These collectors are some of the most dedicated to their pursuits, and they have had nearly a century to work on it. Who am I referencing? Coca-Cola Christmas collectors of course! There are thousands of collectors of Coke memorabilia and many of them choose to focus their collection specifically on the items surrounding Christmas. There are lots of different Christmas items to collect. If you’re not sure how it all started or how to get started, then read on. One huge claim to fame for Coke at Christmas is the role their advertising had in creating our modern idea of how Santa Claus looks. (That claim comes from the Coke company itself)
Coca-Cola has had Christmas advertising since the 1920s. The Santa they used early on was bases on drawings by the famous newspaper illustrator, Thomas Nast. Nast’s depiction was a stern and strict elf like Santa who wore browns and greens before Nast switched his coat and robes to a red color. In 1931 Coke decided it needed a new look for its advertising and worked with artist Haddon Sundblom to create such an image. Sundblom kept the red coat from Nast (contrary to urban legend that red was selected because it was the color of Coke’s labeling). The jolly image he created was based on the description of St. Nick provided by Clement Clark Moore. This jolly, happy, and kind soul delivering goodies to kids of all ages became the look of the Coke Christmas advertising, and according to them, the image we embraced as a nation for Santa Claus. Coke celebrated 75 years of this advertising in 2006.
Early on the ads focused on getting people to see Coke as a drink for all seasons, not just warm weather. Sundblum’s ads debuted in the Saturday Evening Post in 1931. The ads showed Santa delivering toys, reading letters from children, and taking a break to drink a Coke. Sundblum painted the ads for 33 years. Initially he used a live model to create his works. After his death he used himself and painted based on the reflection in a mirror. By the end of the 40s he painted all his works from photographs of the scenes he created. The paintings quickly moved from magazine ads to store displays, billboards, posters, calendars, even dolls. Today we see ornaments, plates, figurines, and so much more! The original paintings by Sunblum are some of the Coke corporation’s most prized possessions. They have been displayed in museums around the world, including the Louvre.
All those advertising items are the core of the Coca-Cola Christmas collectibles. The Santa Claus ads were joined in the 1940s by Sprite Boy. Sprite Boy’s name came from him being a sprite (elf), debuting in 1942. Sprite, the beverage, didn’t premiere until the 1960s. Santa and Sprite Boy were joined in the holiday work by the Coke Polar Bears in 1993 as a part of the “Always Coca Cola” campaign. Serious collectors keep close watch on all the changes and developments. Like all the collectibles we have discussed there is a society for these devotees also. Cavanagh’s Christmas Collectors Society is for those who collect Coke. For your $25 annual fee you receive an exclusive figurine, newsletter, catalog, history, membership card, and access to member exclusive deals. Coke’s dedication to advertising at Christmas grew to include commercials, films, and seasonal jingle. Check out this clip to hear one of the most loved Christmas creations by Coke.