Collectors Column- What It's Worth

You might be surprised to learn what people pay for Coca-Cola® memorabilia. The price can be a pleasant surprise -- such as discovering the Coca-Cola calendar in your attic is worth a few thousand dollars -- or can be a disappointment, such as learning the old Coca-Cola contour bottle you’ve dug up is worth just a few dollars. The price of a Coca-Cola item depends in part on its quality and the rarity of the item. Paper items, such as calendars or some cardboard cut-outs, may be worth more because there are fewer on the market. Other items, such as contour bottles, are not worth as much money because the bottles are very durable and very plentiful. The price of a Coca-Cola item also depends on the buyers. If buyers really want items for their collections, they might be willing to pay more than market value.

Here are selling prices for just a few of the more than 150 items offered at The Coca-Cola Collectors Club’s Springtime in Atlanta convention auction, held in April 2007.

This tray first issued in 1953 but distributed for several subsequent years -- known as the “Menu Girl” tray -- had a final bid of $100. As Coca-Cola had been advertised on metal trays since the turn of the last century, a tray from the 1950s is considered relatively “modern” by collectors and therefore brings in a more reasonable price. (The earliest Coca-Cola trays can be worth tens of thousands of dollars.) The condition of an item -- such as scrapes, dents or rust on a metal tray or sign -- will affect the price, but collectors also realize that decades-old advertising pieces often will show their age!

Coca-Cola signs that light up are very popular collectibles right now. This 1950s sign brought a final bid of $650 at the Springtime auction. This “Please Pay Cashier” sign actually would have sat on a counter, drawing attention to that area. That fact makes it an even more soughtafter item.

This 1960s Coca-Cola calendar holder sold for $275. If the paper calendar pad had been included, the value could have gone up significantly. The Coca-Cola “fishtail” design (named because the edges look like a fish’s tail) was introduced in 1958 and used into the 1960s. It’s a popular design among collectors today.

The most expensive item at the Springtime in Atlanta auction was this 1950s pilaster tin sign for Coca-Cola six-pack carriers. These signs often had red discs attached to the top, providing a great way to draw attention to Coca-Cola in stores. This metal sign -- measuring 18 by 54 inches -- advertises the ease of carrying home Coca-Cola bottles in the six-pack. The sign brought a final bid of $825.

You do not, however, need hundreds or thousands of dollars to add to your collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia. This “Enjoy Coke” red-and-white metal sign went for just $45. This is a great example of a sign that can be hung directly on the wall and be a good addition to a budding Coca-Cola collection.

While Coca-Cola commemorative bottles -- those that honor specific events or sports teams -- can individually be worth hundreds of dollars, many are much less expensive. Many of these bottles sell regularly in the $5-$10 range. Collecting commemorative bottles is an easy and often inexpensive way to build or add to a collection. At the Springtime auction, this batch of 75 assorted 8-ounce commemorative bottles sold for $15 -- just 20 cents each!

If you have a Coca-Cola piece and would like to find out how much it’s worth, you have a number of options: Look in books such as Petretti’s Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide, contact a board member of The Coca-Cola Collectors Club or contact The Coca-Cola Company’s Consumer Affairs or Archives Department.

The Coca-Cola Collectors Club also has a new area on its website showing results from auctions at its national and local conventions. New results are added regularly. Seeing the photos of items sold and the prices realized is a great way to learn the value of Coca-Cola memorabilia, and see how the market -- what’s popular at the moment -- can affect pricing.

If you are interested in auctions, the following sources may be useful. EBay features thousands of Coca-Cola items each day ( category13600/). Most regional and national Coca-Cola Collectors Club events include auctions and publications such as Antique Trader Weekly ( often note auctions of individual Coca-Cola collections.

Phil Mooney is the director of the Archives Department.