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Decoding Coca-Cola's Collectibles

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Source Review: Decoding Coca-Cola’s Collectibles

By Nadiah Rozali

Nadiah Rozali

Communication Design | Year 3 | 2016/2017

The Glasgow School of Art, Singapore

Ellen Philpott-Teo

2200 Words



  1. Source Review: Decoding Coca-Cola’s Collectibles  …………   Pg 1-10
  2. Bibliography ……………………………………………………..   Pg 11-12


  1. Figure 1: A book on a collection of Coca-Cola collectibles ………………………..    Pg 2
    Sourced from Deborah Goldstein Hill, Price Guide To Vintage Coca-Cola Collectibles, 1896-1965 (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1999).
  2. Figure 2: Compilation of “feminist” Coca-Cola adverts ………………………..    Pg 4
    Sourced from Deborah Goldstein Hill, Price Guide To Vintage Coca-Cola Collectibles, 1896-1965 (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1999, p.117-119).

  1. Figure 3: 1904 Coca-Cola Serving Tray of Lillian Nordica ………………………..    Pg 5
    Sourced from "1904 Coca-Cola Lillian Nordica With Glass Tray | Antique Coca-Cola Tray Values",  [19 February 2017].
  1. Figure 4: Coca-Cola Girls: An Advertising Art History by Chris H. Beyer ………    Pg 9
    Sourced from Barry Johnson, ‘Coca-Cola Girls: An Advertising Art History’, The Austin Chronicle (2000) < > [19 February 2017]


Coca-Cola Company was founded in May 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr John S. Pemberton, a pharmacist in Atlanta, innovated a new distinctive soft drink out of curiosity. The drink was created from a flavoured syrup mixed with soda water and ice. Frank Robinson, Pemberton’s assistant, then named the drink “Coca-Cola” where he also produced the Spencerian script that became a famous distinctive trademark used till today. Upon Pemberton’s death in 1888, Asa G. Candler took over the company where he devote himself to marketing Coca-Cola and motivating people to try the drink for themselves. Candler then advertised Coca-Cola through colourful posters, signs and cardboard cut-outs at retail locations. Coca-Cola products such as signs, equipments, glasses and light fixtures were given out to store owners and faithful drinkers. With Coca-Cola’s distinctive brand identity and marketing slogan, “Delicious and Refreshing,” the drink and brand became well-known and successful till today, worldwide.

The journey of Coca-Cola’s advertising history was remarkable from the year 1886 to today, promoting the brand from local to global through various advertising techniques from promotional items to mass media. Coca-Cola’s most prominent advertisements would be their various promotional materials such as serving trays, change trays, clocks, coolers, calendars and more. In other words, the items that are known as ‘Coca-Cola Collectibles’ where antique enthusiasts and collectors all over the world are making this collecting behaviour into a Coca-Cola culture. In my opinion, due to Coca-Cola’s overwhelming fame, the culture and messages behind these collectibles are being overshadowed and overlooked. Thus, I am determined to understand and discuss the culture behind these promotional products by Coca-Cola in this essay.

With that being so, I am going to study, analyse and decode their promotional products — Coca-Cola collectibles, for any interesting discoveries such as hidden messages or myths, design history or the culture (social, cultural, economical) that may lie in the collectibles. To understand the culture behind the collectibles, the sources for research and analysis begins with a book on Coca-Cola Collectibles followed by the Gender theory approach, material culture approach and a book on Coca-Cola Girls.[pic 1][pic 2]

Figure 1. A book on Coca-Cola’s collectibles used as an object of analysis

 The first source to kickstart the decoding of Coca-Cola’s collectibles would be to analyse the book — ‘Price Guide to Vintage Coca-Cola Collectibles, 1896-1965’ by Deborah Goldstein Hill[1] (see Figure 1.) The purpose of using this source is because it contains a variety of Coca-Cola collectibles of over 20 different categories and over 1800 vintage Coca-Cola items. Furthermore, these collectibles were the author’s own personal collection and memorabilia collected over the years. I believed it would be more interesting and resourceful to use this book since its a personal collection and not taken from other parties. Also, these items were dated from the period of 1896 to 1965, before I was even born which would be a good opportunity for me to look into the really old Coca-Cola collectibles that might be hard to locate today. However, I would not be decoding fully from this collectibles book but I would be sourcing for images of the collectibles from this book for analysis — which I will be discussing later on using gender theory framework and material culture approach.

[pic 3]

Hill’s book provides a brief introduction of Coca-Cola memorabilia and tips for collectors to guide them in starting a collection as well as to give an insight to the pricing and authenticity of these collectibles. The author, a Coca-Cola enthusiasts, mentioned that her book is filled with her family’s personal collection that occupies the whole house, collected by her father and herself since young, showing their support and love for Coca-Cola. She mentioned in her introduction, “I appreciate the efforts of the Coca-Cola Company, the collectors and the researchers who have allowed us all to enjoy and share in the history.”[2] Deciphering these information, it seemed that Hill collected these collectibles due to her devotion to the product and the brand since she grew up together with Coca-Cola. Also, she loved the way Coca-Cola associates itself to America’s culture and history. This information tells me that Coca-Cola collectibles might be designed or inspired from the culture at that period of time. She also included information on Coca-Cola’s strategic way to increase their business. According to her, Coca-Cola started promoting by giving away bottles, glasses and carriers to adorning soda fountains with signs, clocks and trays. Store owners were said to receive clocks, lamps and coolers as a form of loyalty to Coca-Cola. From the information above, Coca-Cola used this method of advertising because these promotional materials are not temporary and ensured a longer promotional life as compared to posters that would be discarded once its worn out. This book shared with me a little background on Coca-Cola and its advertising strategy using these collectibles which is a more effective way to promote long-term and the collectibles were useful for consumers due to its functionality.



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