Abstract Basic salts of Co(II) crystallize in the rhombohedral structure. Two different polytypes, 3R 1 and 3R 2, with distinct stacking sequences of the metal hydroxide slabs, are possible within the rhombohedral structure. These polytypes are generated by simple translation of successive layers by (2/3, 1/3, z) or (1/3, 2/3, z). The symmetry of the anion and the mode of coordination influences polytype selection. Cobalt hydroxynitrate crystallizes in the structure of the 3R 2 polytype while the hydroxytartarate, hydroxychloride and α-cobalt hydroxide crystallize in the structure of the 3R 1 polytype. Cobalt hydroxysulfate is turbostratically disordered. The turbostratic disorder is a direct consequence of the mismatch between the crystallographically defined interlayer sites generated within the crystal and the tetrahedral symmetry of the SO 4 2− ions.