The Coca-Cola Company began distributing tin serving and change trays to soda fountains in 1897. Trays produced from that date until 1968 belong to the first, or classic, period of Coca-Cola trays. Because trays made from 1970 onward were often reissues of older trays or were made from new materials, these trays belong to the modern age of Coke trays. While change trays were produced intermittently, serving trays have remained a Coke staple since their introduction.

The earliest trays often sported the slogan “Delicious and Refreshing,” but slogans changed over time, with phrases like “Drink Coca-Cola,” “Coke Refreshes You Best,” “Here’s a Coke for you,” and “Be Really Refreshed!” Some trays had no slogan at all, only the familiar Coca-Cola logo.

For the first several years, all of these trays were round, generally measuring between nine and 10 inches across. Soon, oval trays began to appear, and in 1910, the rectangular tray was introduced. The rectangular tray measuring 13 ¼ inches wide by 10 ½ inches tall soon became the standard size for Coke serving trays. Round trays disappeared after 1905.

Most of these early tin trays had brown color schemes, with green and brown borders. In the late ’20s, more and more trays featured the red color scheme now so heavily identified with the Coke brand.

Trays are perhaps most collectible for their beautiful images, which were often the same as those featured in Coke calendars, signs, and other advertising materials from the year before or after. In some sense, these images have become a chronicle of American styles in the 20th century, as the trays positioned the Coca-Cola brand as all-American.

For example, in the 1900s and 1910s, women wearing lacy Victorian clothes dominated most trays. In the 1920s, the flapper made an appearance, giving way to women in bathing suits in the 1930s. Until Coke produced a tray showing a male and female character together in 1926, all early Coke trays featured a female model, generally shown with a bottle or glass of Coke. Hilda, for example, was one common character. A tray in 1931 depicted a barefoot young boy in a pastoral setting, but women were by far the most common subjects.

Some trays depicted famous figures. Victorian-era opera star Lillian Russell graced Coke trays around the turn of the century. Later, actresses like Frances Dee also appeared. One particularly collectible tray from 1934 depicted actress Maureen O’Sullivan sitting back-to-back with Olympian swimmer Johnny Weismuller, who played Tarzan in 12 films. The two smile at one another, Coke bottles in hand...

War brides, of course, were common to trays made in the 1940s, while the 1950s saw the introduction of trays depicting scenes without characters at all, like enticing picnic spreads, complete with a few bottles of Coca-Cola, of course. The 1960s pansy series, which depicted a hand pouring Coke from a bottle into a glass amidst a field of flowers, was one of the last trays produced during the classic period.

In the 1970s, Coke began producing trays in new sizes, made from new materials. The company also began reissuing some of its older trays, especially those from the 1910s and 1920s. Commemorative trays were also made—one paid tribute to Coach Joe Paterno of Penn State’s Nittany Lions football team.

Although Coke produced hundreds of variations, a few trays stand out as particularly noteworthy. In 1908, for example, Coke distributed the “Vienna Art” tray to its particularly good customers; this tray was circular but was mounted on an ornate, gold-colored frame. Collectors have also become interested in trays produced for foreign markets, especially those made for Mexico, which usually depicted Mexican women. In addition to those for the United States and Mexico, trays were also made for Canada, Taiwan, and Italy.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

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]

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]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage 1920 Coca Cola Tray "golfing Girl" Or "garden Girl" No Reserve Auction!1924 "smiling Girl" Coke Tray With Maroon BorderOld Original *** Near Mint 1937 Vintage Coca Cola Old Metal Serving TrayCoca Cola 1933 Tray Picturing Actress Sandra DeeVery Nice Old Original *** 1939 Vintage Coca Cola Old Metal Serving TrayVintage Original 1938 Coca Cola Tray Soda Fountain Diner Very Good ConditionNear Mint * Old Original * 1950s Vintage Coca Cola Serving Tray Vintage Original 1950s Coca Cola Tray Soda Fountain Diner Very Good ConditionVintage 1939 Springboard Girl Coca Cola Serving Tray, Very Fine Condition Nice!Coca Cola 1942 Tray, N-mintVintage Original 1938 Coca Cola Tray Soda Fountain Diner Very Good ConditionRare Vintage Original Very Early Coca Cola Tray No Reserve!!Toy Stamp & 1953 Coca Cola Tray Excellent ConditionCoca Cola 1916 Tip Tray Picturing ElaineOriginal 1912 Coca-cola Hamilton King Girl Tin Lithograph Advertising Tip TrayOriginal 1936 Coca Cola Coke Serving Tray Nice Condition Vintage Soda Serving Tray Coca Cola 1923 Coke Flapper Girl 1921 Vintage Coca-cola TrayVintage Coca Cola Tray Dated 1938 With Lady In YellowCoca Cola Large Serving Tray 1950s Original Metal Coca Cola Serving Tray Thirst Knows No Season UsedVintage 1950s Coca Cola Coke Metal Tray Menu Girl With Coke Look!!!Vintage Authentic 1920's Coca Cola Tray Family Estate Excellent Condition!!14p Barbie Doll Accessories Lot-coca-cola Cans+cups+tray+monopoly Game+lunchmeatCoca Cola Coke Serving TrayVintage Coca Cola Tin And TrayThriftchi ~ Reproduction Coca-cola Tray W Woman Design - RectangularThe Varsity Restaurant Atlanta Ga 1993 Coca Cola Artist Signed Tray Jeanne Mack Original Vintage 1936 Coca Cola Tray Metal Girl In White Dress. Rare True Vintage Piggly Wiggly Coke Tray The Original American Super MarketCoca Cola Tray Vintage Coca Cola Tray12 Coca Cola Bottles And Tray Dollhouse Miniatures Food Supply DecoThriftchi ~ Reproduction Coca-cola Tray W Woman Design - 13.25" X 10.5"