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Things go better with these types of collectibles

Lynn Hopper - Feb 2009

One of the annoying things about some collectibles is that they are finite: Once you've got them all, the thrill of the hunt is over. But with Coca-Cola collectibles, it is almost a bottomless pit.

It's hard to believe that anyone could amass all the things Coke has produced over the 123 years of its existence. Of course, there is a great difference in desirability of items, and therefore, in price. This puts Coke collecting within the reach of nearly everyone.

Reader E.T. asks about an older Coke ink blotter. The Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta, said there was no information in its records of such an item. However, a friend and I very quickly found the exact blotter in two books on Coke collectibles.

A blotter, an absorbent piece of paper for soaking up fountain-pen ink, was used in the days before less-leaky ballpoint pens. E.T.'s blotter features a Coke advertising icon of the 1940s and '50s: Frosty, an elf with flowing white hair and a Coke bottle-cap hat. And, of course, an ice-cold bottle of Coke.

All paper goods are considered ephemera, so it is very important that the blotter was never used, and from appearances, this one never was. That's the good news.

The bad news is the Frosty blotters, though certainly not common, are not terribly pricey.

The "C.J. Summers Guide to Coca-Cola Collectibles, 7th edition," lists the blotter at $35 to $40, while "Petretti's Coca-Cola Collectible Price Guide, 12th edition," puts it at $5. That's quite a range -- which brings us to the issue of how much price guides can be trusted.

It boils down to a universal truth for all antiques and collectibles: They are worth whatever someone will pay for them.

But, the price guides do give some idea of where to start, and in higher instances, how much insurance to put on an item.

Condition, rarity and general attractiveness (or in some cases, wackiness) also figure into a price. In the case of Coke blotters, there seem to be many listed at about $5, but really old ones -- and remember, this can easily go back 100 years -- can be $1,000 or more.

Higher prices are more usual in Coke collectibles, which include clocks, trays, displays, bottles, promotional items such as pencils, cufflinks and pocket mirrors, as well as tin signs, toy trucks and even vending machines.

"Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide" puts the highest value for a Coke item at $15,000 for an 1897 tray featuring a Victorian woman. A 1913 paper sign lists at $11,000, and a 1920s Tiffany-style leaded glass lamp, $4,800. Most of the many entries are in the $100 to $500 range.

However, Schroeder's points out two dangers in Coke collecting: reproductions and fantasy pieces. Some copies are so good only a Coke expert can tell if they are authentic. Fantasy pieces are newly made items that never existed as originals, but look as if they might have.

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