Americana Spring 2002
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on: 5/17/2002

Collectors of Coca-Cola related memorabilia have an incredibly vast amount of items to choose from, as you can imagine.  More and more items are either produced, or rediscovered, daily, creating an impossible situation for a "completist."  Most collectors collect the items that strike their fancy the most.  Items like syrup dispensers, bottles, advertising signs, clocks, all have a collector who specializes in their type.  Two of the most avidly collected items are the annual calendars that the company produced, and the serving trays that were sent to the soda fountains and restaurants that served the product.  Both are beautiful creations of their days, and both feature images of the smiling beauties that have come to be known as the "Coke Girls."  Collectors in this field, as with most collectors in any field, have done their research in this area, turning up production dates, sometimes quantities produced, the names of the artists who painted the models, and in even rarer instances the names of the early models who posed. Coca-Cola's trays, or "plates," as some manufacturers called them then, were first issued in 1897. They were done as a tin-plated steel litho, printed with the image, then stamped into the proper shape, with their edges machine-rolled for safety. The early ones were all nicely done, with colorful Victorian Era representations of beauty as their subjects. All pre-1940 trays are difficult to find, especially in high grade, with the earliest examples now easily selling for thousands of dollars. These were most commonly found in most areas where "Coke" was bottled and distributed, but not all, for it was up to the local division to decide whether or not they wanted to buy them for their local customers. Not all of them chose to. Some didn't offer any item, and others bought similar items that were locally made, in order to save on shipping costs. Coca-Cola's bottler in the Chicago area chose to go local. The item offered here was produced in 1908 by the Vienna Art Company for the Western Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Chicago, Illinois. It was not the first that they had produced for the bottling house, as they had been producing them since 1905, producing a total of eight before this one. However, this is the first one that they produced that featured the Coca-Cola logo on the front, with all earlier examples displaying the logo on their reverse-side only. They also produced their "art plate" line for the general public, as well, enclosing them within large, ornate, gilded frames. These carried no company logos anywhere, and their generic version of this nude had neither the green circular area around the model (displaying the full figure), nor the logos in the outer rim. The company's bottle (second-version, straight-sided) in her hand was also an addition that is missing in the generic version. Obviously, this advertising tray, with its nude image, would not be the type of item used at the local sweetshop. It is just as obvious, from the tray's ad copy, that it was designed for use in men's salons and the neighborhood saloons, both being places where risque material was (and is still) always welcome. Make no mistake, it is a genuine Coca-Cola item, and is desperately sought after by tray collectors. It just was never sanctioned by the main office, but was produced under the direction of the Chicago bottling firm, instead. Since the main office probably registered their displeasure over the item's content, no other bottling plant ever produced another like it. It's too bad, as "naughty" Coke items would have been a great collecting subcategory. (Of course, the reason that they never shot for that market again may well be that nobody in their right mind would drink Coca-Cola "High Balls" or "Gin Rickies" more than once. Now, if they had only considered recommending it with Rum, it might have been a different story!)  As it is, this tray is a one-of-a-kind in production history. It is also one of the few known, and is no doubt one of the nicest still with us.  Its model remains the only topless "Coke Girl" in the company's history, and we don't even know her name.

ConditionThe 12.25-inch diameter tray has an excellent appearance, still retaining most of its litho's gloss.  It displays very limited edge wear and even less oxidation (most notably in a one inch area in the design area of the rim, and in other areas on the reverse).  It has a mild two-inch long "dimple" that runs through the word "Soda" in the green area.  The reverse of the tray shows some buffing and chipping, but it falls within the realm of a tray that only experienced moderate use.  Overall, considering the superior image side's appearance, the assigned grade is Excellent.


Vintage 1908 Coca-Cola Tray, Featuring the Only Topless Coke Girl in the Company's History.
Vintage 1908 Coca-Cola Tray, Featuring the Only Topless "Coke Girl" in the Company's History.
Click above for larger image.
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $1,500
Price Realized (Includes Buyers Premium): $5,963
Number of Bids: 0
Auction closed on: 5/17/2002