Spotting a fake Coca Cola bottle
When you’re in Georgia, you expect to see a lot of Coca Cola. When you visit antique shops and malls in the state, you expect to see even more.
And I saw plenty of Coke paraphernalia – vintage, reproductions and otherwise – when I dropped by several antique malls while I was visiting my family in the state over the holidays. I checked out the Big Peach Antiques Mall near Macon and several shops in a pinpoint of a town near Atlanta called Chamblee, which bills itself as the South’s largest antiques row.
I went to Chamblee the day after Christmas and only a handful of shops seemed to be open, including the Rust ‘n Dust, one of those places that someone like me can get lost in. While my sister Christine breezed through the store and finished rather quickly, I was still looking through a case in the first room.
The shop had several of the Coke women trays, and they looked to be not the originals from the early 20th century – which I blogged about last year after one was sold at auction – but the reproductions from the 1970s. At an antiques mall near Macon, I spotted two vintage porcelain Coke signs whose prices attested to their authenticity.
Most of the stuff at an all-Coke booth at the Big Peach mall were reproductions whose asking prices were much more than I thought the items were worth.
It seems that I always come across the hobble-skirt Coke bottles, which were first used around 1917 and are still in use today. I’ve even picked up some in box lots at auctions in Philadelphia, including a handful once with the names of cities on the bottom. I just knew I had made a magnificent find.
Once I got them home and did the research, I learned that they were fakes. Coke bottlers starting in 1918 embossed the name of their city and state on the bottom of the bottles, and some collectors buy them based on that (bottles with small town names are said to be more collectible). My auction bottles, however, had a ring that connected the name of the city and state, indicating that they were fakes.
At one of the antique malls, I stopped at a booth with more than a dozen hobble-skirt Coke bottles on a shelf. Always on the lookout for the originals, I started reading the inscription on the belly of the bottles (I’m always searching for the original Dec. 25, 1923, “Christmas Cokes” from the 1920s and not the 1989 repros, along with error bottles). They all appeared to be “D-Patent Cokes” bottles, which were made between 1938 and 1951.
Turning the bottles over one by one, I saw that each had the ring on the bottom and a C in a circle in the center, which was different from the other repros I had seen. One website I checked showed a similar 1950s bottle from the Chattanooga Glass Co. with the Circle C logo. Even so, the $5 price tag was a no-sell for me.
I know not to fall for Coke hobble-skirt bottles in amber or purple, because they are definitely not real – even though I haven’t come across any. Coke’s straight-sided bottles were made in amber during the early 1900s.
This goes to show that you should always educate yourself before you go out shopping at antique malls for anything. Most of these were those gigantic malls with unmanned booths where you pick an item and pay for it at a common cashier counter. There’s no one around the booth who can tell you if something is authentic or vintage or antique, so you have to rely on your own knowledge and instinct. Or do what I do: Google it on my Droid phone.
Coca Cola is among one of the most popular collectibles, and there’s a lot of the stuff out there with its name on it. You can find tons of websites with stuff to buy, guidelines on what’s authentic or not, forums to help you identify what you have, places to sell it, and experts who collect and know the stuff.
So when it comes to Coke, you don’t have to be in the dark. If you have some Coke bottles and want to know how much they sell for, eBay is a good place to start.