Of the many spoils and accolades Clemson fans enjoyed after the team won college football's national championship – the school’s first in 35 years – with a last-second touchdown, one had a distinctly
“Coke had done bottles before that, but they were the typical contour Coke bottles,"
That's right, the Tigers were one of the first few commemorative bottles, giving fans a chance to connect the past and present through
“The beauty of these bottles is that that are amazingly personal," Ryan said. “With the bottles and cans, it's something that connects you as a fan of your team and the brand more closely. It helps bring fans together. When the Atlanta Braves won the World Series, I didn't even work for Coke, and I was collecting them left and right."
Over the years, Coke has produced an array of sports bottles and cans – from West Georgia's 1983 Division IV college football championship to the Boston Red Sox's 75th anniversary to, just last year, Villanova's NCAA basketball championship. Some have featured game scores, others unique artwork. Contour bottles came back in the late-1980s, and the standard size dropped from 10-oz. to 8-oz.
Later, cans, which were easier to produce quickly and on a mass scale, became the norm.
“There have been some fun ones," Ryan said. “One of the more interesting ones was a 1982 St. Louis Cardinals bottle that had a mistake. They had the game-by-game box scores on them, but there was a mistake in one, and they had to print new ones. There was a set for the Dizzy Dean Little League World Series. So there have been bottles for big and small events."
Commemorative sports bottles and cans are often a hot commodity among the avid
“You try to find out about bottles everywhere," he said. “When Ohio State won the national championship (in 2002), the only way to get the bottle was to be on campus. It was a very difficult find on the collector's market. It took me almost a year to find it.”
Ryan notes that a 1985 Ty Cobb “Georgia Peach" bottle is one of the most sought-after sports packs on the market, with some valued at $135 and eBay listings often starting around $100. Pettijohn, who has a 9’x13’ room in his home filled from top to bottom with commemorative bottles, says collectors have a keen eye for
Coke, under the stewardship of Ryan, maintains its own collection of commemorative bottles and cans in the company’s archives, but its collection is not complete, by design.
“We mainly look for ones with informational value or that will be interesting in a display," he said.
Now the 2016 edition of the Clemson Tigers join the ranks of great sports teams and individuals honored by
“I'm going to have to add one to my collection," Pettijohn said.
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