VFL (pre AFL) Coca-Cola and Fanta Bottle Caps

In 1963 and 1964, the local Coca-Cola bottler had a licence to feature VFL (pre AFL) football player Black and White photograph headshots on the inside of their bottle caps. The licence was apparently only for Victoria, so these bottles were not distributed outside of the state. The exterior of the Victorian bottle caps specifies the Melbourne Coca-Cola branch as the manufacturer. The Victorian set features 20 players for each of the 12 teams. Although we have not seen one, it is almost certain that a folder was produced to stick the caps to, along the same lines as the SANFL one.

There was another licence in (South Australia) SANFL for their local Coca-cola bottler to produce the SA players. Likewise, the South Australian bottle caps specify the Adelaide  Coca-Cola branch as the manufacturer. The South Australian set in 1968 features 90 caps, 9 players for each of the 10 teams. A fold out folder was produced to adhere these caps too. In 1968, only Coca-Cola caps had the SANFL images. 

As far as we can tell, both Coca-Cola and Fanta caps featured the same images for both years. Technically speaking, the Coca-Cola caps and the Fanta caps may be
considered different sets for obvious reasons. The Fanta caps seem to be rarer than the Coca-Cola caps only in that Coke sold more product and hence more of
those caps were retained.

These metal caps were printed in black and while with a photo headshot of a player. The image was then covered with a lined cork to seal the actual drink. The process of opening the bottle and removing the cork often resulted in varying degrees of damage, including deforming the cap (bends and compacting) as well as scratches on the image from scraping the cork off. (Some caps still have cork particles stuck in place). The caps were aimed at young kids and were never designed to last. Simply storing them in a box still results is deterioration and rust/erosion.

The 1963 set did not feature any type of date on the cap. The 1964 series features “19” and “64” on either side of the players’ headshot. This had a secondary effect, which resulted in the headshot portrait being a smaller image than the ones used in 1963.

I have yet to witness any full set or even complete player lists for each for the Victoria teams, although the SANFL versions seem relatively more “common”.
Likewise, the 1963 caps are rarer, in any condition.

To complicate matters both the type face used and the team name format was not consistent in the same year. The examples below show the “Essendon” team and
player names are different fonts.

The North Melbourne team name for two players from the 1963 set are different fonts and spelt differently. I am assuming this is just a manufacturing variant
and not an intentional cap Variant. 

For the next portion of confusing, we do actually have variants of the same player in the same year as well. I am not sure if this was because they were
short of 20 different players so they did multiples of some or if they simply changed the artwork during the print run for other reasons.

Early collectables suffered from inaccuracies. The VFL caps are no exception. These include spelling errors to including players who were not on the teams
list for the year, such as Des Kennedy who was in the 1964 set, but did not actually join St Kilda until 1965. Both Geoff (Geof) Rosenon and Garry (Gary)
Hammer from Geelong from the 1963 set had their names misspelt.

Yet another variation and a potential 2 additional “set” exist as the Geelong Coca-Cola bottling plant also produced VFL caps. The exterior of their Coke and
Fanta caps featured the Geelong location.

In addition, the final art used for the caps sometimes differs. The Cap on the right (below) is from the Melbourne bottling plant while the one on the left is from
Geelong (interestingly enough, both are from Fanta bottles). Obviously at the time, “variants” were not an issue. Presumably, as long as you had a version of the player, no one really cared if there were differences, until completists – now.

This is a set of the 1968 SANFL caps that were available in South Australia in the official album. Note, that only Coca-Cola bottles had SANFL portraits.

Coca-Cola also did cap for “World Scenes” and Cricket players (see album following), Charlie Brown (1969), possibly more. Information on all these items is very limited. The information we have presented here is based on first hand examples of the items.


Link to VFL bottle Caps and card sets:  click here