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COLLECTIBLES : Advertising Items an Easy Sell

June 17, 1995|From Associated Press

Advertising memorabilia has generated fresh interest in recent years--in part because of its nostalgia value.

The attraction of advertising collectibles, however, extends beyond mere nostalgia.

"Here is a lost art," says Darryl Fritsche, a dealer and collector in Redondo Beach. "People are becoming aware that it is easy to decorate using advertising collectibles. You can hang them in a family room or in a garage--and they don't break easily."

The most widely collected advertising items are those made by the Coca-Cola Co. Over the course of the 20th Century, the soft-drink maker has produced a variety of trinkets, including signs, banners, aprons, serving trays, baseball bats and bingo cards.

Many of these items reflect the style of the era in which they were produced. Early advertisements, for example, feature Victorian women in long, flowing dresses. As fashions changed, so did Coca-Cola models. Images of flappers with short hair and short skirts appeared on soda counters in the 1920s to exclaim, "Refresh yourself!"

Later, the prim and proper hostess of the 1950s served bridge-club guests Coca-Cola using ruby-glass coasters in the shape of hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds--each embossed with the Coke emblem.

Coca-Cola clocks are among the most treasured in the advertising memorabilia field. Turn-of-the-century Regulator clocks manufactured for Coca-Cola by Baird, Gilbert or Ingraham can command more than $10,000.

Metal-and-glass electric clocks were produced in large quantities after 1920, and those that have survived can be worth several hundred dollars. As did other Coca-Cola items, the clocks' graphics and figures reflected the style of the day. Art Deco designs are particularly attractive to today's collectors, although even the plastic clocks of the 1950s and 1960s have a following.

Coca-Cola serving trays may have found their way into more collections than any other items. The trays, spanning more than 90 years of production, come with impressive price tags. Collectors have been known to pay from $750 to $1,250 for trays bearing the images of Hilda Clark and Lillian Nordica, Coke models from 1900 to 1905. Specialty trays, such as those commemorating the St. Louis World's Fair or signed by designer Hamilton King, bring even higher prices.

Discouraged by the high prices asked for some early Coca-Cola collectibles, some new collectors have turned to other brands--Hires Root Beer, Kist, Orange Crush and Squirt.

Gas station collectibles are another popular category. Many collectors are drawn to examples associated with companies that still exist, such as Texaco and Mobil. Others focus on firms no longer seen along America's roadsides--Purol Gasoline, Ryan's Jet Hi-Test and Super Power. The glass globes that once stood atop gasoline pumps are popular, and examples that have survived in excellent condition can be worth $300 to $400.

"I think cigarette collectibles will be the next area to take off," Fritsche said. "The negative press the cigarette industry is receiving today will make cigarette collectibles more desirable. Anything negative, for some reason, becomes collectible."

Collectors with an eye on the future should watch for items made by older companies that have recently gone out of business or merged with another firm. In general, the earliest examples of any firm's advertising items are valued most highly, as are rarities and special materials linked to an anniversary, a special event or celebrities.

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