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For bored American youth, it was something to do while the adults were busy at the disco. Royal Crown (RC in the pop culture vernacular) jazzed up its soda cans with baseball and football players in the late 1970s. Collecting them was a messy, sometimes frustrating experience.

It began in 1977 when RC put together a set of 70 baseball player cans. The cans weren't numbered so you really had no idea how many comprised a set until you had a LOT of them. Once you weren't finding any new ones, you could pretty much figure your set was complete. Some collectors opened them from the bottom, trying to preserve whatever "value" they may have had. Others were happy to scrounge through the garbage cans and grab whatever cans thirst-satisfied folks had just discarded. Among the players in the set are several Hall of Famers including Johnny Bench, George Brett, Lou Brock, Rod Carew, Joe Morgan, Jim Palmer, Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Tom Seaver, Carl Yastrzemski and Robin Yount. An individual can of these players sells today for $5-10. A can of a common player can be had for $1-3, sometimes less in quantity.

That fall RC created an even bigger challenge. The company moved on to football players but this time they regionalized their set. Fans in the Upper Midwest got only players on the Packers, Vikings, Lions, Bears, Browns, Bengals, and Steelers. Those in the East got teams based there and so on. Approximately 100 cans were issued, including the most valuable, a can of a young Walter Payton that now carries a value of $15-20. Other subjects included Terry Bradshaw, John Riggins and Joe Theismann. Common cans run about $3-5 each with stars about double that. The grocery stores sometimes had a poster available listing all of the regional can subjects.

During the winter, the company made a brief and unspectacular foray into basketball, issuing a few basketball cans. This issue faded so quickly, there is no known checklist available.

Then came RC's last hurrah. In 1978, the company followed up it's successful baseball promotion with a 100-can issue of players distributed nationally. This time, the cans were numbered and again, there were an impressive number of top quality stars. Many from the prior year, but also cans of Reggie Jackson, Steve Carlton, Willie McCovey and the crown jewel, Nolan Ryan. A Ryan can today is worth $40-75 in good condition according to the Standard Catalog of Baseball Memorabilia.

RC lives on but the days of sports cans died quickly. Bad news for collectors who loved the chase but good news for Moms sick of dusting them and for Dads who needed the basement shelf space!