Enjoying Coca-Cola beverages is just one way consumers connect with our brands. Many people engage with Coca-Cola beverages by making a hobby of collecting merchandise bearing Coca-Cola images and promotional messages. From nostalgia to pop-art, from the company’s own marketing items to artistic interpretations, collecting Coca-Cola objects has been a favorite pastime for as long as the company has been in existence.
Some of the earliest Coca-Cola collectibles are the bottles that were used prior to 1916, when the trademarked contour bottle became the standard among Coca-Cola bottlers. The first bottle was the Hutchinson-Style bottle which was used briefly between 1899 and 1902.
From 1900 to 1915, straight-sided bottles became the more desired style among bottlers. These bottles were designed for crown closures and bore the trademark Coca-Cola embossed in glass along with a diamond-shaped label. Bottlers would order these containers in color and design to suit their liking, which explains the reason collectors discovered the straight-sided bottles in varying colors such as amber, brown, aqua, light green and clear. Straight-sided bottles with labels intact are among the most valuable of Coca-Cola collectibles.
In 1916, the distinctive contoured Coca-Cola bottle was introduced and has been the standard design for the Coca-Cola beverage since. Over the years, the contour bottle has evolved and changed slightly, but the basic design influence remains intact. At the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, you can view artifacts from yesterday and today in the Coca-Cola Loft.
Commemorative bottles are also widely sought after among collectors. The trend is thought to have started in the 1970s as some bottlers were celebrating 75 years in the Coca-Cola bottling business. Many plants issued a limited number of bottles imprinted with early packaging designs and logos to observe that milestone. This led to a custom of developing other commemorative bottles marking sporting events, regional festivals and customer celebrations.
Did you know? There is a Coca-Cola Collectors Club. Originally formed in 1974 by a small group of local collectors, today the club has an international membership of over 5,000 people in 28 countries! Check it out at www.cocacolaclub.org/.
In addition to the Coca-Cola bottle, some of the most recognizable and popular collectibles are Coca-Cola glasses. Fashioned to echo the distinctive style of the curved bottle, the glasses included the signature Coca-Cola script. By 1929, these glasses were adopted as a traditional feature in soda fountains across the country. As with the contour bottle, Coca-Cola glasses have evolved over the years in size and color. The glasses have also been branded for commemorative occasions — such as major sporting events, movie premieres and as limited edition giveaways at food outlets.
From almost day one, the original Coca-Cola beverage was advertised on signs. The first Coca-Cola signs were painted on oilcloth and tin. Called “tackers”, the signs were designed to be nailed directly onto a wooden wall or fence of establishments serving the new beverage. Using a celebrity endorsement tactic, some of the early Coca-Cola signs carried the image of popular Vaudeville singer, Hilda Clark.
By the early 1900s, the large oilcloth signs were replaced by sturdy metal ones. To extend the life of the signs, some of were formed on a base of iron or steel covered with a porcelain surface. They were attached to the buildings through eyelets at the corners and sides. A familiar vintage Coca-Cola sign is known as the “red button”. In addition to the classic Coca-Cola script, these signs had what were known as “privilege panels” above the red Coca-Cola button. These signs became all the rage because they allowed retailers to closely connect themselves with the well-loved soft drink.
Starting in 1934, Kay Displays began designing signs from wood or Masonite. Known as “Kay-Signs”, these are favored among Coca-Cola sign collectors because they were not durable, and as a result are a rare find. Other promotional items popular with collectors are urns (which were given to soda fountain proprietors to use as syrup dispensers), along with lamps, calendars and clocks.
Did you know? In his first year of business, John Pemberton spent more money on advertising Coca-Cola than he took in the form of beverage sales!
Over 1,200 artifacts representing Coca-Cola’s rich heritage can be viewed at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. In Milestones of Refreshment, you can walk through time and re-live the fascinating history of the brands, the company and the people.