Coca-Cola is one of the most iconic and recognizable brands in the world. For over a century, Coke has been bottled and sold all over the globe, with a rich cultural history that has created a valuable collectible market.
Perhaps you’ve inherited an old Coke bottle collection? Or you might be interested in starting a collection of your own? Maybe you’re simply a Coke enthusiast and want to know everything there is to know about bottle designs? You’ve come to the right place!
Today, we will explore the most valuable Coke bottles in the world, including the history and stories behind them. We’ll supply you with a Coca-Cola bottle design timeline, an interesting guide on how coke bottles are made, and a buying and selling guide.
Coca-Cola Bottle: Background
So much is known about the history of Coca-Cola that we thought it might be fresh and exciting to find out a little more about Coca-Cola bottles “behind the scenes”…
In the early days of Coca-Cola, the company used clear glass bottles to hold the famous drink. However, in 1915, Coca-Cola switched to green glass bottles in an attempt to differentiate itself from competitors and protect the drink from sunlight, which could spoil its flavor. The switch to green bottles was a big success and many customers associated the unique shade with the Coca-Cola brand. In fact, the company trademarked the color “Coca-Cola green” in the 1940s to prevent other soft drink companies from using it.
In 1979, Coca-Cola aired a now-famous commercial featuring Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman “Mean” Joe Greene. The commercial shows Greene limping off the field after a tough game, when a young fan offers him a Coke. The commercial was a huge success, winning a Clio Award for advertising and becoming one of the most memorable ads of all time. The boy in the commercial, Tommy Okon, later said that he never expected the commercial to become so iconic, and that he still gets recognized for it today.
How Are Coke Bottles Made?
Coca-Cola bottles are made using a process called blow molding:
- Preform Manufacturing: First, small plastic tubes called preforms are produced in a separate manufacturing facility. Preforms are heated and stretched to form the basic shape of a bottle.
- Bottle Molding: The preforms are transported to the bottling plant, where they are loaded into a blow molding machine. The machine heats the preforms and blows them into the final shape of the bottle using compressed air.
- Bottle Inspection: After the bottles are molded, they are inspected for quality control. This includes checking for any defects, such as cracks or weak spots in the plastic.
- Labeling: Once the bottles have been inspected, they are labeled with the Coca-Cola logo and other branding information.
- Filling and Capping: Finally, the bottles are filled with Coca-Cola syrup and carbonated water, and a cap is applied to seal the bottle.
The process of making Coca-Cola bottles has evolved over time. Newer machinery and technologies allow for faster and more efficient production all the time. However, the basic principles of blow molding and quality control remain the same.
Coke Bottle Design Timeline
To get familiar with the different Coca-Cola bottle designs out there, let’s take a look at a brief Coke bottle timeline…
- 1899: The Hutchinson Bottle – one of the earliest types of Coke bottles, featuring a unique stopper designed by Charles Hutchinson.
- 1900-1916: The Straight-Sided Bottle – the first bottle to feature the iconic Coca-Cola logo, with a simple and elegant design.
- 1916-1950s: The Contour Bottle – also known as the “hobble-skirt” bottle, featuring a unique curved design that quickly became an iconic symbol of the Coke brand.
- 1923: The Christmas Bottle – a rare and highly sought-after variation of the contour bottle, featuring the image of Santa Claus.
- 1937: The “Gone with the Wind” Bottle – another rare variation of the contour bottle, produced to promote the film of the same name.
- 1955-1960s: The King-Size Bottle – a larger version of the contour bottle, designed to appeal to families and groups.
- 1961-1993: The Fishtail Logo Bottle – featuring a distinctive logo design with a stylized fishtail.
- 1993-Present: The Dynamic Ribbon Bottle – a modern update on the contour bottle, featuring a dynamic and streamlined design.
Most Valuable Coke Bottles
Allow us to take you on a whirlwind tour of the different kinds of coke bottles and the most valuable varieties. We’ll list the top auction records and the average value of each bottle. Please note that these values are accurate at the time of writing but are subject to change depending on market fluctuations and supply and demand.
The Hutchinson Bottle
The Hutchinson bottle is one of the earliest types of Coke bottles, dating back to 1899. It was named after its inventor, Charles Hutchinson. One of the unique features is a stopper that kept the carbonation secure inside the bottle. This design allowed for the mass production and sale of Coke, quickly making it one of the most popular beverages in the world. Today, the Hutchinson bottle tends to range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on rarity and condition.
1899 Coca-Cola Prototype Bottle
This is one of the rarest, most iconic and most valuable Coke bottles in the world, with only two known to exist. In 2011, one of these bottles sold for $250,000 at Julien’s Auctions!
The Straight-Sided Bottle
The straight-sided bottle was introduced in 1900. The design was simple and elegant, with straight sides and a distinctive fluted bottom. This bottle is particularly valuable because it was only used for a short period of time (from 1900 to 1916) before being replaced by the contour bottle. Today, the average value can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, with perfect examples fetching up to $4,000 at auction.
1915 Root Glass Co. Prototype Coca-Cola Bottle
This is another extremely rare prototype bottle, with only one known to exist in perfect condition today. In 2013, this bottle sold for $108,000 at Morphy Auctions!
1915 Gavels ‘N’ Paddles: Prototype Coke Bottle
Another prototype coke bottle made by Root Glass Co., this rare bottle sold for $110,700 in 2014 at Morphy Auctions!
The Contour Bottle
The contour bottle (“hobble-skirt” bottle) was introduced in 1916. Its unique curved design made it easy to hold and transport, and it quickly became one of the most recognizable brand bottles in the world. Today, the contour bottle is probably the most widely collected Coke bottle with thousands of different variations and designs from 1916 through to 1950. Some of the rarest and most valuable contour bottles include the 1923 “Christmas” bottle, which features the image of Santa Claus, and the 1937 “Gone with the Wind” bottle, which was produced to promote the film of the same name.
1940s-1950s Script Coke Bottle
A rare variation of the contour bottle, featuring the “Coca-Cola” script logo. The value of a Script Coke bottle can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on condition and rarity.
Other Valuable Coke Bottles
In addition to the Hutchinson, straight-sided, and contour bottles, there are many other valuable Coke bottles that collectors seek out. These include early glass bottles, such as the amber-colored “Georgia Green” bottles from the 1920s and 1930s, as well as rare promotional bottles and limited-edition designs.
Romero Britto Limited Edition Coca Cola Bottles
A full set of 6 of these limited edition bottles designed by the Brazilian pop artist Romero Britto sold for $1,399.18 in 2023! Only 500 were made and produced in Thailand.
Twist Japan Coca-Cola Bottle
This incredible limited edition bottle from Japan features a striking twist in the Coke bottle glass. It sold for $999 along with another limited edition Ambasa bottle in 2023!
Factors That Affect The Value Of Coke Bottles
Rarity is one of the most significant factors, with older bottles that are difficult to find or produced in limited quantities typically being much more valuable. Find a guide on how to age a Coca-Cola bottle here.
Condition is also essential. Bottles in mint or excellent condition and with original labels and packaging fetch much higher prices. Those with the original liquid and cap are more valuable than empty bottles. If a cap has been replaced it will lower the value significantly. Likewise scratches and cracks drive the price down.
Historical significance can also be a factor. Bottles that were produced to commemorate specific events or milestones in Coke’s history are highly sought after.
Provenance – the bottle’s history and ownership – can play a key role in its value. There are some notable Coke bottle collectors such as John Thom who specializes in collecting bottles from towns which produced Coca-Cola bottles through the decades.
Buying And Selling Coke Bottles
There are several ways to buy and sell Coke bottles including online marketplaces, auction houses, and private collectors. Online marketplaces offer a wide selection of Coke bottles, including both common and rare examples. Some recommended sites include:
- eBay – searching for vintage Coke bottles via eBay is easy. You can also filter the results by color, featured refinements, condition, price, and many more options. Make sure you go for listings from reputable sellers. If selling, make sure you include plenty of details and respond to buyers’ questions quickly.
- Etsy – this is a great site for vintage and collectible items. Etsy is a home for a great range of unique sellers from around the world. Again, make sure you only purchase from sellers with a good reputation. If selling a bottle yourself, it is essential to include lots of information and images.
- Collector’s Weekly – check out Collector’s Weekly for useful background and live listings across different auction sites. Sellers and Coke bottle enthusiasts share their stories and rare finds on this site.
Auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s regularly hold auctions of Coke memorabilia, including rare bottles and even artwork featuring Coke bottles. For example, this Andy Warhol black and white Coke bottle canvas sold for $35 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2010!
Private collectors can also be a good source of rare and valuable Coke bottles, although it is important to research the authenticity and provenance of any bottles before making a purchase. You can try reaching out to specialist antique or vintage shops with collectible and memorabilia experts.
Tips For Collecting Coke Bottles
If you are interested in collecting valuable Coke bottles, there are several simple tips to keep in mind:
- First, do your research and learn as much as possible about the history and value of different types of Coke bottles. This will help you to identify rare and valuable bottles and avoid common mistakes.
- Second, focus on quality over quantity and invest in a few high-quality bottles rather than a large collection of lower-value bottles.
- Third, be patient and persistent, as valuable bottles can take time to find and acquire. Consider setting up alerts on auction sites and online marketplaces for the exact items you are looking for.
- Finally, be careful when buying from online marketplaces and private collectors, and always verify the authenticity and provenance of any bottles before making a purchase.