereafter discontinued. The original Citra, however, was introduced in test markets in India last year to gauge interest for a wider national rollout. A can of the original U.S.-marketed Citra costs about $4 on eBay, with bottles going as high as $19.49.
8. Pepsi Blue – 2002-2004
A more recent belly flop in the world of soda was Pepsi Blue. As the name suggests, the soda was known for its glass cleaner-like blue tint. Pepsi pumped huge sums of money into promoting it, recruiting the likes of Britney Spears for television spots, and partnering with a host of corporate sponsors from the New York Mets to Volkswagen. While Americans’ taste for the berry-flavored soft drink never really took off, it remains a popular beverage in parts of Asia, and you can buy cans on ebay for around $5.
9. Pitch Black Mountain Dew – 2004-2005, 2011
Released in 2004 as a Halloween-themed version of the popular soda, Pitch Black Mountain Dew was a dark-purple, grape-flavored soft drink, promising “a blast of black grape.” Pitch Black also had a sequel—a sour version with the moniker Pitch Black II was released for a limited time for Halloween 2005. It also had a brief promotional reappearance in the summer of 2011. While discontinued in the U.S., Pitch Black fanatics can still get their hands on some in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, the Philippines, or Singapore. Vintage cans on eBay go for about $8 each.
10. Jolt Cola – 1985-2009
The drink on our list with the longest staying power by far is Jolt Cola, which fueled countless all-night cram sessions and had kids bouncing off the walls at birthday parties for nearly 25 years. The super-caffeinated drink, put out by the defunct Wet Planet Beverages, boasted that it contained twice the caffeine of regular colas. As stiffer competition emerged in the energy drink market, Jolt tried numerous gimmicks to stay relevant like wacky noise-making packaging and a widely expanded selection of flavors, even lending its name to a line of gum. Wet Planet went belly-up in 2009, taking with it an iconic former staple of dorm fridges everywhere.