This is an exclusive excerpt from “Petretti’s Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide, The Encyclopedia of Coca-Cola Collectibles” 12th Edition, by Allan Petretti. Previously sold out, a limited number are now available for order.. See the end of this article about a special offer when you order your copy.
By Allan Petretti
For the first 30 years or so of The Coca-Cola Company’s existence, the product was basically targeted to adults. One only has to examine the company’s advertising to realize that this was an adult drink. For example, “Relieves Fatigue,” “Restores Energy,” “The Ideal Beverage for Discriminating People” and “For Shoppers and Businessmen” were all part of the extensive list of slogans used by the company in its early years.
It wasn’t until the late 1920s and early 1930s that The Coca-Cola Company considered youngsters as an important market for its popular drink. While this collecting category includes toys and games, not all of these items were produced with children in mind. Playing cards, for example, have always been an important “giveaway” item for adults. A
series of Milton Bradley games such as darts, bingo, checkers and chess were also popular games during the 1940s and ’50s. They bore the Coca-Cola logo and were designed for adults. Without a doubt, though, the most popular items in this category are the toy trucks and cars that were indeed produced with children in mind.
The 1930s Metalcraft truck is the first toy truck known to be used by The Coca-Cola Company to attract children. The Metalcraft Company produced a well-made and popular truck not only for Coca-Cola but for other companies to advertise their products, as well. The Coca-Cola Company was, of course, a very important account for Metalcraft. These trucks were offered for a number of years, and while they are very desirable, they have turned up in large enough numbers over the years to keep collectors satisfied.
Even with the number of Metalcraft trucks available, they still command a respectable price. Examples in “mint in box” condition are still unobtainable for most collectors.
The Metalcraft fleet consists of four versions. A metal-wheel example is probably the earliest, followed by a rubber-wheel truck and then a rubber-wheel version with working headlights. Surely the rarest of the group is a long-front version, which was apparently done in very small quantities or for a very short time. Many collectors are trying to add this one to their collections.
The “Smitty” (Smith-Miller) Company was one of the next trucks to carry the Coca-Cola logo. These 1940s and 1950s trucks began as all-wood models but evolved into wooden bodies with metal cabs. There were four different versions, all in red. An all-metal Smith-Miller was manufactured later in the 1950s; this model was all yellow. Another Smith-Miller was produced in 1978 to 1980; this is an all-metal version in red and was produced in limited quantities.
Buddy L would aptly be called the King of Coca-Cola trucks. It has been producing trucks since the 1940s. Its first truck was an all-wood example, which is rare and sought after by collectors. The large yellow metal trucks produced during the 1950s and 1960s have turned up in many variations, including an orange example. The 1960s, ’70s and ’80s saw the Buddy L Company produce many different Coca-Cola trucks, including some boxed sets.
During the 1950s, the Marx Company made a number of quality trucks bearing the Coca-Cola logo, both in tin-litho and plastic. These trucks are very popular among collectors and are considered very valuable when found “mint in box.”
Matchbox trucks produced during the 1950s and ’60s are fairly common, but still popular, especially early examples found in the box. Dinky and Budgie also produced some trucks in the ’50s and ’60s. The Japanese manufactured tin-litho trucks began appearing in the 1950s and many examples were produced right into the ’60s. While many are easy to find, some are quite rare. The 1960s Ford station wagon is certainly among the rarest. Other manufacturers since the ’50s have included Solido (France), Yaxton (Italy) and Technofix (West Germany), as well as others from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong and Taiwan. All of these have produced trucks with the famous Coca-Cola logo. Most recently (1970s-1990s), Nostalgia Miniatures produced many different models of vintage Coca-Cola trucks.
Many Coca-Cola collectors specialize in toys, especially toy trucks and cars. The ultimate find for these specialists is an example that is “mint in the box.” Trucks found in the original box are so much more desirable and valuable. In this story, you will see many trucks with their boxes. Prices shown for examples without boxes are based on average condition of
excellent or better. Trucks found “mint in the box,” however, could be worth considerably more. In addition to trucks, a number of other items were off ered as premiums from local bottlers, including the American Flyer train set, Coca-Cola scooter and wagon, toy stoves and baby dolls. Many of these items can be traced to The St. Louis Bottling Company. This bottler was innovative in offering premiums in return for bottle caps. Premiums, special offers and giveaways were among the many ways the company and bottlers distributed these items to the kids.
Yo-yos, marbles, jump ropes, kites, whistles and cutouts are only a small sampling of the hundreds of items that carried the Coca-Cola logo and were produced for children. Beginning in 1927 and continuing into the early 1930s, The Coca-Cola Company produced a beautiful series of store window displays featuring Toonerville, Uncle Remus, The Circus and The Olympics, among others. These were large, elaborate cardboard cutout window displays that also featured a small-size cutout for children. A window banner offered the cutout free inside the store. Some of these cutouts are rare; others are quite common and collecting a set is surely a challenge. Schools are another place for the distribution of items targeted
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