Savio D’Souza had been following the FIFA World Cup 2018 as it unfolded in Russia. He is not the average football fan. No way was he going to miss any of the important matches, juggling his work schedule as he cheered his favourite players and teams during the month+ long tournament.

But the World Cup was about more than just satiating his desire for watching great football. There has been another passion that Savio has been nursing for the last decade and a half. He collects Coca-Cola bottles that few collectors can claim to have on their shelves.

As the FIFA World Cup 2018 ended, Savio was on the lookout for the new bottles that would be released for the occasion. As Croatia reached the final, fans were lapping up several commemorative cans which were specially made for historic occasion. After France won the title, there were special cans for their special occasion too!

While these have been cans, Savio’s eyes have been scouring online for bottles as well.

Checking the availability of special bottles has been a habit with Savio. When he joined as a management trainee at Coca-Cola in 2002, it did not take long before he was hooked on to this passion of collecting commemorative bottles. Even though he has moved around to a few countries during his stint with Coca-Cola, a few hundred such special bottles are displayed in his house.

“It is like a trophy case in a sportsperson’s house. It adds character to my home,” Savio proudly says about his prized collection.

Humble beginnings

It was a stroke of luck that had helped it all begin. In 2004, to commemorate the 28th Olympics at Athens, the torch relay was unfolding in India. Among others, the employees, partners and customers of Coca-Cola were participating in a torch relay. A special ‘sleeve bottle’ had been manufactured by Coca-Cola to mark the occasion. For Savio, it was the first taste of a specially-made, commemorative bottle.

Soon as he had a collection ready, he started mentioning it to friends around Coca-Cola. Over the next few years, he got a few special bottles from different parts of the world. More of them were added as he travelled to different business units of Coca-Cola around the world.

It was on an assignment in Turkey that his bottle collection started to blossom. Savio was in a regional role for Coca-Cola, travelling to over a dozen countries in Middle East and Africa. He noticed that several people gifted each other bottles and the diversity of local festivals and occasions were celebrated amongst the people. Every Bayram (a festival similar to Eid in India), there used to be a celebratory bottle that would be released.

A special bottle from that time is one that has an image of the Turkish evil eye, which in local culture, is for good luck. “I could not have asked for more since I was actively collecting bottles by then,” Savio recalls.

He had now begun to buy the occasional bottle since several collectors were now actively trading in bottles, for a price.

It was a windfall in 2012 that added wings to his passion. As he moved to a new role in London, the Coca-Cola offices were moving to a new location in the central part of the metropolis. The new office did not have the expansive space to display the special bottles as the old did. So, the bottles were kept at one corner in the office for anyone to pick up and carry home. Savio had hit pay dirt!

“I collected several bottles then. I could never have imagined that something like that would come my way,” a beaming Savio now says. In a jiffy, he now had bottles designed by haute couture designers like Manolo Blahnik and Jean Paul Gautier, international sporting events including commemorative sets from the London Olympics, Coca-Cola UEFA Cup and iconic bottles celebrating artists like David Guetta, Avicii and Mika, which he could have only dreamt of earlier.

The bottle collectors’ world

There is an entire world for people who collect and treasure Coca-Cola bottles. They are always on the lookout for bottles manufactured for special occasions in different parts of the world. A random online search on some popular e-commerce website will give a flavor of which, among the bottles is hot, and which is not. Like it happens with any product, the price of these bottles keeps fluctuating.

When Ugly Betty became a very popular soap in UK, there were special Coca-Cola bottles released to mark the event. 100 years of Selfridges in UK was also celebrated with the launch of a special bottle. In Romania, Coca-Cola Blak bottles were manufactured with twist top caps, a unique one from the company. Collectors thrive on such special bottles.

The contour bottle from Coca-Cola completed 100 years in 2016. The evolution of the Coca-Cola bottle over 100 years is a story that may have been told million times. As more and more of these bottles become rare, their price keeps inching up driving more collectors who want to own one of them.

Cans do not evoke the same frenzy among the traditional collectors. A special can released to mark the 100th century of cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar was a collectors’ item for many cricket fans. But for the bottle collector, it was of far less exciting, perhaps of lesser or no value. Cricket aficionados may disagree. But, well, that is another story!

‘Bottles were the biggest item when I moved to India’

“I moved back to the India & South-West Asia business unit of Coca-Cola in 2017 and the collection of nearly 800 bottles were the biggest item when the packers were taking stock. They were surprised that I wanted to ferry them all from UK,” Savio says, with a smirk as he recalls the surprise on their faces. His wife, a former Coca-Cola employee too, was not complaining. It took a while for the packers to digest that the bottles had to be packed so well that they were 100% safe.

With his enviable collection, Savio now regularly interacts with Coca-Cola bottle collectors online. Occasionally, there is the opportunity to trade the bottles with collectors in different parts of the world.

There are more opportunities that come up as new bottles are launched. Meanwhile, Savio’s collection is growing with each international visitor getting him more goodies. The amazing collection has an amazing home too, with shelves at his Gurgaon home which have been specially designed with top lights, false ceilings and the works.