Cleaning and Repairing Advertising Memorabilia - Part I
By Marlene Earle
Collector's Corner: In Part I of this column, I'm going to answer some questions about cleaning and repairing advertising collectibles, with a focus on soda-pop memorabilia, my specialty. In the next issue, I'll share some "success" and "heartbreaker" stories.
QUESTION: Do dings and wear-and-tear make an item look "vintage," or do you want a piece that looks brand new?
In collectibles, including vintage signs, the collector will pay the highest premium for the very best of condition. NEVER, EVER touch up a sign! The value is decreased by 50 - 90% most times. I personally would not consider purchasing a collectible and/or vintage sign that has restoration or the slightest touch-up. That's the beauty of having the very best piece. Often, if you have a N.O.S. (new old stock) sign, you can double and sometimes even go off the charts with the value. It all depends on the piece and the rarity, of course.
Here's a good example. I recently acquired a 1960 rare version of a 36" die cut, 6-pack sign. The value was about $1,300. It was perfect and NOS. The buyers were hot on the trail for this minty one and at the end of the auction it brought $4,100.
QUESTION: What are some tips for cleaning up and storing advertising memorabilia?
Don't touch it with paint! Porcelain or enamel signs are pretty easy to clean up if you have minor scratches, dirt, or dullness. This can all easily be removed by using a good polishing compound and then a nice car wax. If it's a painted metal sign, use soap and water and then automotive wax.
If it is a cardboard lithograph and there are heavy amounts of built-up dirt and dust on the surface, here is a great trick I use. Good old American white bread! Yes, I said BREAD. I like Wonderbread. You take a couple of fresh slices and use it like a sponge. Rub it all over and watch the dirt adhere to the bread. It's the safest and oldest trick in the book! If you do it outside, the birds will love you too!
QUESTION: What about soda vending machines?
If you have a great looking original soda machine, that's a different story. The pre-50s soda machine may have only a scratch or ding or two and a beautiful shine and of course be a # 8 or better (1 being very bad and 10 being absolutely the best). If that's the case, then by all means fix those scratches. But, if it looks like you wouldn't even put it in the garage, then restore it.
This is the only time that a restoration is in order, and restoring a soda machine is exactly like buying that hot little 1968 convertible you saw at the car show. It increases the value because of the work on the body, mechanics and wiring, etc.
QUESTION: If a metal item such as a vending machine or a cooler has a dent, can you take a plunger to it to try to remove the dent?
You can try, it depends on where the machine is dented. There is a particular model Coke VMC 27. This machine was one of the only machines made that had an aluminum front. This was not the best choice they could have used. Most times you will find these dented on the top because the bottle shoot was right there, if the Coke bottle got stuck, everyone would bang on the front, and the rest is history.
QUESTION: If you find yourself with a vending machine and it needs repair, should you try to repair it yourself? If not, how do you find someone to repair it?
If you are handy you can do it. This is a time-consuming job. You not only have to know about the paint and body parts, but you now have refrigeration and electrical work to do too! You can subcontract these out and you will end up with your very own pride and joy.
You should call a few auto body shops and ask them what they think - often these guys are as inquisitive as you and will leap at the chance to help you out. Or call an antique shop - they have trade papers that often list a few names of vintage machine restorers and parts places.
My favorite parts place is a place called Fun TRONICS in Maryland. I have known Steve Ebner many years. He has been remanufacturing many parts for vintage soda machines - decals, gaskets, keys just to list a few. His address is FunTronics, PO BOX 3145, Gaithersburg, MD 20878; tel.# 301-371-5246. He has written several price guides on sodas machines that you may find interesting.
About the author:
Advertising Memorabilia Editor Marlene Earle has an extensive collection of antiques and all types of advertising memorabilia. She recently sold her antiques shop to focus on online auction selling. Email her at earleandmoore @ yahoo.com. eBay ID: cokeandmoore
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