As impossible as it may seem today, Coca-Cola did not originally intend to sell its products in bottles. In fact, Asa Candler, president of Coca-Cola in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, assumed his drink would only be popular in spring and summer, and his business with soda fountains was lucrative enough that a bottling venture did not appeal to him.

In fact, the first man to bottle Coca-Cola did so without the permission of the company—in 1894, Joseph Biedenharn began to bottle Coke so customers could take the carbonated drink to picnics and other spots outside of the soda fountain. His idea spread, and by the beginning of the 20th century, two lawyers named Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead had obtained exclusive bottling rights from Candler.

Aside from the syrup bottles used to store Coca-Cola syrup at soda fountains (which themselves have become collectibles), the first bottles used to transport Coca-Cola were Hutchinson-stopper bottles. Even though they were only about six inches tall, Hutchinson bottles were quite heavy and clunky.

Unlike later, more familiar Coca-Cola bottles, Hutchinson bottles had straight sides without curves. Each was embossed with “Coca-Cola”—either in block text or in script—and the name of the city where it was bottled. Although very few of these bottles have survived, the Hutchinson stoppers left an important legacy: to open the bottle, one had to push the stopper down through the neck. When it opened, it popped—which is how the term “soda pop” entered the American vernacular.

Hutchinson bottles quickly went out of circulation with the introduction of the crown-top or crown-cork bottle, which had essentially the same shape as modern beer bottles. These bottles used bottle caps like those we know today, rather than rubber stoppers, to keep the drink inside fresh. Like the Hutchinson bottles, the crown-top bottles had straight sides, but they were lighter and easier for people to handle.

Though William Painter of Baltimore invented the crown-top bottle in 1891, it did not become popular until about a decade later, when sanitation laws began outlawing other types of beverage seals. Coca-Cola adopted crown tops relatively early, around 1902, impressed by its ability to keep the product fresh and unspoiled for longer periods of time than Hutchinson bottles.

The variety of different types of bottles from this period is almost endless, encompassing numerous shapes, sizes, and colors. Each Coca-Cola bottler was independently empowered ...

Most bottlers stuck to one of these two hues, but some bottlers went with light green, a widely used and less expensive color. Because bottles were still hand-blown into molds until about 1910, irregularities were common. In addition to the embossed “Coca-Cola” on the bottles themselves, bottlers also glued a diamond-shaped paper label to the side of each bottle to further identify its contents.

A new era for Coca-Cola began on November 16, 1915 when Coca-Cola patented a brand-new bottle shape. Inspired by the shape of a cocoa pod, this bottle featured a bulging middle, parallel grooves, and tapered ends—a shape that remains iconic to this day. Gone was the dispute between dark and light colors of glass; all of these new bottles had the same color: German green, later renamed Georgia green.

Known as the “Mae West” or “hobbleskirt” bottle for its resemblance to a fashionable dress of the period, the new bottle was the result of a two-year search and contest initiated in 1912 by Benjamin Thomas to create something unique and instantly recognizable for the Coca-Cola brand. The shape, designed by the Root Glass Company, became standard across all Coca-Cola bottlers.

The hobbleskirt bottle remained relatively unchanged for decades, aside from slight modifications in the embossments, some of which have become quite famous. For example, because Coca-Cola renewed its patent for the hobbleskirt shape on December 25, 1923, many bottles were embossed with this new patent date; as a result, these became known as “Christmas Coke” bottles, a romantic name that has spawned fictional tales of origin to explain the date.

Decades later, in the late 1950s, Coca-Cola decided to stop embossing the cities of origin on its bottles. This met with surprisingly heavy resistance from Coke drinkers, who often created games involving these cities. The next major change to Coke bottles came in 1957, when Coca-Cola adopted the Applied Color Labeling (ACL) process, which relied on paste-based imprinting rather than traditional embossing methods or paper labels.

Until the mid-1960s, customers bought bottles of soda and then returned them to the bottlers for re-use. In 1967, Coke began marketing “no-deposit” bottles—bottles which were not meant to be returned—and, for awhile, reverted to straight-side bottles with paper labels. A few years later, the hobbleskirt shape became available as no-deposit bottles; eventually, plastic became the material of choice, along with cans.

Dating Coca-Cola bottles made after 1916 is relatively straightforward, thanks to the manufacturer’s numbers on the base or bottom of the bottle. These four-digit numbers, which are separated into pairs by a dash, identify the bottle mold (the first two numbers) and the year of its manufacture (“30,” for example, would indicate 1930). Newer bottles also have four-digit numbers, but they provide even more information. In these bottles, the first digit represents the year, the second indicates the mold, the third is the manufacturer’s symbol, and the fourth identifies the plant where the glass bottle was blown.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Historic Glass Bottle Identification

Historic Glass Bottle Identification

Bill Lindsey's fantastic bottle identification and information site. Loaded with detailed descriptions and diagrams… [read review or visit site]

Coca-Cola Collectibles

Coca-Cola Collectibles

The Collectibles page of the official Coca-Cola website features photos and videos on bottles, signs, advertising, … [read review or visit site]

Bobbys Coca-Cola on the Web

Bobbys Coca-Cola on the Web

This site, a group effort, is a great reference for Coca-Cola collectors. Start with the timeline and product lists… [read review or visit site]

Antique Bottle Collector's Haven

Antique Bottle Collector's Haven

There's a ton of information here, but as with bottles, you have to dig to find the best stuff. Start with the famo… [read review or visit site]

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Ralph and Carol Falvo's excellent collection of automobiles, petroliana, jukeboxes, soda, and general store items. … [read review or visit site]

Bottle Cap Index

Bottle Cap Index

Assembled by Gunther Rademacher with the help of several other contributors, this collection of over half a million… [read review or visit site]

Soda-Machines.com

Soda-Machines.com

The ultimate guide to vintage soda vending machines, from Coca-Cola to Pepsi to Royal Crown to Dr. Pepper. Start at… [read review or visit site]

Plopsite.de

Plopsite.de

Norbert Lamping's collection of 600+ ceramic bottle stoppers, Hutter stoppers, swingtops, swivel stoppers, and ligh… [read review or visit site]

Old Spice Collectibles

Old Spice Collectibles

Lather up with Creighton Fricek's complete chronology of collectible Old Spice shaving products. Start with the bot… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Green Coca Cola Bottling Works Hutchinson Bottle Tuskegee Alabama Ala HutchRussian / Russia Coca-cola Euro 2016 Rare Test Prototype For Aluminium BottleAntique Embossed 1912 Shoulder Script Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle Union ScVery Nice Coca Cola Light Designer Bottle Zac Posen From Germany. Full!Coca Cola M5 Series South America From Germany Full Bottle Coca Cola Alu Bottle Manolo Blahnik Perfect Condition. Empty Alu Bottle Coca-cola 50 Empty Aluminum Bottles Russia 2016 Is Not Sold In Stores. RarCollectible 190 Ml Coca Cola Bottle From Japan 1955Texoma Soda Bottle - Coca-cola Bottling Co - Gainesville, Texas - 1954 - ScarceCoca Cola Alu Bottle Manolo Blahnik Perfect Condition. Full Alu Bottle Coca Cola M5 Series With Special Tagg From Germany Full Bottle Coca-cola Alu Bottle From Austria - Mycokemoment10oz. Coca-cola Diamond Label 60's Acl BottleWalt Disney World 100 Years Of Dreams Coke Bottle Coca-cola 8 Oz Un-opened WdwLumberton, N.c. Straight Side Coca-cola Product Bottle 2-12Hutchinson Coca Cola Bottle, 75th Anniversary Convention, 1961 Convention Rare!!Coca Cola Evolution Of The Contour Bottle - 1998 & 2002 Editions MibFt. Myers, Fla. Straight Side Coca-cola Product Bottle 2-02Coca Cola Sff Sarajevo Film Festival Aluminium Bottle Full Unopen Rrr Rare MintLondon Skyline Uk Coke & Coke Zero Alu 250ml 2016 Set Of 2 Bottles 4 Vintage Coke Coca Cola Bottles Korea, Japan, Belgium & ?Early Straight Sided Coca-cola Bottle From Lexington Nc North CarolinaCoca Cola M5 Series Asia From Germany Full Bottle Coca Cola M5 Series Africa From Germany Full Bottle Carrollton Ga Rome Ga Both 1915 Coca Cola Bottles 1900s Amber Coca Cola Bottle Root Johnson City, Tenn.2 Vintage Coke Coca Cola Bottles Thailand & Taiwan2) Dec 25 1923 Michigan Key West Fla. Coca-cola Soda Pop Bottle Christmas CokeVintage 190 Ml Korean Hobbleskirt Coca-cola BottleLot 6 Old Coca Cola Soda Pop Miniature Metal Pop Bottles Free Usa PostageUk Coca Cola Olympics Union Jack Flag Alu 2016 250ml BottleCoca Cola Turkey Uefa Euro 2016 France Set Of 3 Empty Aluminium Bottles Perfect! 16 Oz Coca Cola Commemorative Bottle 5 - 1980 Publix 50th Anniversary Florida Vtg Coca Cola Bottle Wall Hanging Cloth Tapestry 40s 60s? Rare Pop Art Warhol OpStraight Side Coca-cola "nussbaum" Bottle - Bainbridge, GaVintage Acl Sparky Crown Top Bottle Coca Cola Bottling Co Laurel MississippiCoca-cola Russia Limited Edition Aluminium Bottle 250 Ml Coca Cola Sff Sarajevo Film Festival Aluminium Bottle Full Unopen Rrr Rare MintRare Original Straight Side Coca Cola Aqua Bottle "lynchburg, Va." Nice Rare Original Straight Side Aqua Coca Cola Bottle " Huntsville Ala. " Nice " 2Vintage Amber Script Coca-cola W/ Arrow Up Soda Bottle "root" Knoxville TennLimited Edition Coca Cola Coke Bottle South Africa - Fifa World Cup 2010Original Six Pack Of 1999 Georgia Southern Coke BottlesVintage Coke Coca Cola Exploding Banned Bottle Canadian 2 Qt Size1998 Coca-cola 100th Anniversary Evolution Of Contour Bottle Mini Set Nib CokeVintage -1955 Acl Owen Coca Cola Bottle Tell City IndJ S Francis Avon Park Florida Coca Cola Bottle ~9~Empty Coca Cola Alu Bottle From Austria. X-mas 2012 EmptyVintage Wood 6 Bottle Coke Case With BottlesStraight Side Coke Hand Tooled Top South Bend, Ind, Indiana, Mid Script Straight Side Coca-cola Bottle - Americus, GaCoca Cola Bottle Acl Soda St Joesph Michigan Picture Label Blossomland Girl MiVintage Coca Cola Bottles, Stamped Parkersburg And Clarksburg, West VirginiaVintage Buddy L Coke Truck With Bottles New In BoxCoke Coca-cola Mini Six Pack Bottles Salt & Pepper Shakers Vi 4d E 716President Barack Obama Inauguration Collectible Coca Cola Bottle 8oz Glass1915 Chattanooga, Tenn.. Coca-cola Bottle 3-05Hen & Rooster Genuine Stag Coke Bottle Mib1970's Experimental Coca-cola Easy-goer 32oz Plastic Bottle- Test Market- RareUp For Auction Is A Rare Original Straight Side Amber Coca Cola Bottle.