Collecting Antique & Vintage Coca-Cola

1950s Coca-Cola Santa Claus with dog cardboard cutout store display

1950s Coca-Cola Santa Claus with dog cardboard cutout store display

Coca-Cola is one of the most widely advertised products in the history of American manufacturing, and if the possibilities for collectors are almost unlimited, so is the potential for misleading the novice with fakes and reproductions.

Pharmacist J.S. Pemberton developed the formula for Coca-Cola in 1886, and for the past 122 years, Coca-Cola advertising products have hit the streets in record numbers and quantities.  The Coca-Cola Company has mounted some of the most successful advertising campaigns not only in this country, but all over the globe.

Santa Claus by Coke

From the very start, the company projected an image of wholesomeness and patriotism.  Early print advertisements featured beautiful women, adorable children, and winsome teenagers; some simply enjoyed a refreshing glassful, and for others it was a much needed thirst quencher and energizer during wholesome American activities including motoring, swimming, golfing, diving, and skating.   Coca-Cola advertising was so ubiquitous, that Santa Claus, as we know him today, is the result of a 1931 Coke campaign designed by illustrator Haddon Sunblom, who modeled the “Jolly Old Elf” after himself.  From 1931 to 1966, Sunblom’s Santa was the star of Coca-Colas seasonal advertising, and to this day informs the American ideal of Santa Claus.

Coca-Cola Collectibles by the Score

Coca-Cola advertising items and memorabilia include: combs, mirrors, knives, forks, calendars, thermometers, plates, checker sets, stuffed animals,  T-shirts, caps, Olympic pins, cutlery sets, night lights,  door knobs, syrup cans, dolls, fans, ice picks, puzzles, thermometers, signs, mugs, yo-yos, toy trucks, toy planes, bicycle lights, cookie jars, napkin holders, sheet music, clocks, cups, glasses, playing cards, coolers, die-cuts, figurines, bottle openers, medallions, pin backs, radios, scarves, ashtrays, bats, bingo cards, rulers,  key chains, salt & peppers, blotters, toy telescopes, carriers, syrup jugs, jump ropes, menus & menu boards, carriers, vending machines, signs, and trays.

Coca-Cola 1903 Hilda Clark serving tray

Coca-Cola 1903 Hilda Clark serving tray

Authentic Coke Trays

The trays are the biggest single category, with at least 47 versions manufactured over the years.  The oldest trays are not surprisingly, the most valuable, with the 1903 serving tray with an image of Hilda Clark (pictured) being one of the most valuable. While it’s not difficult to find most of the trays, people used them and wet glasses of refreshing Coke created lots of damage and rust.  Mint condition trays are unusual, and command high prices.  Prices for the common trays from the 1950’s and later have fallen substantially.

Reproduction Coke Trays

During the 1970’s when Americana was a popular decorating motif, Coca-Cola issued reproductions of some of their most popular early trays.  These reproductions will be marked as such on the backs.  In the 1980’s, they did the same, in honor of their 100th anniversary.  While these are authentic, Coca-Cola issued trays, they are considerably less valuable than their antique and vintage counterparts.

-by p4A contributing editor Susan Cramer.

Reference & Further Recommended Reading:

To search the Prices4Antiques antiques reference database for valuation information on hundreds of thousands of antiques and fine art visit our homepage

6 − 5 =