It’s human nature to collect. The fascination with collecting items harks back to prehistoric times when accumulating resources was a way for males to attract a mate. Nowadays, it’s less about attracting a mate and more of a personal hobby.


We’re familiar with hobbies such as stamp collecting or coin collecting, but less common – although popular – is product packaging collection. A growing hobby, the reasons for collecting packaging vary hugely, as does the way in which people collect packaging.


Coca Cola bottles, cereal boxes and food tins are just a few examples of product packaging that people collect. Although some products have stayed through the years, their packaging has evolved, with very few products now in the same packaging as when they were first released. Collecting packaging is, for many, a way of observing and appreciating the evolution of packaging design.


The progression of packaging design often correlates to social history, with food packaging in particular reflecting cooking habits and consumer trends of the past. Cereal products were, at one point, packaged in tins, which were seen as a healthier option and afforded a level of quality to the products packaged inside. A collection of Coca Cola bottles shows how the brand developed its international status, growing from its original bottle with paper labelling to its current unique, curved glass bottle with an embossed logo that is recognisable anywhere. Vintage packaging demonstrates how trends, consumer habits and social history have changed, offering collectors a snapshot into the past.


But collecting packaging isn’t just a lesson in history: the hobby also appeals to our emotional side. It’s said that the things we own have higher value to use, and the same applies to people who collect packaging. Packaging becomes more personally valuable to the collector, as people form an emotional connection with products in their possession. A collection of old product packaging is less about the monetary value, but more of its emotional value – in fact, collecting old packaging becomes less about the packaging itself and more about the brand and the people who used them as old packaging invokes memories. This confirms the idea that consumers are emotionally invested in packaging, and it is this emotional connection that sells products.


Given that most products today are not sold in the same packaging as when first released, some old packaging is regarded as unusual and unique by collectors and has a higher value. Original packaging can also increase the product value. For example, certain products no longer in production are much more valuable if still in their original packaging. Original packaging shows that a product has been taken care of, highlighting that the packaging has fulfilled its protective function. It’s essential, however, that the packaging is in good condition, and any writing must be legible for the packaging to hold any value.


Whether purchased online or collected over time, collecting old product packaging is about much more than just keeping old plastic or cardboard items: it’s a hobby that reaffirms our emotional connection with product packaging, offers a unique glimpse into the past and displays the evolution and innovation of packaging design. Who knows, this year’s packaging might just become the next collectors’ item!