EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 12 - April 22, 2000 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 11

Collector's Corner: Cleaning and Repairing Advertising Memorabilia - Part 2

By Marlene Earle

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Last issue, I answered some questions about cleaning and repairing advertising collectibles, with a focus on soda-pop memorabilia, my specialty. In this article, I'll share some "success" and "heartbreaker" stories.

What is my best success story of finding a piece that looked banged up or damaged and having it turn out looking really great?

That has happened more than once. I have a very perceptive eye now. I love it when a sign looks horrible to someone, and it's only a matter of cleaning and polishing it up a bit. The end results are amazing at times. My favorite Coke machine story is as follows:

My husband knew a guy at work who had an old Coke machine he was giving away. There was a catch - this machine was in his garage and the whole building had been destroyed by fire. All that was left was the machine. This once-nice little Coke machine was all gray with absolutely no paint on it. This was back over 15 years ago and, at the time, I was a collector of vintage signs and never had sparked an interest in the machines. Until this day.

I hurried over with my younger brother in his pickup truck and took the Coke machine home. It wasn't so bad, even though all the decals, paint and wiring and were burnt to a crisp. The mechanism was still there for the vending part and the drum was still inside.

I was so excited that I immediately started taking it apart. After all, I wanted this new trophy in my home right away. The one thing I didn't do was label the parts. Wrong! Thank goodness I married a guy that knew how things like mechanics work, because I sure made a lot of extra work for him. (Shhh,..don't tell him but I think he's a genius. As a matter of fact, he can take any bag of bolts that was once a motor or a coin mechanism or even an old mechanical toy, and I guarantee he can fix it. He is amazing!)

The end result was that we restored that machine to better-than-original new condition, and it was our first on a long list of many restorations. It was a VMC33. I later sold it to upgrade to another for my collection for $2,000. Not bad for an investment of $75!

Along with the success stories come the disasters. Do I have a "heartbreaker" story of having damaged a piece myself?

Yes, I sold an automotive 1-gallon oil can a few months back. I had a great picture of it on eBay. On my auction's last day, I noticed that the can was dirty and sticky and still had oil inside. I drained the oil, put a cork plug in the hole on the top and thought to myself, 'Why don't you wipe it down?' I did, I sure did! Big mistake!

I put this very nice cleaner on the can and instantly - before my very eyes - one side of the can's entire paint began flowing down the side, as if it were Niagara Falls! Well, what was I to do? I had sold the can and it was to be shipped that day. I looked at the can and realized, what a mess. The complete side was gone. Vanished into thin air! So what was the best thing to do? I wiped it dry. Packaged it carefully. Put a very sorry and sincere note inside and mailed the bidder his full refund including shipping and sent it to him at my cost. Those things do happen and they are never forgotten.


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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