Late 30's - Early 40's

Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles

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These are truly rare decks, as those pictured are the only ones I have seen. There is a red background version and a yellow background version. They each have a grey and a white border with white corners. A Coke bottle is in the middle and “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles” is on each end, facing in opposite directions. They are bridge decks and the ace of spades for the red deck has a C 2956 code on it and for the yellow a W2901. The manufacturer is the Atlantic Playing Card Co. and I estimate the date to be the 1930s. I have no idea if this was a company sponsored deck or one done by a bottler.

The Silhouette Girl

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When I first was collecting Coca-Cola cards, I heard about these silhouette girl decks but no one I talked to had ever actually seen them. Eventually I did find some. They come in red and green versions, the silhouette is in the middle and they are labeled “Drink Coca-Cola Delicious and Refreshing”. All three decks I have come in a gold top, black bottom box. They are bridge decks and are manufactured by the Atlantic Playing Card Co. The ace of spades has a Z 2902 code on all three decks. They were gold-edged. The one red deck had a number of extra cards and material with it but unfortunately the bridge instruction card has no date on it. That in itself may mean something. I again do not know if this was company sponsored or a more local or regional bottler effort. I am guessing late 1930s or early 1940s for their first production.

Take Home a Carton

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These are very rare decks with an unusual story. Presumably during the late 1930s, when the wheat decks (described in detail below) were manufactured, the Piqua, Ohio bottling company had a promotion under which if the customer sent in 16 of a coupon card (the coupon cards are also pictured,and they display cartons of Coke, on an image of either the red or blue background wheat decks and the carton circled in black) the bottler would send the customer a deck of cards. The customer also had to send in 5 cents if they wanted it mailed. The coupons said they would get a deck “of which this coupon is a sample”. But there are so few of the actual decks with a black carton that either not many customers took the bottler up on the offer, which given the size of Piqua could be the case, or I suspect what they got was the usual wheat deck. There are a very large number of the coupons around, however, so I would think there would be more carton decks if carton decks were actually delivered. Another case where having access to card manufacturer order records would be wonderful. I also have and have seen one similar red and one blue coupon from the Hagerstown, Maryland bottler. The blue coupon is identical to the Piqua ones but the red coupon does not have the trademark designation under Coca-Cola and has different print stylization. Perhaps other bottlers also made the offer? This question has now been answered. See the pictures of multiple coupon cards sent to me by Rodney Neat and Matthew Schacht. Note that there were also apparently coupon cards relating to some of the barred decks found under the Gold and Black Bars section. Really amazing items, thank you Rodney and Matthew.

The decks themselves are red or blue decks with “Take Home a Carton” above the circled carton and “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles” below it. The print is stylized differently than the normal wheat decks. They otherwise seem identical to the normal wheat decks. And I have seen one of these in an orange with a scalloped border deck (the general case of these decks is described below) with the carton in a black circle. It came in a green cutout box. No code on the ace, but I am guessing the date is similar.

Green Drink Coca-Cola

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Another very unusual deck, the only one I have seen, a dark green background, “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles” in gold script, with a gold border and some fancy white and gold decoration in the corners and it is gold-leaved. In a silver cardboard box, this is a bridge deck manufactured by the U.S. Playing Card Co. The ace of spades has A 2892 coded on it and the extra joker has “Between You and Me” text and the 1939 association copyright. This appears to me to be a general playing card company designed deck, which likely a particular bottler ordered, accounting for its rarity. Obviously manufactured no earlier than 1939, although Petretti lists it as a 1938.

Spider Web

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These decks are quite hard to find. There is a green and orange oval version and they have “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles” on them. They are bridge decks and they are Remembrance playing cards from Brown & Bigelow. The “Society Note” or extra joker has a copyright of 1939 by the Association of American Playing Card Manufacturers and the bridge instruction card is effective March 1, 1935. Based on that, the deck must have been first manufactured no earlier than 1939. Note that for the double deck, the box has no Coca-Cola information on it and this may be an example of someone creating a double deck, since the decks appear to be worn or aged differentially. Also note the version of the deck with only the gold bottle in the oval window.

Red and Blue Drink Coca-Cola

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These are very rare decks, the only ones I have seen like this. Manufactured by the U.S. Playing Card Company, they are probably a manufacturer design. There is a blue deck and a red deck. The blue deck has a red side border with some frills, then gold. The red deck has a blue line side border and the rest is the same. The top of the box is gold on the red deck and silver on the blue deck. The bottom is a tannish color for the blue deck and a greenish shade for the red deck. Both bottoms have a pasted on label that says “Made by the Makers of Congress Playing Cards” and “Riveria”, which perhaps is the design name. The bridge card is dated 1935, so I suspect these are late 1930s to early 1940s and were produced in a small quantity for one bottler.

Gold and Black Bars

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There are a variety of decks with a basic green or red background and gold and black bars along the right, and sometimes left, border. I believe these were widely ordered, but by local bottlers. I have not seen anything that suggests the Company itself promoted them, but a large number of bottling companies around the country have their names on decks. The most common are the generic versions with a series of bars on the right side. But you see pictured as well some decks with a bar on the left side. The decks say “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles”, italicized or plain. All these decks were manufactured by Brown & Bigelow, are bridge decks and I again believe the earliest date of production would have been 1939. Generally they are in soft boxes but I have several in a dark brown cutout top box and a couple in green cutout top boxes. I have one with a mailer cover. Some of the bottlers changed the phrasing. Here is a list of bottlers for the green version, with the changed phrasing, if applicable: Great Falls, Montana “In Bottles at Work or Play”; Walla Walla, Washington, same phrase; Waco, Texas, same phrase; Galesburg, Illinois, same phrase; Grand Forks, North Dakota, same phrase; Raleigh, North Carolina bottler, same phrase; Billings Montana,, standard phrase, plain; Herrin,Illinois, standard phrase, italicized; J.J. Flynn & Co., Quincy, Iowa, standard phrase, plain; and Tell City, very different, “Drink Coca-Cola at Work or Play. It Belongs in Your Ice Box at Home”. For the red version, the bottlers and phrasing are: for Waco, Walla Walla and J. J. Flynn, the same; for Glendive Ice & Beverage Co., the standard phrase; and for Mason City, Iowa, no In Bottles, just a “Delicious & Refreshing” in its place.

Bars and Carton

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This is a very rare deck which is a combination of several other themes.  It is a red background with the gold and black bars on the left, but it also has the black carton in a circle logo and the "Take Home a Carton.  Drink Coca Cola in Bottles" phrasing.  It is a bridge deck, made by Brown & Bigelow and I again suspect first produced in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

Gold-Arrowed Border

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Another common set of decks, one with a red and one with a blue background, and a gold arrowed border. Also manufactured by Brown & Bigelow and once again, the evidence suggests to me that production began in 1939 at the earliest. These decks also say “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles” in italics. These are all Hund & Eger decks, with one exception which is a red deck from the Enid, Oklahoma bottler and one each of the red and blue from the Miami bottler, these both came in dark brown cutout top boxes. Some of the H & E boxes have a printers’ union symbol and some don’t. Almost all I have seen are in soft boxes; I have a couple in cutout boxes but I think they were put in those later. These are bridge decks.

Gold Bottle

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There is a series of very rare decks with a gold bottle on the card. One of these is a green background with gold and black bars deck, the bottle appears to replace the usual advertising phrase but the cards inside are the normal gold bar on the right side cards. This is a pinochle deck, uncoded ace of spades. I suspect it may have been made pinochle from a couple of decks. Made by Brown & Bigelow. I have a red and a blue arrowed border deck, with the gold bottle and no wording--Brown & Bigelow, bridge decks, uncoded aces of spades. One of the decks has a 1935 bridge card and a coupon saying if you bring 20 to a retailer they will give you the deck. It is from the Tulsa bottler. I also have what appears to be a very light blue, but may be faded, couple of cards with a gold bottle and a frilly border and no wording. One of the cards, however, is a joker, looks like a Brown & Bigelow joker, dating to the 1930s.

Zig Zag Border

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This is a relatively difficult to find set of decks, one with a blue background, one with a pink one, and with a white zig-zag inner border and gold outer one. The say “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles”, italicized. These are also Brown & Bigelow cards and I believe, date from the late 1930s, as they have the 1935 bridge card. The ace of spades is uncoded. I have one deck from Muscatine, Iowa.

Tan-Arrowed Border

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Another set of “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles” decks, very hard to find. One has an orange background and one a green, both with a gold and white arrowed border. Also produced by Brown & Bigelow, dating from the late 1930s. Bridge decks with no ace of spades code.

Frilly Border

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Relatively common set of decks, one orange background, one green, both with gold frilly trim before a white border and with “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles”, the italicized version. All of the green ones I have are Hund & Eger, and most do not have the printers’ union symbol. These come in a green cutout top box, manufactured by Brown & Bigelow and are pinochle decks. I have a deck with a 1935 bridge card in it, don’t know why since these are pinochle decks, and a deck with two blank cards, which makes sense because you don’t use jokers in pinochle, but some of the decks have jokers. Aces are uncoded. On the orange background side, I do have three decks that are not H & E. These non-H & E decks are pinochle ones as well. Like so many decks, I think these are late 1930s also.

Hund & Eger Pinochle

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This pair of decks are pinochle cards, made by Brown & Bigelow, with the 1939 trade association extra joker, so probably first made in that year at the earliest. One deck has a gray background with a white and blue border, the other has a tan background with a white and burgundy border. Almost all are produced by Hund & Eger bottling company. I had an email exchange with Louis Hund, the grandson of the owner, who said that pinochle was his grandmother’s favorite card game and that is why these decks were produced. The decks have “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles” and the bottler name. The "in Bottles" is italicized. The printers’ union symbol is on the box. I do have two decks of the tan version that are not Hund & Eger and have "in Bottles" in regular script and the trademark designation. I also have a double deck of the tan version, in a gold and black box.

Wheat Decks

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This next set of decks are the “wheat” decks. They are red or blue with a left side border comprised of what appear to be wheat stalks. These are very common decks and are found roughly equally in a Hund & Eger Bottling Company version and a generic version. It does not appear that they were ordered or promoted by the Company. They all say “Drink Coca Cola in Bottles”. They all are bridge decks and are manufactured by Brown & Bigelow. One version has the “In Bottles” in plain script, these are said to date from 1938 and another version has “In Bottles” in italics, these supposedly are also from 1938. I think this must be erroneous because what appear to be the complete decks all have the extra joker with the trade association 1939 copyright. I am assuming that the earliest date of manufacture is therefore 1939. They come in two types of boxes, a traditional “soft” box and a red cutout top “hard” box. Some have the trademark designation and some don’t. The ones from Hund & Eger Bottling Co. have that name on the bottom of the front of the boxes and cards. The italicized “In Bottles” seem to be rarer. They are mostly in the hard boxes and I have not seen one with a trademark designation. I have one in a red soft box and two in a blue soft box; these boxes have an 80-529 code under the “In Bottles”, but only on the box, not on the cards. None of these have a printers' union symbol under them. The non-italicized decks all seem to have the trademark designation. They are all in the hard cutout box, with the exception of the one deck pictured in a gold box with a wheat card glued on top. I am inclined to think this was done by a customer, but the deck inside is sealed. I also have one non-italicized deck which is labeled “Paris Texas” on the bottom of the cards, so at least one other bottler distributed them. These decks also do not have a printers’ union symbol. The Hund & Eger decks I have seen are all italicized “In Bottles” and all are in the soft box and all have a printers’ union symbol on the box but not on the cards. Some of the ace of spades in wheat decks say “Made by Brown & Bigelow St. Paul”. Many of these decks are found with an outer mailer box, indicating that customers could order them from the bottler. There are also a number of double wheat decks, some of which probably were produced by the bottler and some put together by customers. There is a picture of one in a plastic case with an ivory bottom and clear flip top. The burgundy felt and cardboard box double decks in which the bottom slips into the cover are fairly common. Most have a red and blue deck and I have seen them with the regular and italicized “In Bottles”. I have not seen a Hund & Eger double deck in these boxes. The grayish felt boxes say “Season’s Greetings from Galesburg Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Galesburg, Illinois.” I have seen several of these, not surprisingly since we will see that this bottler had a fondness for playing cards. All these double decks have a red and blue regular print wheat deck. Finally, I have a silver bottom, gold and burgundy felt top italicized double deck.

Art Deco

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This is another deck with the same design as the Chautauqua Club deck seen in the Third-Party and Vendor Decks section, but says “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles With Your Game”. Only one I have seen.

Gears

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I have only a card of this unusual deck, a green background and a kind of gear imagery. It says “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles”. I can only guess that it is from the 1930s or 1940s.

Canadian Girl Double Deck

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This is a Canadian (said to be so because it is made by a card company located in Canada but I am not sure that is determinative) double deck, one with a red background, one with a blue background, a lovely image of a woman holding a glass and a bottle of Coca-Cola, with a Drink Coca-Cola logo. The cards come in a flip top box, with a red cardboard top and gold bottom. The top cover says Drink Coca-Cola and The Pause That Refreshes. The inside cover says they are a product of the International Playing Card Co. This is a bridge set commonly dated as 1939.

Yellow Drink Coca-Cola

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This is another rare card, thank you Barbara Lunaberg and Matt Schacht for helping get the image. This was another common Brown & Bigelow card stock, but very, very hard to find the Coke decks which used it. Most likely from the late 1930s or early 1940s. The card stock comes in other colors, so there may be other Coca-Cola decks in a similar pattern but a different color. I suspect that all these very rare decks using a standard card stock were ordered by one, maybe two bottlers, probably in lots of 100 or so, so very few survive.

Coupons

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As mentioned in the Take Home a Carton subsection, bottlers used coupons for playing cards as an inducement to purchase product. The images below show a number of fronts and backs of these coupons. Note that one of these coupons is from Starr Brothers, which made a commonly used bottle top opener.