The glass turned out to be treasure.
It was two days later before he informed anybody of the find, which turned out to be more than 200 whole Coca-Cola bottles, as well as parts of bottles and thousands of pieces of broken glass from long-destroyed bottles produced at the Villa Rica Electric Light and Bottling Company in the early 20th century.
“All I’ve heard for years is that Villa Rica Coke bottles are worth this and worth that, and we found a bunch of the them,” he said. “It never dawned on me that’s what all that glass was.”
When Reid reported his find, Historic Resource Coordinator Carl Lewis mobilized a quick excavation team that worked for three days uncovering the bottles, many of which are still intact in large chunks of earth. At the bottom of the 5-foot hole, diggers also found a lot of electrical gear, including resistors, insulators and copper wire, which leads them to believe the Villa Rica Electric Light and Bottling Company was on the site or very near it.
“Maybe somebody will come forward and tell us exactly where it was,” Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Reese said. “We are interested. In fact, anybody who has old photographs of the Villa Rica Electric Light and Bottling Company, we want them bad. Somebody, no doubt, has got a photograph of that building because it was the 20th Century.”
Preliminary plans are to get the whole bottles professionally cleaned and displayed in the city’s Pine Mountain Gold Museum. The broken bottles will be sold in the museum’s gift shop as flower vases and paperweights. Officials are also considering sending some of the whole bottles to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta to be displayed with a placard signifying they are on loan from Villa Rica, hometown of Coca-Cola Corporation founder Asa Candler.
“To my knowledge, we will have the largest Villa Rica Coke bottle display in the world,” Reese said.
Until they can find out exactly where the site of the bottling company was located, city officials can only speculate why there were so many bottles in one place. One theory is that it was a dump site for the electric light and bottling company.
“There is some indication that there was a fire that went on. Some of the bottles were discolored, and there were fragments of burnt wood in the same hole, so it could have been a dumping hole, but we really don’t know what it was, to be honest with you,” Reese said.
There were several bottling companies around Georgia in the early 20th century, with Villa Rica the site of one of them. However, bottles made in Villa Rica are some of the rarest to be found.
“Villa Rica Coke bottles are like the Holy Grail of Coke bottles,” Reese said. “They’re so rare, we haven’t been able to find anybody who can give us a firm price on them. I’ve looked on every Web site I know to look on, and I haven’t been able to find a price.”
Antique Coke bottles fetched bids in the $40 range on eBay Friday afternoon. One from “Rome, Ga.” was up to $36.
A few of the found bottles even say “Villa Rica Electric Light and Bottling Company,” which is the rarest type of Villa Rica bottle, while others simply state “Coca-Cola, Villa Rica, Georgia.”
“If it hadn’t been for Richard, they would stayed covered up,” Reese said.