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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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    

Coca Cola Universal Studio Japan 15th Anniversary Bottle In Tube 2016 190mlDenmark X-mas 2008 Alu Coca-cola Coke Unopened Bottle 250 MlCoca Cola Denmark 2009 Xmas And Red Regular Aluminium Bottle Rare Full Very RareAmber Straight Side Coca Cola Bottle Rockwood TennJapanese Coca Cola BottleRoyal Caribbean Oasis Of The Seas Aluminum Coke BottleVintage 1942 Coca-cola Tray Two Girls W Coke Bottles Green Roadster From EstateAmber Coca-cola Bottles Lot Of TwoVintage Drugstore Soda Jerk Coca-cola Vendors Apron 1920s-30s ? Double Bottle Coca Cola Springtime In Atlanta 2000 Convention Bottle.Vintage 1960's Coca Cola Soda Pop Coke Executive Bottle Cufflinks In Box MintCoca-cola Russian Nesting Doll Bottles-contour Collection-folk Art Series Coca-cola Bottle Cufflinks Fenwick & Sailors Sterling Silver Rare OriginalVintage Woodcock's Ginger Ale Coca Cola Acl Bottle 7 Oz Georgetown,scAluminium Bottle - South Africa - 100 Years Of The Coca Cola Coke Bottle Vintage Coca Cola Cast Iron 10 Oz Bottle Mold !!!!!Coca Cola Royal Wedding Bottle July 29 1981Vintage Amber Coca Cola Bottle Straight Sided New York Ny Nice!!Coca-cola Romania - Empty Bottle - Valentines Day - Limited Edition 2016 - CokeRed Heart White Flag "the Heart Truth" Diet Coke Coca Cola Aluminum Bottle 2010Vintage Coca-cola Embossed Soda Bottle Coca Cola Bottling Co. Greenville TexasCoke Coca Cola Vintage Bottle Iceland Skrasett VorumerkiVintage Coca Cola Syrup Test Bottle Coke Premix Clear White Band & Letters 12"1981 Royal Wedding Commemorative Coke Bottle 250mlRare!!! Coca Cola Coke Bottle Bubble Light!!! Rabbit Tanaka Mod 23130Antique Vtg Embossed1949 Rare Dr Swetts/sweet Coca-cola Soda Pop Bottle Rootbeer1923 Coca Cola Bottle Statesboro Ga - Rated SCoca-cola Coke 2 Bottle Fountain Battery Operated New In BoxCoca-cola Bottle 8oz Christmas 2004 Santa Target Shrink Wrapped/ Plastic Sleeved: 7 Piece Coca-cola Lot : Hoodie Men's Xl : 2 Glasses : 2 Bottles : 2 Tins : Czech Blak Alu Unopened Coca-cola Coke Bottle 2007Coca-cola Blak Test Golden Screw Cap " Bottle With Dent "Brownsville Texas Rare Hobbleskirt Coke Bottle 1915 PatVintage Coca Cola Clear Glass 40 Oz Bottle - Estate Find - RareVintage Coca-cola Bottle Selma, AlabamaCoca-cola Bottle 8oz Ncaa Final Four 2006 Shrink Wrapped/ Plastic SleevedNew Official Licensed Coca-cola Bottle Coke Pen Set Coke Gift Tin Free Shipping40 Years In Denmark Anniversary Numbered Coca-cola Coke Unopened Bottle 1999Coca Cola 7up Green Mint "third Shift " 61/2 Bottle Heavy Glass 1979 AlabamaCoca-cola Bottle 12oz Dollywood Showstreet Premiere 1992Vintage Advertising Wood Handle Ice Pick / Drink Coca Cola In Bottles5) Nov. 16 1915 Battle Creek Michigan Hobbleskirt Coca-cola Soda Coke Pop BottleCoca-cola Advertising Lot. Lunch Box Bottle Tray PuzzleVtg Miniature Glass Coke Coca Cola Bottles 3" Pair Soda Advertising Toy Coca Cola Aluminium Metal Bottle Opened Empty Hungary 100 Years 2014 LotCoca-cola Bottle 8oz Walt Disney World 25 Years Epcot 19971970s Coke Bottle Novelty Am Transistor Radio In Working Condition Plays WellCoca-cola Bottle 10oz Birmingham Barons Baseball Champions 1983Coca-cola Bottle 8oz Holiday 2005 Polar Bears Shrink Wrapped/ Plastic SleeveCoca-cola Celebrate Mickey 75 Inspearations Coke Bottle Disney Mouse Limited EdLimited Edition Diet Coca Cola Diane Von Furstenberg Ultra Rare BottleRetro Glass Bottle Coca Cola 1 Lt From Cyprus. Hot Coke Advertisement 1970s Old Lot Of 59 Coca-cola Coke Plastic Bottles Miniature 1 1/2" Gold Blue & GreenBig Chief 8 Oz. Soda Bottle - Coke Coca Cola Bottling Tulsa Okla.100 Years Of The Coca Cola Bottle Set 10 Mini Aluminum Bottles2 Coke Coca Cola Soda Bn Bedding Throw Pillows Coke Logo Soda Bottles Coca Cola Plus Coke Zero 2016 Olympic Partner Wrap Bottles From AustraliaCoke Coca Cola Australia's Defence America's Cup 1987 Bottle Unopened Full 300mlCoca Cola Miniature Dollhouse Lot Of 5 Pcs Tray Bottle Deco Removable Coke AnBig Chief Soda Pop Bottle Coca-cola Burns, Oregon 6 1/2 Ounces