Locally, there may only be a handful of individuals who share Jonathan Pace’s hobby – however, around the world, there are thousands of people with a passion for collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia.We are all familiar with the story. In the late 19th century, Colonel John Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia, invented Coca-Cola as a tonic. From such humble beginnings, Coca-Cola established itself as one of the world’s largest brands enjoying an iconic status. For Jonathan, who runs his own large-scale digital printing and sign-making business, the attraction was irresistible and in the last 10 years he has dedicated much of his free time to researching and acquiring Coca-Cola memorabilia from all over the world.
Although Coca-Cola memorabilia takes many forms, it is bottles that make up the bulk of Jonathan’s collection, which he describes as “my own personal museum”. However, Jonathan doesn’t keep his collection all to himself. In the decade since he started the collection, it has grown to such an extent that it is housed in a garage and is frequently visited by students who want to see first-hand the design genius that goes behind one of the most successful brands in the world. Indeed, Jonathan currently holds the Malta record for the largest number of bottles, with the last count standing at 1,801. Most bottles are limited edition or commemorative issues that were never sold on the island and were sourced from abroad. In fact, the internet has played an important part in building this collection and Jonathan constantly monitors specialised websites in search of rare and unusual bottles. Jonathan uses the internet not only to research and source bottles, but also to trade and exchange with fellow enthusiasts. Collecting bottles does have its funny side. Jonathan recounts an incident when he was stopped by customs and he had to explain to them that he was only carrying empty bottles in his luggage because he was a collector.
Why do people collect things, asks Andrea Faye Christians as she meets one Coca-Cola collector. Coca-Cola Collector Profile: Jonathan Pace carrying empty bottles in his luggage because he was a collector. Some of the bottles in Jonathan’s collection have a special local significance, such as a limited edition bottle from the 2006 World Cup that was signed by each Maltese football player from the national squad. However, the majority of the bottles in his collection come from abroad, from as far afield as Nicaragua and Singapore. There is also a fair share of antique bottles, including one dating from 1896 with an old stopper mechanism. Jonathan also has a number of antique bottle openers, cans and other memorabilia dating from the 1950s when the brand started to gain a foothold in American pop culture. Jonathan’s all-time favourite, however, is rather more recent and is a commemorative bottle for the rock band Kiss – displaying the band’s distinctive logo. This bottle is one of only 500 in existence, and was originally given out in France at a press conference. Another bottle commemorates the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.