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Having grown up on a farm (with a grandpa who threw nothing away) I was always coming across strange things in sheds or tucked away in random corners of the barn.
I remember coming across a crate of antique Coke bottles at one point while “exploring” and asking my grandpa if I could use them in the sandbox.
It turns out that “old Coke bottles are super rare and will be worth tons of money one day!”
While my grandpa wasn’t right about most of his other junk (he thought everything would be valuable one day somehow…) he was right in this case. Some old Coke bottles are now worth a small fortune.
Now, as an eBay seller, I’m in the business (literally) of finding valuable things that other people don’t recognize and Coke bottles are one of the unique items that I love learning about and flipping.
So buckle up and let’s talk about how you can go about identifying your old coke bottles, putting a value on them, and then (if you want) selling them for cold hard cash.
Are Old Coke Bottles Worth Anything?
In short, old Coke bottles are worth whatever someone is willing to pay for them. However, some are more valuable than others.
As they were mass-produced, most vintage Coke bottles are only worth $10-20. However, some very early or rare examples have sold for more than $5,000 on auction.
So let’s take a look at some history and what makes some Coke bottles more valuable than others.
A History of Vintage Coke Bottles
Early Hutchinson Bottles
Coke was first bottled in 1894 in Vicksburg, Missouri by Joseph A. Biedenharn, the owner of a local candy store.
The bottles that he used, now known as the Hutchinson Bottle, were quite distinct from other bottles of the time due to their unique stopper mechanism that sealed the bottle.
The earliest bottles did not bear the name “Coke” but read Biedenharn Candy Co.
While some later versions did bear the Coca-Cola name, the early examples are the most prized among collectors.
Examples in good condition can sell for more than $5,000 with $2-3,000 being an average for the current market.
This run of bottles lasted only 20 years which makes them extremely difficult to find today (and adding to their value if you’re lucky enough to stumble across one).
Contour Bottle Introduction
Soon enough, the Coca-Cola Company determined that, if they were to make a worldwide product, they would want it to be instantly recognizable (even if it was broken or the glass had darkened).
Their call for a unique design was answered by the Root Glass Company which produced the Contour Bottle that we all associate with Coke. The original design was patented on November 16, 1915, and has largely stayed true to the original shape and design.
While older bottles here tend to be more valuable, there were produced in such large numbers that anything later than 1940 is not worth a significant amount of money unless it is unique in some way (sealed, a special edition, etc.)
The easiest way to date these bottles is by simply comparing them to other bottles on the market (in size, clarity, and shape). However, we’ll get to some specifics in a minute.
So, while you can definitely collect and sell these bottles, don’t expect them to be among the most valuable on the market.
The Death Of Glass Bottles.
Okay, I know I’m being dramatic. Glass bottles are not, in fact, dead. In fact, they’re the norm in much of the world. However, since the 1950’s Coca-Cola began transitioning from glass bottles to metal cans in the United States.
They aimed to make the packaging more convenient and practical for both the bottling company and consumers who didn’t want to pay a deposit for their bottles.
The glass bottles after the transition time are typically not very valuable as their design is not discernible from what’s available at nearly every grocery store.
Now let’s talk about how you can figure out if you have a regular ol’ Coke bottle or if you’ve found something more special.
How To Identify & Date Coke Bottles
Whether you’re looking for a date just for knowledge’s sake or you want a date so you can assess value, knowing the precise date a Coke bottle was made is the first step in figuring out how desirable it is.
Luckily there are a few simple ways of doing so.
Labels and Logos
Coca-Cola’s logo has evolved over the years and can be quite useful in dating a bottle.
For instance, bottles with the script logo were used from 1886 to the late 1950s and are the only bottles worth anything (which is an easy way to discount the majority of bottles you find).
You can also look for the manufacturer’s numbers on the base or bottom to help with dating the bottle as these numbers often indicate the bottle mold and year of manufacture.
It’s also worth noting here that bottles are sold by year of manufacture, not bottling. So there’s no reason to get pedantic or more precise in your collection.
Colors and Materials
While this is less of a dating tip and more of a valuation tip, it is still helpful in finding Coke bottles that are worth money.
The vast majority of Coca-Cola bottles that have been produced are made of clear or aqua glass. However, amber-colored bottles exist too and, as they are more rare, are typically more desirable to collectors.
This is the most obvious method of determining a Coke bottle’s age and value. Here’s the short version: if it doesn’t look like a modern bottle it’s definitely worth collecting and/or selling.
Some examples include:
- Hutchinson Coca-Cola Bottle: One of the earliest types produced from 1899 to 1902 and characterized by a short, bulbous shape.
- Straight-Sided Bottle: Manufactured from 1900 to 1916, they typically have embossed Coca-Cola logos and city names on the base.
- Contour Bottle: A distinctive shape that was first developed in 1915 and remains the iconic Coca-Cola bottle. Some contour bottles may have date marks but most modern ones do not.
During the early 1900s (before they had a proprietary bottle) Coca-Cola went through a period of using several different bottles and labels. Many of the most valuable bottles come from this time period.
I’ll also note that individual bottles may have unique shapes or variations that make them even more valuable, like the mis-embossed “COCO-COLA” Hutchinson bottle.
Many of the most valuable bottles are those that were produced in limited runs. This makes them easy to date (but less easy to value) and they were only made for a short period of time.
Some examples include:
- Dallas Cowboys Coke: A 1984 edition bottle featuring the NFL team logo, which has sold for up to $5,000.
- Seoul Olympic Games Commemorative Bottle: Issued in 1988 for the Summer Olympics held in Seoul, South Korea (there are special edition bottles or prints for many of the Olympic Games).
- Chinese Coca-Cola Bottles: Distinctive design and labeling catered to the Chinese market.
- French Wine Coca: A special edition bottle produced in the 1920s, initially meant to compete with alcoholic beverages in France.
An exhaustive list would (obviously) be much longer but is unnecessary in my opinion. If you’re a collector at all you’ll soon be able to recognize any bottle that is unusual and look it up accordingly.
Determining Value and Condition
Assessing Bottle Condition
While rarity is the main driver in a Coke bottle’s value, the condition is the real differentiator between bottles of the same era and can make a 10x difference in value.
Collectors often look for bottles that are free of chips, cracks, and scratches and, let me tell you, they’re very critical and discerning so you’ll want to look closely.
Here are a few things that you’ll want to look for and mention:
- Chips or cracks, especially in the rim of the bottle
- Stains or discoloration
- Scratches and scuffs
- “Flea Bites” (small chunks of missing glass that are hard to see without a magnifying glass but can be felt
- Stress lines (not technically cracks but look similar to crazing on ceramics)
I will also mention here, if you’re looking to sell any bottle you find, only clean them if you are professional and extremely competent. Serious collectors would rather buy a dirty item and clean it safely themselves than have you mess it up. And I’m sure you’ll rather they accidentally break it after buying it than you break it trying to clean it up…
Estimating Market Value
I mentioned it at the beginning of this guide and I’ll mention it again here: a coke bottle is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.
This may mean that you’ll be waiting quite a while for the right buyer to come along unless you have something that’s truly exceptional or you undercut the market.
Now, the best way to put a value on what you’ve got is to simply head over to eBay and look through sold items.
It’s likely that your bottle within be within a pretty tight range determined by the current market as there are literally thousands of bottles for sale at any given point.
If you’re having trouble finding anything like your bottle on eBay you’ll want to ask yourself if it’s because it’s common enough that no one is selling them or because it’s so rare that none are for sale.
If it’s the latter, bypass eBay and contact an auction house.
For everyone else, eBay provides you with the largest possible market of hungry buyers and is, by far, the best place to sell your finds.
Factors Affecting Value & Collectibility – Summary
- Rarity: As previously mentioned, rarer bottles might be more sought after by collectors, increasing their value.
- Age: Generally, older bottles hold more value, particularly those from the early days of the Coca-Cola company.
- Design: Unique or unusual designs can catch the eye of collectors and contribute to a bottle’s value.
- Provenance: A bottle with a known history or an interesting story can enhance its collectibility.
Coke Bottles Worth Money
Okay, we’re finally here. A list of Coke bottles that are actually worth good money!
Now, since we’re after actionable information, this won’t be a list of the most expensive Coke bottles ever sold. Because you won’t be finding any of those…
So here are 5 of the most expensive bottles that you’re likely to find on the market at any given time.
After that, we’ll get to a few that you’re likely to run into when digging or sourcing bottles.
5 Of The Most Valuable Coke Bottles Sold
1. 1988 Seoul Olympic Games Coca-Cola Bottle (With Original Box)
Sold for $1,919.99 on auction.
2. Biedenharn Candy Co Vicksburg Miss Coke Bottle
Sold for $1,704.00 on auction.
3. Prototype Coca-Cola Bottle – 1980 Moscow Olympics
Sold for $1,641.00 on auction.
4. Full Set Of 6 Romero Britto Coca-Cola Bottles – Limited Edition Brazil
Sold for $1,399.00.
5. 1900s Straight Side El Husting Co. “Red Logo” Coca-Cola Bottle
Sold for $500.
3 More Common Coke Bottles Worth Money
Now, even though there are always bottles on the market selling for over $1,000, the sheer number of Coke bottles in existence makes it highly unlikely that you will ever find any worth that amount.
However, that’s not to say that you can’t consistently find Coke bottles worth money.
Here are a few of the types that you’re more likely to find on a regular basis if you keep a sharp eye out.
These are mainly given as examples so I won’t include the specific sales prices here. Just know that the price you can get will be heavily influenced by the condition that the bottle is in.
However, all of the bottles below will typically sell for around $50 apiece.
1. 1923 Hobbleskirt Coca-Cola Christmas Bottle – Great Falls Montana
2. Amber Coca-Cola Bottle – Louisville, Kentucky
3. Dark Green Coca-Cola 6 1/2 oz Bottle – Colorado Springs
Selling Coke Bottles On eBay – How To Get Top Dollar
Now, if you’re anything like me, you probably think that antique Coke bottles are cool…but you’re most interested in turning them into cash.
So let’s talk about how we manage to take whatever Coke bottle we find and sell them on eBay (for more than anyone else…)
We’ll narrow it down to just three tips.
Creating Effective Listings
The most important thing you can do to stand out in the myriad of bottles on eBay is to take great pictures.
We typically gently wash the bottle (water a gentle dish soap) just to remove the surface grime and then take the pictures outside in natural light. eBay is full of dull pictures of bottles taken indoors and they receive less than half the clicks that the listings with better pictures do.
Secondly, write a great title. The more keywords that you can cram in the more likely it is that someone who is looking for your bottle will find it.
Lastly, be 100% transparent in the description. List everything you know (we include where we got it) and any flaws that it might have. Withholding information won’t actually net you anything as you’ll likely get both a return and negative feedback.
Pricing and Shipping Strategies
When it comes to pricing on eBay we don’t subscribe to the “list it and forget it” mentality.
Unless we have something that’s super hard to find I’d rather get it listed and make money as fast as possible. Something something fast nickles over slow dimes…
Given that, we list items on a Buy-It-Now for around what other people are listing their items for and then offer free shipping. Nearly every bottle can ship First Class for around $5.00.
Building a Reputation as a Seller
Believe it or not, this is probably the biggest piece of having an eBay store that stands the test of time.
Most eBay sellers slowly accrue strikes against their accounts until they lose their ability to sell (and create new accounts) after a couple of years.
So, if you’re going to run a business, treat it like a real business. Answer questions promptly, ship quickly, etc.
The major plus of doing this is that, if you do have a crazy customer, there is a high chance that eBay will remove the negative feedback if you’ve toed the line.
At the end of the day, you probably aren’t going to find the most valuable Coke bottles of all time.
However, since many old Coke bottles are worth good money it’s a great hobby for both collectors and those interested in a profitable side hustle.
Good luck out there!