Coca-Cola needs no introduction. It’s the most popular soft drink in the world, and sells almost 2 million bottles every single day! With over 900 factories all around the globe, Coca-Cola is sold in nearly every single country of the world.
Because of such popularity, it might sound strange that some people collect Coca-Cola bottles because they lack one of the main things that collectors value – scarcity. With so many bottles produced every day, how some could sell for over $100,000?
The answer is simple. Coca-Cola was invented in the late 1880s, and the company was established in 1892. As a result, there are some coke bottles that were made over 120 years ago, and such bottles are the ones collectors desire to get their hands on.
History of Coca-Cola Bottle
Prior to being bottled, Coca-Cola was sold in syrup form to pharmacies that mixed it with sparkling water and served it to customers in glasses to be consumed on the spot. However, it quickly changed, and Coca-Cola started bottling their drink to be sold in bottles.
There are several distinct Coca-Cola bottle “eras”, each marked with significant changes in its design. The first bottles used were so-called Hutchinson Patent bottles, which had a stopper made of a rubber seal that was attached to a wire.
Coca-Cola used Hutchinson bottles for just 7 years, after which it moved to straight-sided bottles with a lip, which were used until 1916. These bottles exist in 5 colors:
- Amber – is usually the most expensive
In 1915, Coca-Cola held a contest for glass-making companies to design a unique bottle for the drink. Apparently, Coca-Cola wanted it to be so unique, that it could be recognized in the dark. It led to the creation of the iconic “contour” bottle, which is used to this day.
The oldest examples of this design come in 4 colors:
In 1925, Coca-Cola decided to start producing only green bottles, but during World War II there was a shortage of copper which is necessary for green-colored glass, so there are some rare bottles from the 1940s that are blue.
How Do You Tell How Old a Coke Bottle Is?
Dating Coca-Cola bottles can be a difficult task, but there are several tricks you can use to successfully indicate their age, especially the ones made after 1915 when Coca-Cola started bottling the drink in the contour bottle.
If it’s the contour bottle, look for an embossed patent statement under the “Coca-Cola” logo. The statement differs by the date the bottle was manufactured:
- “Pat’d. Nov. 16, 1915” – Made between 1916 and 1928
- “Pat’d Dec. 25, 1923” – Made between 1928 and 1938
- “Pat. D-105529” – Made between 1938 and 1951
- “ U.S. Pat. Office, 6 oz.” – Made between 1951 and 1958
- “U.S. Pat. Office, 6-1/2 oz.” – Made between 1958 and 1965
After this, you should check for an embossed date somewhere on the bottle. Most bottles made between 1938 and 1965 have a small number (ex. 46) indicating the production year, in this example, it would be 1946.
Fewer contour bottles made between 1916 and 1938 have embossed dates, but if they do, the year of production is followed by an abbreviation of the plant where they were made. For example, if you find “LGW 28”, it means the bottle was made by Laurens Glass Works in 1928.
Coca-Cola used “straight-side” bottles between 1900 and 1920, and dating them is way trickier compared to contour bottles. It’s because back then, Coca-Cola bottle producers didn’t use standardized manufacturing guidelines.
Despite that, some bottles will still have embossed dates, but the majority do not. As a result, if it’s a straight-side bottle without a date, you can only tell that it was produced sometime between 1900 and 1920.
Finally, Hutchinson bottles were made sometime between the 1890s and 1907, and there isn’t an easy way to pinpoint the exact date, because they didn’t have it embossed.
What Coke Bottles Are Worth Money?
The official page of Coca-Cola states that even some of the oldest bottles from the 1920s are not that valuable and won’t bring you riches. That being said, there are several types of coke bottles that can sell for a nice lump of money.
10. Chinese Coca-Cola Bottle from 1992 – $1500
You might be surprised that a bottle from the 1990s could sell for that much, but it was explicitly manufactured to commemorate an important day for the American fast food industry.
This bottle was made to support the campaign of launching the first McDonald’s restaurant in China, celebrating the difficult feat of introducing western fast food to the sophisticated palates of Chinese people.
While the bottle was made in 1992, the first McDonald’s joint in China was opened in 1990 and was located in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. It proved itself to be a huge success and was followed by the biggest McDonald’s joint in the world that was built two years later in Beijing. It served over 40,000 customers on its opening day alone!
Knowing this, it becomes clear why this Coca-Cola bottle from 1992 sold for over $1500 back in 2020.
9. Coke Bottle from the 1900s – $2,375
The first Coca-Cola bottles just have this charm that is difficult to describe. It’s completely colorless, but far from minimalistic. The placement of the Coca-Cola logo varied year to year. Sometimes it was embossed on the bottom, other times on the middle, and sometimes on the side of the bottle.
Depending on when exactly it was produced and its condition, coke bottles from the early 1900s can be sold for well over $1,000. For example, one bottle that was manufactured in Jellico, Tennessee sold for $2,375 in 2019.
8. Seoul Olympic Games Commemorative Bottle From 1988 – $2,500
Coca-Cola was introduced to South Korea in June 1968, and quickly became one of the most popular soft drinks in the country. As a result, it comes as no surprise that Coca-Cola did something special during the Summer Olympics in 1988 which were hosted by Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
The company launched a special Coca-Cola bottle that was packaged in a decorated cardboard box, commemorating this event. The bottle itself had a sticker of the Olympic mascot called “Hodori”, roughly translating to “little tiger”.
Obviously, most bottles were drunk during the Olympic Games, but some people knowing the importance of such a product kept them intact, and one was sold for $2,500 in 2021 on eBay.
If you’re from South Korea or have some relatives living there, it’s worth asking them if by any chance they have such a bottle somewhere lying around. You might have such a treasure without even knowing it!
7. Thailand Coca-Cola ACL Bottle from 1973 – $3,350
Back in the day, most soda bottling plants used custom molds that embossed the company’s logo on the bottle. It worked, but due to the nature of such a method, it was impossible to make the logo colorful.
Color is one of the most important of a brand, so embossments were quickly replaced by paper labels. Such labels could carry color and clearly display the company’s brand, increasing brand recognition.
However, paper labels were also problematic, because they would need to be replaced with new labels every time a bottle was recycled. It’s an expensive and time-consuming process that was replaced by what’s called Applied Color Label (ACL) bottles.
It’s also known as painted labels or baked enamel labels. Briefly, a label is painted on a bottle and then it’s cooked at a high temperature, which fuses the paint with the glass, resulting in a colorful label that doesn’t have to be reapplied every time the bottle is recycled.
Bottle collectors of all sorts love such bottles, and Coca-Cola bottle collectors aren’t an exception. Because of that, one Coca-Cola ACL bottle from Thailand made in 1973 was sold for $3,350 in 2020.
It was in mint condition, so not every similar bottle can sell for that much, but they’re still some of the most expensive Coca-Cola bottles.
6. Hutchinson Coca-Cola Bottle from the early 1900s – $4,000+
Coca-Cola has a fascinating history. It was invented by a pharmacist John Stith Pemberton, who sold the syrup to local pharmacies in Atlanta to mix with sparkling water as an alternative to alcoholic drinks that were getting demonized by the temperance movement.
He passed away just a few years later in 1988, and eventually, the rights to Coca-Cola ended up in the hands of another pharmacist Asa Griggs Candler. He understood the potential of this soft drink and started working towards its mass production.
It led to the first bottles of Coca-Cola, called Hutchinson Coca-Cola bottles. They were completely transparent and were embossed with the Coca-Cola logo. Such bottles were used just for 7 years, making them extremely rare to come upon today.
A Hutchinson bottle in mind condition can sell for over $4,000, but there’s also such a bottle that is wrongly embossed with “COCO-COLA”, and is being sold for $7,500.
5. Dallas Cowboys Coke from 1984 – $5,000
Now this one is for the sports fans because this bottle was one of the products created to celebrate Dallas Cowboy’s 25th anniversary in the NFL. It was manufactured in 1984, among other items like the Coca-Cola jacket and t-shirts.
The bottle is decorated with Dallas Cowboy’s game records in their 25 seasons in the league and is one of the coolest pieces of sports memorabilia an NFL fan can own. Because of that, one of such bottles sold for $5,000 in 2019.
4. French Wine Coca Bottle from the late 1890s – $5,000+
Before Coca-Cola was a soft drink, it was a type of what’s called coca wine. People used to put cocaine into wine because it gets metabolized by the liver when ingested together and results in a drug called cocaethylene.
It’s way more potent than cocaine or alcohol on its own, so it’s only natural that coca wines were extremely popular in the 1800s. John Stith Pemberton made his own coca wine with the addition of kola nut, hence the name Coca-Cola (cocaine-kola).
While cocaine was quickly removed from the formula, the coca leave extract is still being used in Coca-Cola today. In 2014, one person came upon a bottle at a local flea market with a label saying “French Wine Coca/Ideal Nerve Tonic/Health Restorer/& Stimulant”.
The back of the label said many things, among which were “The marvelous invigorate! The great nerve tonic! The queen of stimulants! The intellectual beverage!”. Most importantly, the bottle was embossed with John Stith Pemberton’s name, meaning it’s the first bottle of what eventually became Coca-Cola.
The person purchased it in the flea market for just $5, but it got appraised for $5,000 due to historic significance. It’s unknown how many such bottles exist, but only 3 are known, making it one of the rarest Coca-Cola bottles in the world.
3. FIFA World Cup Coca-Cola Bottle from 1974 – $29,900
This Coca-Cola bottle was manufactured to celebrate FIFA World Cup in 1974. This tournament was special for two reasons. The first one is that it was the 10th FIFA World Cup. The second, which wasn’t special at the time, is that it was held in West Germany.
West Germany was established after Third Reich led by Adolf Hitler was defeated in World War II. It seized to exist after German reunification in 1990 when West Germany and East Germany reunited after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
One of such bottles sold for $29,900 in 2020, and besides being manufactured for FIFA World Cup, there were three other factors resulting in such a jaw-dropping price. First of all, it was in mint condition, meaning it had no scratches or cracks, essentially brand-new.
Second, it was unopened and still had the original Coca-Cola drink inside of it. Finally, it had a syringe inside it. While there’s no way to confirm for sure if there’s a syringe inside without opening and destroying the bottle’s value, this claim was born out of a myth originating in the 1990s.
In 1993, Coca-Cola’s fiercest competitor Pepsi got involved in a huge scandal that it was putting syringes in its soda cans. Pepsi took a hard hit on its reputation, but ultimately, it was proven to be false.
2. Coca-Cola Root Glass Company Modified Prototype Bottle from 1915 – $108,000
In 1915, Coca-Cola launched a contest for glass-making companies to create the perfect bottle for their drink. Several companies participated and submitted their designs with actual prototypes, but the winner was Earl R. Dean from the Root Glass Company.
However, his design had to be modified to be better suitable for bottle-manufacturing machines, and the lower and middle diameters were altered. So this bottle is a modified prototype, which eventually led to the iconic Coca-Cola bottle we know today.
What makes this bottle so rare is the fact that the contest was extremely confidential, and all the test bottles were supposed to be destroyed after the fact. This bottle is also the first bottle in history to be granted trademark status by the United States Patent Office.
The Morphy Auctions estimated that this bottle would sell for between $100,000 and $150,000. In 2019, this bottle had a starting bid of $50,000 and was finally sold for $108,000. There’s only one other such bottle known to exist, and it sold for even more.
1. Coca-Cola Root Glass Company Modified Prototype Bottle from 1915 – $250,000
The most expensive Coca-Cola bottle was sold in an auction held in 2011. It was the same type of bottle we described in the previous entry, so there’s not much else to say about it.
It was sold in an auction hosted by Julien’s Auctions based in Beverly Hills. It was estimated to sell between $10,000 and $20,000, but after 19 bids, it reached a mind-boggling price of $250,000, making it the most expensive Coca-Cola bottle ever sold!
Where to Sell and Buy Old Coke Bottles?
If you’re interested in buying an antique coke bottle or think that you have a rare one lying around your house, there are several places we recommend to buy or sell old coke bottles.
This is one of the most popular online marketplaces, and it doesn’t lack vintage Coca-Cola bottle sellers. At the time of writing, just ebay.com alone has over 26,000 different listings of Coca-Cola bottles, and there are also international sites for the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.
Currently, the most expensive active listing on ebay.com is the Detroit Tigers Baseball Stadium bottle with a printing error. It’s listed for $10,000!
While Etsy was launched as an online marketplace for hand-made crafts and products, it has eventually become a popular place for collectors to buy or sell rare items, including vintage Coca-Cola bottles. Currently, there are nearly active 1,500 listings.
The most expensive listing is for a straight-side Coca-Cola bottle made sometime in the late 1890s by a manufacturing plant in Lamar, Colorado. The seller is asking for $7,495!