Drink up – Coca-Cola collectors have good taste

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From the 1950s, this 5-1/2-inch GMC truck is worth $1,250. All photos courtesy of Petretti's Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide, The Encyclopedia of Coca-Cola Collectibles, 12th Edition.

People enjoy collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia for many reasons. One of the greatest attractions is the wide range of collectibles available. There are many different areas of collecting, but most collectors will collect anything with the famous Coca-Cola logo. Others are specialized collectors. They may have set a goal to acquire every tray or calendar the company has produced.

One of my favorite specialized areas of collecting, and one that even the new collector can get into without spending a fortune, is postcards. Any postcard showing a Coca-Cola sign is a very good item. Postcards are easy to find, and early ones are very desirable. But whether you collect anything and everything, or choose to specialize, you always have a good feeling when you add a nice piece to your collection.

The Importance of Condition

Condition is the most important factor in determining the value of an item. If the piece is in mint condition, the value will be higher, and if in poor condition the value will be lower. The price should always reflect the piece’s condition.

I have always been in favor of the “upgrade” system of collecting. This is buying a piece in a less-than-ideal condition and looking for the same piece in better condition, buying it and selling the lesser of the two. Keep in mind that selling pieces in poor condition is not easy in many cases. So before you turn your money over to a dealer, ask yourself this important question: “Am I considering condition in the purchase of this piece?”

Fakes and Reproductions

It’s unfortunate but true: Fakes and repros are a part of collecting. Whether it’s Coca-Cola, Ming vases or teddy bears, reproductions are everywhere. The best way to keep buying mistakes to a minimum is plain and simple “education.” Read everything you can get your hands on, and ask questions. Put your mistakes behind you and learn from them. Also, tell other collectors about items you know are phony.

Finding out if a piece is original or reproduction is important, but questioning the dealer is not always the answer. Don’t be fooled by appearance. Many pieces can be instantly aged by unscrupulous people who are looking to make a buck from the collector who is eager to make a major find.

I wish there was a foolproof way to distinguish repros from originals, but there isn’t. The best way to learn the difference is to study the characteristics of originals by handling them and observing the details carefully.

Displaying and Storing

Collecting is an investment and it is important to protect that investment by keeping pieces in your collection in the same condition as the day you purchased them. Displaying and storing your collection properly is an important factor in maintaining condition. When you purchase a piece for your collection, you must determine if it will be displayed or stored.

To display paper or cardboard signs, calendars, or posters, proper framing is essential. Make sure the person doing the framing uses the proper paper conservation methods and is aware of the value and importance of the piece. It is critical that the framer does not do anything to the piece, such as gluing, trimming, or removing anything from it, such as a metal strip or calendar page. Also make sure the framer is insured to cover your piece while it is in his possession and add that on your receipt with the value.

Be sure framed pieces aren’t exposed to constant sunlight, and beware of humidity. Bathrooms and basements are especially prone to causing moisture damage.

Small collectibles, such as pocket mirrors, watch fobs, knives, and celluloid pieces can be protected and displayed well in showcases. Books, paper items, and other collectibles can be stored in acid-free corrugated file boxes that are readily available from the large chain stationery supply stores. Pack the items, label the boxes, and store them off the ground in a dry area.

When displaying your collection, be creative and don’t take it too seriously. Move things around until you find the perfect spot for your favorite piece.

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Coke Signs

A sign. What could be more simple than a sign? You tack one up above your place of business, people know what you sell, and they come in to buy it. Simple as that. Coca-Cola signs may have started out that way, but they developed into an art form over the years.

The art of sign making and its effect on the consuming public was pushed to the limits by the Coca-Cola Company. There was no place or material that was not used to display that most famous of all trademarks. The Coca-Cola Company and its advertising agencies demanded the finest lithography, sign painters, artists, and designers to create the most attention-grabbing signs that could be produced and they got it.

In the beginning, the crudest and easiest of signs to produce were used. Records show that some of the first signs used to advertise the product were canvas or oil cloth, as they were quick and inexpensive to produce.  These strips of material were either hand painted or stenciled in bright colors to attract attention. But those early banners were soon replaced by more permanent materials like wood, metal and, of course, hand painted building exteriors. So popular was the use of sign painting on buildings that the Coca-Cola Company made an art form of it, The company took photographs and produced books on the subject to instruct sign painters in the most effective use of this very public and permanent display of its trademark.

The Coca-Cola Company was a pioneer in the development of advertising signs. Just printing on tin was not enough. Embossing to add depth, multicolor printing, and clear-coat finishes were added to make a flat dull sign jump out and grab attention. Once they got it, everyone knew instantly what that image meant … “Refreshment.” Enamel- and porcelain-covered metal signs were durable so they could be used outdoors. They were so durable, in fact, that many of those signs from all eras of Coca-Cola’s past can be found in our cities and along the highways to this very day.

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Coca-Cola Candy

One of the more interesting aspects of the history of the Coca-Cola Co. was the attempt by some to cash in on the most recognizable trademarks of all time. Whether it be a competing soda brand or a product totally unassociated with soft drinks; Coca-Cola candy is a perfect example. Not much is known about the product history; in fact, books about Coca-Cola have made only a passing mention of the product. What is known, however, is that Coca-Cola did not make candy. The product was produced by “The Startup Candy Co.” of Provo, Utah. It is believed that at some point in the 1920s the Coca-Cola Company granted a license to manufacture “Startup’s Coca-Cola Chocolates.” However, a catalog of candy products from 1910 lists the Coca-Cola Startups Chocolate, so we do know it was produced from at least 1910. Between 1910 and the 1920s is a story yet to be written.

The company produced a number of different sizes and styles of Coca-Cola chocolate candy. Some, including chocolate pellets, actually contained Coca-Cola syrup in their centers. While it is not likely that any of the original candy exists, anything associated with it is prized by today’s collectors. Even catalog sheets listing the product are of interest. Very limited amounts of this material has turned up over the years.

It is this type of material that adds another dimension to collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia.

Miscellaneous

The Coca-Cola Company has always been a leader in advertising. Early on it showed a creativity that would put even some modern companies to shame, even though modern firms have the advantage in having access to sophisticated resources like national marketing surveys, high-tech television commercials, and computer generated graphics.

While The Coca-Cola Company didn’t have the wonderful digital resources we have today, it did make the most of what it had at the time. Coca-Cola put its logo on almost everything imaginable. And, of course, licensing its name for use on other companies’ products was mutually beneficial. The widespread presence of the Coca-Cola logo helped sell the drink, and in turn, the logo gave prestige and visibility to the products of lesser known companies.

Items from this section include figurines, pocket mirrors, silverware, pocket knives, ink pens, letter openers, tools, jewelry, smoking paraphernalia, and convention badges.

coca-cola collectibles price guide
Now available at www.krausebooks.com

Petretti’s Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide, The Encyclopedia of Coca-Cola Collectibles,
12th Edition, By Allan Petretti • Price: $39.99

More Images:

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Advertising sign for Coca-Cola, "The Ideal Brain Tonic."
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The rare 1930s Ideal "Wonder Doll" in original box with insert brochure, and the Coke logo on the bottom of her shoes is worth $4,500.
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A 1980s can radio on a wood truck is valued about $20.
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From 1902, this 14 3/4-inch by 19 1/2-inch sign is worth $18,000.
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1950s Coca-Cola advertising sign with a square clock. Round clocks were also seen, but were not as popular.
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8 1/2-inch by 11-inch page from 1920s Startup Candy Co. catalog, showing Coca-Cola Candy displays and various products. $150.
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1925, foil Coca-Cola candy wrapper $750
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8 1/2-inch by 11-inch page from 1920s Startup Candy Co. catalog, showing Coca-Cola Candy displays and various products. $150.

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