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What's It Worth? Collectors Guess the Value of Rare Coke Memorabilia

By:  Ted Ryan Aug 21, 2014
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Commemorative Root Bottle - $150

This commemorative Coca-Cola Root Bottle sold for $150 at auction.

What is it worth? We get that question all the time. People around the world love to collect items related to Coca-Cola. Television shows like Pawn Stars, Storage Wars and Antiques Roadshow have piqued curiosity about the value of Coca-Cola collectibles. As a policy, we do not appraise items. Instead, we typically refer collectors to some of the books and price guides. eBay has items for sale every day and, in the long run, a collectible is worth exactly what two people agree on.

There is one time a year that I do participate in a forum where we try to guess the value of a collectible: during the annual meeting of The Coca-Cola Collectors Club.

Annual Meeting of The Coca-Cola Collectors Club

Collectors browse auction items at the Annual Meeting of The Coca-Cola Collectors Club.

Never heard of The Coca-Cola Collectors Club? Founded in 1974, the nonprofit organization is devoted to members around the world who collect Coca-Cola memorabilia. It's a great community of people who like to collect Coca-Cola memorabilia and trade stories. Their mission statement ends with this line: “Our Club’s best benefit is the chance you will have to make long-lasting friendships with members who share your interests.”

The Coca-Cola Company does not sponsor the Club, but we do try to help with special projects and support their annual meeting. This year's meeting in Springfield, Ill. was a special one because the Club was celebrating its 40th anniversary.

During the meeting, speakers give presentations on topics ranging from individual types of items (one year featured a presentation on the hundreds of Coca-Cola branded pencils produced!), to preservation, to a Coca-Cola Jeopardy quiz. One of the sessions I always appear on is “What's It Worth.”

One of the biggest, and most fascinating, events at the meeting is the Friday auction. More than 400 Coca-Cola related items are auctioned off during the session, which typically lasts six to eight hours. Attendees get the chance to see a huge variety of memorabilia sold.

With the “What’s it Worth” panel, the Club selects five items that will be sold. The panelist try to guess what the item will sell for the next day at the auction. I am horrible at guessing what the values will be! While one may know that a Coca-Cola pretzel bowl has been consistently selling at auctions and on eBay at a certain price, the items selected for this session are always a bit unconventional.

And 2014 was no different. The five items were all unique and ranged from a Beatles poster, to an Italian card set with an unusual box, to a “Nellie Fox” promotional baseball bat. The Beatles piece was the most interesting item. Most of the panelists guessed it would sell for between $150 to $250. I was one of the high guessers at $800. The item sold for $2,400! That's why it is so difficult to determine how much an item is worth, and one of the reasons we don’t give appraisals.

Nellie Fox bat

This Nellie Fox bat went for $550 and now resides in our Archives at The Coca-Cola Company.

The only one I guessed correctly was the Nellie Fox baseball bat, which went for $550. I was happy to acquire it for our Archives. It will make a great addition and will look fantastic on display at the World of Coke.

If you are a collector, I urge you to consider joining the The Coca-Cola Collectors Club. In addition to the annual meeting, the Club has regional and local groups where you can meet people who share your interest.

During the auction, I took photographs of some of the items and posted them to our Coke Archives Facebook page, inviting the readers to guess how much the item would sell for. You can look at the album below to see how you might have done. Keep in mind that these prices reflect the value of that item on that day with that audience.

Ted Ryan is director of heritage communications at The Coca-Cola Company.