Luckily, marketing and branding, a crucial part of our consumer world, helps to make dating historic sites a little easier. Every company needs a brand, something that makes them stand out among their competition and reminds the consumer that they are buying a quality product. Like clothing lines, long-lived brands must change over time to keep up with both their competition and the current fashions and culture, leading to variation in the products of companies. This variation, when documented, can help us to date different deposits at archaeological sites.
Coca-Cola Collectibles: Bottles : The Coca-Cola Company
One great example is the Coke bottle. Here at Campus Archaeology, we occasionally come across Coke bottles in various forms. Depending on some particular characteristic of the bottle, we can give a general date to the materials found with that bottle. Coca-Cola first made its appearance in as a soda fountain drink in downtown Atlanta, GA.
Over the next number of years, Coca-Cola was only served by the glass at drinking fountains until around , when the company signed its first bottling contract Coca-Cola The earliest Coca-Cola bottles were Hutchinson style bottles, but were quickly followed by straight-sided bottles with crown tops in a number of different colors of glass. Dating to between and , the dates of these straight-sided bottles can be narrowed even further based on the shape of the script and where the script is placed on the bottle.
For example, straight sided Coke bottles with script in a diamond shape in the center of the bottle are dated to , while ones with a vertical arrow in the center date to between and for more variations: During the time of the straight-sided Coke bottles, the Coca-Cola brand was expanding greatly.
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As such, competitors tried to take advantage of this brand by closely mimicking Coke branding strategies. In response, the Coca-Cola company had bottle manufacturers create a unique bottle type, one that had a distinct look and feel, which would forever be synonymous with the Coca-Cola brand: Patented in , the contour bottle went into production in and was subsequently sold all over the world Coca-Cola ; Lockhart and Porter Since the beginning of their production, Coca-Cola contour bottles have changed very little, as this bottle served as the hallmark of the Coca-Cola brand.
While the bottle designs stayed relatively consistent, the patent for the bottle was renewed several times. Since the patent date or patent number was included on the bottles to prove that they were from true Coca-Cola distributors, these numbers can help narrow down the date range of when the bottle may have been made. When a different patent was acquired on Dec. Starting in , Coke began selling their products in cans, followed by plastic bottles in , marking the slow decline of the glass Coca-Cola contour bottle Coca-Cola ; Coca-Cola Journey Staff On campus, if we find a Coke bottle during excavation, we know that the deposit dates to around or younger.
Petretti's guide calls this era a "gold mine" for collectors. You can find an enormous variation in the sizes, colors and markings of bottles. Amber-colored bottles, sold widely in the South and Midwest, tend to be more valuable than the clear or light green or flint straight-sided bottles that were more common in other parts of the country.
Flavor Bottles Before The Coca-Cola Company created a line of flavored drinks, most of the bottlers created their own brands, with orange, root beer, strawberry, grape and fruit-flavored drinks. Because they were not allowed to put them in bottles with the "Coca-Cola" script, the bottlers developed their own "flavor bottles. Collectors can find an enormous variety in flavor bottles, and most are very inexpensive to collect. In the early s, The Coca-Cola Company sold its syrup to soda fountains, where it was mixed with carbonated water in proper proportions before serving the drink to customers.
The syrup bottles were ornately etched and equipped with a metal cap for precise serving.
Coca-Cola bottle-cap promotions date back to the 1950s and "60s
They were staples of small soda fountains from the turn of the century well into the s. The bottles can be very valuable today, with the earliest in the series worth several thousand dollars or more in mint condition. Some Coca-Cola bottlers carried a line of seltzer, adding carbon dioxide to water to make it effervescent.
Seltzer bottles are another popular collectible and can be worth hundreds of dollars or more, depending on their condition. Some are extremely decorative, with a wide range of colors, designs and etchings. Some have script logos, as opposed to block type.
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Others have figures or animals. Town Names Until the early s, the town where the drink was bottled was embossed on the bottom of contour bottles. Many of us remember playing the "distance game" when we were younger; the person whose bottle carried the name of the most distant city was the winner.
Many collectors are intent on getting every variant of those bottles. Veteran collector John Thom of Woodstock, Ga.
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His collection has grown to include some straight-sided bottles and even some Hutchinson Coca-Cola bottles. Several years ago, he came across a straight-sided bottle from the tiny town of Buena Vista, Ga. The bottle was one of several that had been dug up near Warm Springs, Ga. Finds like this add to the mystery and excitement of collecting.
Today, John says he buys bottles mostly at different Coca-Cola collectible conventions, through auctions or from other collectors. He still goes to flea markets and yard sales, although the competition for valuable items has picked up dramatically in recent years. Return of Embossing In a special reintroduction in , The Coca-Cola Company restored the embossed bottles with the cities on the bottom to meet people's interest in recapturing part of the Company's heritage. This time, however, the 24 cities embossed on the bottom of the 8-ounce glass contour bottle were selected because of their special connection - either historical or just plain fun - to Coca-Cola.
Cokeville, Wyoming, has its name on a bottle because the Company just liked the way the small town's name sounds. In a future column, I'll discuss the topic of collecting commemorative bottles that were issued to honor championship sports teams and to mark other memorable occasions. Phil Mooney is the director of the Archives Department.