There are Coca-Cola® collectors all over the world, and I recently had a chance to meet some of them when I traveled to Sweden and Norway. In Sweden, the Coca-Cola system is preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary in business in 2003. In Norway, we're celebrating our 75th anniversary in business.
My first stop was Stockholm, where we hosted a press event that allowed people to bring in their treasures to see what they are worth. Peter Pluntky, host of a Swedish television show about antiques and collectibles, helped me conduct this Coca-Cola road show. Most of the collectibles that people brought to us were of fairly recent vintage, including a number of bottles that were developed in Sweden.
Unfortunately, we had to burst the bubble of one hopeful collector.
He presented us with a cast-iron bank shaped like the head of the Sprite boy that was first used in Coca-Cola advertisements in the 1940s. I suspected it was of recent vintage. Peter Pluntky knew that the bank was being massproduced in the Far East and wasn't worth more than $10. We could tell the gentleman who brought the bank was disappointed and had apparently paid a lot more than $10.
As I've warned so many times, before you make a sizeable purchase, check out an item in the popular reference book Petretti's Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide (11th Edition).
And as is so often the case at a Coca-Cola collectors' convention, we unexpectedly came across an item of great value.
A Swedish gentleman named Soren Allenborg came to the show with one bottle that he had inherited from his father. I recognized it immediately as a truly rare item. It was a green Coca-Cola bottle with foil wrapped around the neck, giving it the appearance of a champagne bottle.
The bottle was produced only in the 1920s and was designed to be used only on board transatlantic ocean liners. We have only one of the bottles in the Coca-Cola archives in Atlanta. I estimate there are only perhaps six of these bottles still in existence.
The condition of Mr. Allenborg's bottle was exceptional. On some of these bottles the foil or label has been damaged. But this one was perfect.
Such a bottle is extremely rare as a collectible and would bring thousands of dollars if put up at auction. But Mr. Allenborg decided to keep the bottle because it belonged to his father. He explained that his father had tried to get a bottling franchise in Sweden and had corresponded with the Coca-Cola Export Corporation of that era. He didn't get the business, but he did get the bottle.
In Norway, I spent some time with the Nordic Coca-Cola Collectors' Club, founded in 1999. The club is similar to the organized clubs in the United States. It was holding its annual convention in a state-of-the-art bottling facility just outside Oslo. More than 50 collectors from all over the country gathered to buy, sell and swap such items as signs, trays, toys and games. While their numbers are smaller than their American counterparts, their enthusiasm for collecting was no less intense.
A few days earlier, we had toured the home of Norwegian collector Knut Liodden, who had room after room filled with pristine Coca-Cola advertising materials, posters, toys, trucks, bottle and calendars. His collectibles were of good quality and were rare because they were all Norwegian.
I can't speak either Swedish or Norwegian, but my Scandinavian hosts spoke excellent English, so I had no trouble with communicating during my trip - and of course, our shared love for Coca-Cola collectibles translates in any language!
Phil Mooney is the Director of the Archives Department.