As with anything that people collect, you have to know the product. Hopefully after this short explanation on how I do my Coca Cola collecting, you may find it a bit easier to find that treasure just waiting for you.
In my opinion, collecting Coca Cola memorabilia isn't as straight forward as it may seem. There are 3 main criteria when collecting these items. With regard to the first 2 criteria ......you must ask yourself whether the item was made by the Coca-Cola Company/Bottlers to promote their product, or was the item made by a company that bought the rights to use the Coca Cola logo and put it on whatever they want. It may sound like the same thing, but it's not. Let me explain......
As you probably know by now, Coca Cola spends alot of money promoting their product. By using their logo, (which is the most recognisable logo on earth), they can advertise 24hrs a day, anywhere. They don't just use the press, but novelty items, sponsorship and anything that can be printed on. They want you to see their logo, and you do.
So the first criteria is items made by Coca Cola itself, which would include billboards, point of sale displays, novelty items distributed by Coca Cola reps and anything that Coca Cola directly pays for and uses from their advertising budget. This would include in store signage/stickers as well as special limited edition items that the company or its bottlers produce for VIPS, sellers or the public. Bottles and cans would also be included in this criteria, along with advertising and competition branded prize. Basically anything that Coca Cola uses to promote through the company and its representatives.
Another criteria would be items that are made under License from Coca Cola. In other words, items that have been made by businesses that pay Coca Cola to use their logo. These businesses know that using the logo does make their products more desirable. What must be said is that with alot of items made under license, the quality may not be as good as it could be. Coca Cola does have a say on what items people put their logo on, but simple economics show that many companies do cut corners and some items may be a bit cheap. These companies just use the logo for their advantage. It must be said that some of these items are also very nice, as well, but there seems to be a rush to try to get that logo on anything, and thus the collector finds it more attractive.
The Coca Cola Company, however, have a different attitude to their items that they release. I only collect mostly items released and made by Coca Cola, and are used to sell the product, and not so much the licensed items, released by anyone. Why?????.... because Coca Cola always make top quality merchandise, and it is these items that are what Coca Cola collecting is all about, or should be. The Coca Cola Company know the importance of quality, and the longer something lasts, the longer that logo will be in someones face. The technology they use, whether it is with bottles/cans, promotional items or point of sale is always outstanding, great QUALITY. Looking at most Coca Cola items sold on ebay it becomes very clear there are alot of licensed pieces being sold. If you like that type of collectable, then that is great, but I like the point of sale items that are used in the shops to sell Coca Cola. To me, thats the real heart and soul of Coca Cola collecting.
The third criteria would be the fake and fantasy Coca Cola items on the market. Some items are created to look like older or valuable items, so obviously they are fakes. There are also items created that have never existed such as trays with odd pictures, or commemorative items that were never commemorated by Coca-Cola. These are known as fantasy items. Very recently I noticed a fantasy item for sale on eBay Australia. It was suppose to be from 1905 and it commemorated unit gallon sales of coke. The item never existed and was worth less than $5 in a price guide I have. The item sold for around US $320. I messaged the seller early in the auction saying that this item was a fantasy item, and not an original as he was claiming. He did thank me but made not reference in the auction details. The bidders identities were hidden so someone has well and truly been ripped off. These items are more common than most people think, and examples do come up on eBay. The most common reproductions and fakes are usually trays, pocket knives and mirrors. It is OK to buy these items if you like them, but please realise that they are usually valueless and not a sound investment as a collectable.
So basically, your first question would be: Is this a proper piece of Coca Cola memorabilia, or just something that has been mass-produced cheaply or a fake. Not all Licensed memorabila is cheap, some is really nice, but the novelty stores in the local shopping mall show just how much more an item can get if it says Coca Cola, or Jim Beam or Holden, even if its not that well made.
Products made by Coca Cola usually have number of items made. If you collect commemorative bottles, for example, that are sold on the market, then there usually is a number made. The less the number, obviously the more valuable. Licensed items, mass-produced, have much heavier numbers made, thus there is more chance that an item will always be readily available, so with no demand there is no real value.
When you are considering buying a Coca Cola piece for your collection, and you want it as an investment as well, you must ask yourself what is special about this item. While buying a nice set of Coca Cola Bottle salt and pepper shakers made in 2002 for $25 might sound nice, as they look really different, they probably will always stay around the same value, as this item is a mainstay in novelty shops. It is always there, and always will be.
Instead..... look for the unique items. The one offs, or the items that are made in short supply. Limited Edition items are really collectable, but sometimes they don't tell you that the edition is made up of 2,000,000 items made. So watch out. If you can have items in your collection that are desireable to other collectors because they are rare, then you have REAL VALUE.
I am not pretending to be an expert, but I have been collecting for many years, and have seen people collect for many years, only to be left with cheap junk. In my opinion, its great to collect everything that says Coca Cola, but you must also like the items. My first 10 years of collecting was just collecting everything. I built a huge shed to put it all in, covered the walls with cans from floor to ceiling. I had a collection of about 250 Coke cups, cardboard signs a foot thick leaning against the wall, nowhere to fit it all. I then realised that I just didn't like alot of the stuff. It was exciting seeing the Coke logo 10,000 times, but I just didnt like most of the items. By slowly selling items, I now can afford to buy items that are really different, and in my opinion, a talking point.
Watch out for rip-offs. You may think that you are quite knowledgeable when it comes to memorabilia, but there are so many items out there, its hard to keep track of them all. Its very common to see Coca Cola items offered as one offs, or mistakes on eBay. Be carefull. One example is the silver Coca Cola cans that are sold as mistakes. They don't have a red tint in the can, and look quite unique. This can be done quite easily by exposing a can to the sun, and turning it regularly to fade the red paint. It takes time, but was a cool trick to play on people when I was a kid.
Most people like Coke because it reminds them of their childhood, and the fun times kids had. The memorabilia is a reflection of this. People want the same kind of Coca Cola Championship Yo Yo that they had as a kid. They want to see the Diamond Can again, the one they use to drink out of as a teenager, or the old embossed hobbleskirt bottle. This is what makes these items desireable - nostalgia. I know that if I had the opportunity of the 2002 salt and pepper shakers, or a nice Russell Coca Cola Yo Yo from 1982 for my $25, the Yo Yo would win hands down. And besides, those Coca Cola Yo Yo experts that came to the school and did tricks for a living, were the coolest dudes I have ever met. What a job!
The most important fact to remember is that if you don't know about a certain item, and can't find any information about it, then don't take the word of just one person. You must find out the same information from at least one creditable source before you commit heavily to buying the ultra rare item. If you can't find the item on Google, or on collectors websites, it may be a bit suspicious. With the technology today, it would be very rare to find a Coca Cola piece that has never been seen before, or written about, or archived. Please don't just take an eBay listing to be truth. Make sure you read up. I use Petretti's price guide, but have others I use as well.
My last point will be: "If you really want to be a serious collector, learn the history". It might sound boring (not to me, though), but by knowing when certain things happened in the history of Coca Cola, it provides a timeline to when items came out. The way the logo was shown at the time gives you a clue to the age of an item. The slogan the company used at the time, tells you how old the item is, or if it is a fake. A combination of many thing may tell you more than you think. Find out when Coca Cola logos had the different wording underneath. Even the shape of the bottle compared with the logo on trays or signs or any advertising.
I always say, just collect what you like. You have to look at it, so it might as well be pleasing to your eye! Happy Collecting!
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