Buffs grab onto trays, bottles, clothing items and advertising gimmicks at flea markets as though they were going out of style.
Anything with the magic words of Coca-Cola (or Coke) on them is fair game for the afficionados who snatch up the items as if they were the only ones in the world.
And I ask: Why?
Philatelists and coin collectors make sense to me because the objects which they seek are small and manageable. But a glass can't be kept in an album!
However, that does not stop the Coca-Cola accumulators. They have been caught up by the soft drink company's aggressive promotion through the years. And they'll do anything to find a Coke bottle, including digging in the odoriferous remains of an abandoned outdoor john.
It all started in 1886 – 121 years ago – when a pharmacist by the name John Pemberton came up with a recipe which generate advertising copy like this:
"Coca-Cola is real refreshment for everybody, any time of day. Out and about, or at home with the family, it's always the right time and place for 'Coke.' Pure and wholesome, delicious and refreshing, Coca-Cola is unlike any other drink in the world. Enjoy 'Coke' whenever you take a 'break' – and continue to work (or play) wonderfully refreshed!"
Pemberton sold his formula to Asa Candler a few years after he "discovered" it in his lab. Candler was a business-man who is said to have helped make the soft drink a household word.
People wanted to know what was in the recipe, and that's when the company began to be secretive about it. There were some who claimed that the main ingredient was cocaine since Pemberton had access to the drug. Others said the concoction was made from the kola nut produced by an African tree. The nut contained caffeine, which they knew was part of the formula.
(Actually, each bottle – or can – carries the following ingredients – less the mysterious formula: "Carbonated water, high fructose, corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors and caffeine.")
About the end of World War I, the Candlers sold Coca-Cola to a group of investors, and they made a good marketing tool out of a mysterious recipe. They ended up putting it in a vault of the SunTrust Bank in Atlanta. GA, and there it is supposedly safe from competitors and the eyes of the curious.
Now if the Coca-Cola collectors would wind up with the long-hidden recipe, I'd consider that a good reason for their existence. It would beat all the collecting of the oddly shaped bottles which symbolizes the soft drink so many of us are addicted to.
© 2007 Robert F. Karolevitz