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    

Antique Coca Cola Soda Pop Old Coke Miniature Case & 24 Glass 3" Pop BottlesStraight Side Amber Wheeling W. Va Coca Cola BottleRare Plus Straight Side Base Script Coca Cola Bogalusa Louisiana Bottle Ice BlueStraight Side Amber Arrow Memphis Tn Coca Cola BottleAlbemarle, N.c. Error Date , Straight Side Coca-cola Bottle 2-08Unusual Old Coca Cola Purple Coke Soda Pop Bottle Mint Rare! Free Usa ShipOld/antique Amber Coca-cola Soda Bottle Bowling Green Ky/kentucky Lot# E20Rare Huntington Coca-cola Co. Brown Soda Bottle - Huntington West ViriginaHtf Vintage 1930's Embossed Coca-cola Big Chief Soda Bottle Sacramento Ca IndianRare 1960's Old Coca Cola Soda Pop Diamond Coke Bottle Store Carton NiceRare Koca Nola Atlanta Georgia Bottle Early Coca Cola Straight Side Copycat Straight Side Coca-cola "arrow" Bottle - Jackson, TnCoca Cola Denmark Christmas 2009 Bottle Aluminium Bottle Rare Full Roanoke, Ala. Straight Side Coca-cola Bottle 2-12Lot Of 3 Coca-cola Bottles 20 Year Anniversary Herb Group Great Lakes CokeStraight Side Coca-cola Bottle - Richland, GaStraight Side Evansville Indiana Coca Cola BottleVintage 1935 Aluminum Coca Cola Pretzel Bowl With Pewter Coke Bottles Straight Side Coca-cola Bottle - Helena, GaDrink Coca-cola In Bottles - Vinyl Sticker - "red"Straight Side Coca Cola Bottle - La Grange Ga. Rated SAmber Straight Side Coca-cola Bottle - Staunton, VaStraight Side Coca Cola Bottle - Nashville TnStraight Side Coca Cola Bottle - Waynesboro GaObscure Antique Victorian Era Von Hauff's Coca Wine And Malt BottleGeorgia State University Centennial Celebration Limited Edition Coca-cola BottleCoca Cola Bottles Special Sale Germany 2015 Set:100th Anniversary 2 SetsStraight Side Coca-cola Bottle - Ft. Worth, TxCoca Cola Bottle Lardoc Paper Label Early Amber Coca Cola Baltimore MdCoke Coca Cola Bottle Hobbleskirt Nov 16 1915 Coca- Cola Script Bottom No CityCoca Cola Bottle From The Columbia, Sc. Coca Cola Bottling Co. C.1905 "coca-cola" Syrup Test Bottle (for 6-1/2 Oz) 7 3/4" Tall Vintage Rare 1912 1914 Brown Glass Coke Coca Cola Arrow Bottle Jackson TnWashington, Ga. Ssb Script Straight Side Coca-cola Bottle 2-151970's Mini Filled Bottles Sprit, Fanta, Coke, Topo Chico Soda 3.25" TallCoca-cola Bottle Set-evolution Of The Contour Bottle-new In Box-liquid In BottleLot 6 Old Coca Cola Soda Pop Miniature Metal Pop Bottles Free Usa PostageCoca-cola 1999 Hot August Nights Sweet '59 Chevrolet Bottle Coca Cola Glass Bottle Cyrillic Letters 1970 6.7oz. Coke Collection DecorCoca-cola Special Bottle - First Production Run April 22, 1985 StickerStright Sided Coca-cola Bottle Richmond,va Displays WellCoca-cola Miniature Bottles Set Six Evolution Of Contour BottleCoca Cola One Gallon Syrup Cans (set Of 4)Straight Side Coca Cola Bottle - West Point Ga. Rated SRoyal Wedding 1981 Uk Commemorative Coca-cola Bottle UnopenedVintage Coca Cola Bottle From India With Real Cola InsideSupreme Beverage Co Seltzer Bottle With Coca Cola Siphon Head Chicago, IllinoisCoca Cola Bottle Door Handles Coke PopVintage 3" Miniature Older Coca Cola Soda Pop Glass Coke Miniature Bottle Mint!Vtg 10 Oz Big Chief Quality Beverage Soda Pop Bottle Payette Coca Cola Idaho 57?Coca-cola,2015 Christmas Set 8oz Aluminum Bottles.with Ornament TopVintage Coke Coca Cola Cast Iron Driver 2 Horses Delivery Wagon Umbrella Bottles6 Oz. Coca Cola Coke Bottle, Wyandotte Michigan Rated Scarce In Bill Porter BookVintage Coca Cola Pop Bottle Carton & 6 Mini 1/2" Coke Bottles Free Usa ShipVtg Rushton Santa Claus Doll Missing Coca-cola Bottle - Rubber Face - 16"Knoxville, Tenn "coca-cola" Straight Arrow Dark Amber Bottle Embossed Gay Ola Soda Bottle Spartanburg, Sc Coca Cola Immitator 1912Amber Straight Side Coca-cola Bottle - Winchester, KyAmber Straight Side Coca Cola Bottle