If you pick up a faded photo from Craig Guthrie’s childhood more likely than not there’ll be Coke bottle in the background.
“It was such a part of family moments and celebrations,” Craig said. “There was no stress. Everything was simple, life was good.”
As a kid, he’d head down the shop, cash in a bottle of Coke for 5 cents and play a round on the pinball machine. It’s no surprise that later in life Craig was drawn to collecting, trying to find the bottles that appeared in the photos.
“I actually tried to find those exact bottles. Took me a while to find them but it bought back some happy childhood memories. It really started from there.”
And by no means is Craig alone in his fascination with Coke collectibles. Recently at the bi-annual meeting of Coca-Cola Memorabilia Collectors Club collectors were drawn from as far away as Germany to swap stories – and maybe yo-yos.
The smooth glass contours of a Coke bottle started Geoff Moulds’ love of collecting. Growing up in Wauchope, NSW, he and his brother would repurpose bottles into hand reels for fishing.
“When I started drinking Coke, a bottle of Coke was 20 cents, and you could get five cents back,” Geoff said. “So, you'd scrounge around to get four empty bottles, take them back to the shop, get another bottle of Coke and keep it for the hand line. Then you'd go down the river.”
“This is one of my most interesting experiences at Coca-Cola so far,” Amy said. “It’s so fascinating to see all the memorabilia in person.”
For the many of the collectors it’s not just the love of the memorabilia but the community of collectors that draws them to the hobby.
“Every couple of years we catch up with a similar group of people that are almost as crazy as me,” said NSW club president, Peter Graham. “That's really a nice thing to have. It's nice to have a mob of nice, like-minded people to chat with.”
For Anne Graham, whose husband introduced her to collecting back in 2002, the best aspect of each year’s convention is the chance to meet up with old friends - and make new ones. “I think at a convention that chance to just catch up with people that we possibly may not speak to for two years,” Anne said.
For others the passion for collecting has faded a little. But the lure of the Coca-Cola Collector community has never gone away.
“I'm probably three years out of serious collecting,” said John Arronis, who has been seeking out memorabilia for 22 years. “But I still hang around, and love the camaraderie of the Coke collectors.”
However, the thrill of finding a genuine bargain can still reignite John’s old obsession.
“The best thing that I've ever discovered at a market store is called an executive yo-yo,” he said.
And it’s that moment of victory that still excites seasoned collectors like Geoff. “It makes you feel young, you know? The hunt, the chase, the spark, all I remember,” he says. “You go back into your youth.”
Though Craig might have found the bottles that appeared in his photo, he’s still on the lookout for treasure - though what that is, he isn’t quite sure.
“I'm not actually looking for anything, until I see it,” said Craig. “You never know what's out there and that’s such a big part of the fun.”