Just as any collector, hunting for something to collect is half of the fun of collecting. I was in an old paint store over 20 years ago when I noticed an old can on the shelf with great old graphics.
Being in the billboard business, I used to paint on a daily basis and had never thought of the lowly paint can. I continued to look around the store and noticed an old Sherwin Williams “Cover the Earth Sign”, then another old sign with a boat, advertising Woolsey paint. At this point, I was hooked and thought this is for me.
Going from antique shop to flea market, I would ask for old paint cans, especially gallons. Of course, I got strange looks, as well as laughs, were common. I quickly found that there was plenty out there and I needed to be more focused on what I purchased. I decided to collect the gallon cans with great graphics and only purchase smaller cans with colorful graphics when I found them.
Paint cans came in all shapes and sizes. Older shaped cans including cone-shaped, triangular and rectangular are extremely rare. The graphics on any of the older cans are wonderful with great attention to detail. Some of the labels were printed on paper, while others were printed directly on the cans. After collecting paint cans for over 20 years they are now extremely hard to find.
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If you were to go back in time and look through the window of a 1900’s Drug Store, you could have seen a pharmacy full of bottles and medicines. In fact, this was the setting of Dr. John Stith Pemberton, as he experimented with a wide range of proprietary medicines to sell to the public. Some of his products included Gingerine, Indian Queen Hair Dye, and Triplex Pills. On May 8, 1886, Pemberton created and served Coca-Cola in his pharmacy, Jacobs’ Pharmacy. He served an average of nine drinks a day during the remainder of 1886.
In the 1890’s an “advertising push” for this new drink took place in New England. Businesses were offered premiums such as clocks, fountain urns and more, as a way to entice them to buy more gallons of Coca-Cola syrup. Coca-Cola salesman had a lot to do. Besides taking care of their current customers, they would call on new businesses, show
how to properly mix this new Coca-Cola drink and put up store displays (known as the point of purchase advertising).
The salesman also had to contact the local billposters in each town and contract with them to put up the Coca-Cola billboards. It was a lot of hard work but this new approach
to marketing worked and sales skyrocketed. A rare piece of advertising from those early years is a mosaic Coca-Cola hanging light half globe. As I understand it, only two of these are known to exist.
One sold at the Schmidt Museum Auction and the
other is in a private collection. The only record of them existing is a photo of an old soda fountain with two mosaic half globes on the mirror of a back bar. Perhaps these two mosaics were the ones in the photo, no one knows. Both of these globes have been compared and are exactly alike. These are not shown in any Coca-Cola price guide.
Most collectors are familiar with the Coca-Cola Vienna Art Plates which were produced and distributed by the Western Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Early bottlers often did not contact Coca-Cola for approval on advertising items. They just produced it and gave it away. While these were not “Authorized by Coca-Cola”, they are still part of the Coca-Cola collecting and history. Up until 1924, independent bottlers had no guideline for any advertising. In that year the Coca-Cola Company formed a Standardization Committee.
The committee’s booklet titled Coca-Cola Bottler’s Standards gave bottlers new rules and actual standards to follow in marketing Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola Chewing Gum items, while not soda related, are extremely rare and are part of Coca-Cola history and highly sought.
Two rare pieces of Coca-Cola history are a girl drinking from a straw and an old fashioned Santa.
Neither of these pieces are shown in any price guides. The girl drinking Coca-Cola from a straw is shown in the Coca-Cola Bottlers’ Current Price List September 1927. It sold to bottlers for .06 each and was called the “Girl with Straw Hanger”. These are rarity seen. Perhaps they were not ordered by retailers and thrown away or was a short production run. The old-fashioned Santa Claus was a cardboard bottle display. The piece is die cut and made of very thin cardboard. With the scary look of Santa and the thin cardboard, I doubt that many retailers kept them around long.
As early as 1907 window displays and festoons were used to advertise Coca-Cola. In small towns across the USA, downtown stores had large glass windows in which to advertise. Coca-Cola took advantage of this open space and created elaborate Coca-Cola displays. Inside the stores were soda fountains with back bars, a perfect place for festoons. These elaborate window displays and festoons were made of cardboard and often had many pieces to the display. Super rare festoons and window displays are from 1907 to 1918.
Other rare ones from the 1920’s such as the 1926 “Chinese Lanterns” and 1927 “Leaves” festoon. Due to direct sunlight, heat and humidity, not many of these survived. They were just thrown away after taken down. Little did they know that this would be a valuable piece of history and highly prized by collectors.
The 1950’s and 1960’s saw the largest number of festoons made, as they followed trends such as Square Dancing, Auto Racing, Beach Girls and Birthstones. Many collectors shy away from these due to size and if framed they do take a rather large wall. I have seen
collectors use them as they were originally intended, in separate pieces on the wall.
As well as the continual use of festoons during the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s large advertising cardboard signs, like mini billboards begin to appear in businesses. These cardboard signs were inserted into wooden frames often referred to as “Kay Displays”. These wooden frames had metal rods on each side, a Coca-Cola bottle emblem at the bottom and were manufactured by the “Kay Display, Inc.”.
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