7 Things You Need To Know About...Coca-Cola Memorabilia
In our new series of weekly guides, we'll tell you the seven things you need to know about collecting...well, almost anything! First up is vintage Coca-Cola memorabilia, one of the most iconic and collectible brands on the planet. Here's what you need to know...
1)What makes Coca-Cola so collectible?
Advertising is much older than you might think.
In fact, the earliest advert we have on record was produced by a 1st century AD Greek shopkeeper named Umbricius Scauras, who wanted everyone to know that he produced the best garum (a noxious fermented fish sauce much loved by the Romans).
However, Coca-Cola is widely credited as the first modern company to properly harness the power of advertising.
Between 1886 and 1929, it somehow became one of the most popular soft drinks around the world despite removing cocaine from the recipe.
The key to its success was its singular branding, which has stayed remarkably consistent to this day. It positions the company as an all-American product, which has grown with the nation.
You can look back over a century of advertising campaigns and see the way the US has changed. That makes it eminently collectible.
2) It’s easy to date your items
Unlike a lot of collectibles, Coca-Cola memorabilia is relativity easy to date at a glance, thanks to years of distinctive campaigns and slogans.
“Delicious and Refreshing”? That dates your piece to 1904.
“Coke means Coca-Cola”? You’re looking at an item from 1945.
Clothing is also an excellent way to date advertising. Each American decade has its own distinct look, from the A-line skirts of the 40s to the handlebar moustaches and bell bottoms of the 70s.
Even the bottles have changed shape over the years. The iconic wide-hipped Coke bottle didn’t come into existence until 1915. Before that, the bottles looked quite different.
This advice comes with a big caveat though.
The popularity of Coca-Cola meant that memorabilia from these old campaigns have been endlessly reproduced so you’re going to want to watch out for shiny and well kept pieces at suspiciously low prices.
3) Where to buy
This really depends on what sort of stuff you want to collect.
Thinking of going high end? You’ll want to build a relationship with a knowledgeable dealer.
The problem with places like eBay, is that there’s often little quality control. You may be getting a bargain, or a carefully photographed fake.
It's always best to check a seller's history, and do some research into the item itself. A little expertise can go a long way when it comes to buying collectibles, and will help you avoid a potentially expensive mistake.
Well respected dealers who have spent years specialising in their own area of expertise are your best bet.
They’ll usually offer some kind of guarantee as well.
For everyone else, flea markets, antiques stores and eBay are going to be the go-to places for finding forgotten treasure.
4) Deciding what you want to collect
One of the most enjoyable parts of collecting is working out exactly what it is you’re interested in.
We know you like Coca-Cola.
But do you want to build a collection of vintage bottles over the ages? How about a complete set of the company’s classic soda trays?
If money (and space) are no object, you’ve got close to 100 years of vending machines to track down.
This is always going to be a personal decision and chances are you won’t know right away. Jumping in and getting your feet wet is all part of the fun. Just buy what you love, and what you can afford.
5) Rare treasures to look out for
While most Coca-Cola collectors got into the game out of an interest in 1950s and 1960s items, the Holy Grails are the posters produced before the 20th century.
These are extraordinarily rare and change hands for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The designs typically include art nouveau elements. They’re staggeringly beautiful. Unfortunately, chances are you’re never going to see one outside of a museum.
But you never know...
6) You'll be in good company
There are chapters of the Coca-Cola Collector’s Club around the world, regularly organising conventions, swap-meets, social events and auctions.
It's a great way to meet like-minded enthusiasts, gain some knowledge and pick up a rare piece or two.
As a company, Coca-Cola offers a fantastic wealth of information and support to memorabilia collectors.
Its website regularly features interviews and features on people who collect Coke memorabilia, and you’ll also find up-to-date pricing and advice on collecting.
Coke even has a huge vault filled with artefacts from its long history.
The most valuable item in the hobby is the original recipe. Yes, it still exists! But unfortunately, it’s still a closely guarded secret.
7) Keep an eye out for the unusual
The Coca-Cola Space Can was designed for astronauts to enjoy while orbiting the Earth.
The first test took place on the Challenger shuttle. However, it turns out soda doesn’t stay carbonated in zero gravity.
And unfortunately for the astronauts, as the tests took place in the mid 1980s they were stuck with the universally unpopular “new Coke”.
Better designs followed in the early 1990s, including a wall-mounted dispenser. They never did solve the carbonation problem though.
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