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ICONIC: Forty-four ardent collectors showcase their extensive memorabilia at the third annual Coca-Cola Collectors Fair

KUALA LUMPUR: THE space on the square tables were inadequate to showcase all they have but 44 ardent Coca-Cola collectors brought out the best of their collections to be featured at the third annual Coca-Cola Collectors Fair recently.

Organised by Coca-Cola Malaysia, the one-day event held at Berjaya Times Square here saw thousands of the brand's most prized memorabilia and trading collectibles being showed off by collectors who came as far as Hong Kong, Thailand and Indonesia.

It also marked Coca-Cola Day which is the day in 1886 when Coca-Cola was first sold in Atlanta, Georgia.

Collectibles ranged from limited-edition cans, bottles, retro posters, commemorative box sets to trinkets such as fridge magnets, bottle openers and cuddly white polar bears carrying the iconic logo.

Indonesian Herry Suryadi brought along with him a Coca-Cola glass bottle that dates back to 1971.

The bottle is the oldest Herry has in his collection of over 5,000 bottles and cans.

The 34-year-old from Bandung, Jawa Barat, said he found the prized possession in the storage room of his grandparents' house more than 10 years ago.

Herry's passion also saw him making Coca-Cola part of his wedding. He and his wife have shot an entire album of Coca-Cola-themed pre-wedding pictures.

Another avid collector, Freddie Lee, was most proud of his Coca-Cola bottle from Bulgaria, which has the Coca-Cola brand written in its local Cyrillic script, before it was discontinued 25 years ago.

Also that of a bottle from Armenia, on which Coca-Cola was printed in Armenian, before the brand name was switched to English.

"On the local front, I have a green-tinted Coca-Cola bottle that was produced in 1936. It was the first batch of bottles to be rolled out when Coca-Cola was introduced here. I found it in a recycling centre in a village in Kulim," said Lee who has been collecting Coca-Cola items for 17 years.

William Kor, a technician who travelled from Seremban to participate in the fair, spoke excitedly about a Millennium Edition Coca-Cola bottle.

"It was produced in the first few seconds of Jan 1, 2000, at the Cibitung bottling plant in Jawa Barat, Indonesia, which was Y2K ready," said Kor, who has spent more than RM10,000 acquiring unique Coca-Cola bottles.

Coca-Cola general manager for Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei Gill McLaren said she was amazed with the increased number of collectors since the inaugural fair three years ago during Coca Cola's 125th birthday.

McLaren said the fair will be held yearly from now on. Coca-Cola has been in Malaysia for 77 years. Currently, it has a bottling plant in Bandar Enstek in Negri Sembilan.

"We love spending time with people who are passionate about our brand. There are not many brands where you see people coming together to collect all the merchandise.

"Coca-Cola is an amazing drink that has been around for 128 years and people love its heritage.

" We are the very few brands that have been around for a very long time but have stayed contemporary," she said.

McLaren also commended the collectors on the items they have, saying that it was also nice for her and colleagues to see the stuff they have acquired.

"They might have found something from somewhere else in the world and we get the chance to see it here," she said.

The trademark red fair also took a green twist with visitors getting limited-edition Coca-Cola T-shirts made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles in exchange for empty aluminium cans and PET plastic bottles.

The crowd at the fair was entertained by No Noise Percussion group which performed using "musical" instruments such as plastic bins, covers and pipes.

Non-governmental organisations that work closely with Coca-Cola, namely, Malaysian Nature Society, WWF-Malaysia, Raleigh International and Muslim Aid also shared their causes and create awareness of their work among the visitors.

The third Coca-Cola Collectors Fair sees 44 avid collectors showing off their hoard of bottles, cans and other merchandise with some dating as far back as 1886.

One of the highlights in Eiji Cheak’s collection is this Coca-Cola bottle produced by the Coca-Cola bottling plant which opened in Sendai, Japan, in May 1996. He bought it for over RM200 on the Internet. It also comes with a certificate.

William Kor is proud of his Millennium Edition Coca-Cola bottle that was rolled out in the first few seconds of Jan 1, 2000.

Freddie Lee cherishes this green-tinted Coca-Cola bottle from 1936 when the refreshing beverage was first introduced in Malaysia. In the glass case are Coca-Cola bottles from Bulgaria, Armenia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, and Ethiopia with the brand name written in local script.

Coca-Cola bottles featuring the Lord of the Rings characters are one of the most photographed collectibles at the fair.

Herry Suryadi’s love for Coca-Cola extends beyond the over-5,000 items in his collection. He and his wife have shot an entire album of Coca-Cola-themed pre-wedding photos.

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