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A Collector's Perspective

By:  Bill Combs Jan 1, 2012
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Collectors Columns- A Collector's Perspective

So you want to start a Coke collection. Maybe you've been picking up a piece here and there, and you've just realized you already have a collection. Welcome to the club. You're not alone; there are thousands of us out there. That's important to know for a few reasons. Reason one - you will have questions, and support is always available for new collectors. Reason two - when your family and friends tell you you're nuts, at least you know someone out there understands you.

Why collect items from The Coca-Cola Company? Think about it. You're not only collecting a company's history, you're collecting Americana at its best. You're collecting your own personal history as well. Look back at some of those special moments in your life, big or small, and there's a pretty good chance that Coca-Cola was there. If you're a collector living in the United States, Coke has always been there, because the world's most popular soft drink is well over a century old.

What to Collect

When I tell folks that I collect Coca-Cola, the thought of a dusty basement full of old bottles comes to mind. Well, that is collecting Coca-Cola, but just a small slice of it. I've visited collections that are museum quality. Original artwork, one-of-a-kind pieces, and not a dusty bottle to be found.

Coca-Cola collectors divide themselves up into smaller groups of collectors. There are folks who specialize in bottles, cans, clocks, signs, toys, trays, and many other groups. Some collectors focus on just one group of items. Others collect a little bit of everything. I envy those who can specialize. I've seen some GREAT collections, where the collector put all of their attention into one field, and amassed an unbelievable number of related items. For the cost of just a few "high-end" items, you might be able to pick up a few hundred bottles or cans. Even within groups, Coke collectors narrow their collections down to time periods (pre-1970s) or even by manufacturers (Buddy-L, Smith Miller, etc). So many decisions.

How do you know what's best for you? That's pretty easy. It's YOUR collection. Buy what makes you happy. If you find that you're attracted to bottles or cans, go for it. If you'd only be happy buying vintage items, go for it. I'm pretty sure your collection will change as you mature as a collector. I started picking up trays, and my specialty has changed quite a few times over the years. You'll be a "tray only" person searching antique shows, flea markets, and watching Q.V.C. All of a sudden you spot that Coca-Cola train set, and you're moving in another direction. Me, I'm all over the place. The items in my collection are from as far back as 1899, and as recent as last week. If I like it, I'm going to want it. I'll say "this year I'm just picking up older items." I'll look, with no luck, and spot newer items that I like, and before you know it, I'm heading home with a carload of new items.

Crossover Collectibles

Here's an interesting phenomenon that you'll see as a Coke collector. The cross-over collectible. This is an item that interests collectors in more than one area of collecting . For instance, a Coca-Cola bottle with an Olympic logo is going to be sought after by Coke collectors, soda bottle collectors, and Olympic collectors. The same crossover collecting comes into play with trains, trucks, clocks, records, and many other Coke items. Collecting Coca-Cola and McDonald's could be a full time hobby itself. The Coca-Cola Company has been a partner with many collectible companies throughout their long history. Many of these names are instantly recognizable to collectors. Barbie, Madam Alexander, Major League Baseball, The Vienna Art Plate Company, and many more. If you're chasing Coca-Cola collectibles, you're not alone in the search.

So, six hundred and fifty words into the article and I haven't told you what to buy. It's simple. Buy what ever makes you happy. It is YOUR collection. If you're happy with it, it's a good buy. Coca-Cola collecting can be rewarding, and lots of fun. You can branch out in as many, or as few directions, as you'd like. That's the beauty of collecting Coca-Cola. You are never limited in scope. You can spend a little, or a lot, and still have a great collection. Get out there and start your new hobby. We're here when you need us. 


Bill Combs has been a Coca-Cola collector since 1986 and is the vice president and former president of The Coca-Cola Collectors Club