The Dunwoody home in which John and Karleen Buchholz have lived for 37 years is a treasure trove of memories of their life together. It’s also something of a collector’s paradise – that is, if Coca-Cola memorabilia is the object of one’s affection.
The Buchholzes has been collecting for decades and have thousands of pieces on display in their home and packed away in the garage.
For the past several weeks, they’ve been poring through their cache of bottles, signs, calendars, bobbleheads, posters, trays, dispensers and more figuring out what to take with them when the 37th annual convention of Coca-Cola collectors comes to town.
The convention – held at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel in Atlanta—is anticipated to attract 1,000 collectors and those curious about collecting from around the world. They are expected to begin arriving June 28 with many staying through July 3.
John and Karleen have held leadership positions with the Atlanta chapter of the Coca-Cola Collectors Club (she is the current president/he’s a past president) and are extremely passionate about collecting. However, in the beginning they were simply dutiful parents.
During the 1970s, the couple’s 12-year-old son started collecting Coca-Cola patches and bottles. Because he was too young to drive, the Buchholzes ferried him from flea markets to antique shops. At one time, he had acquired a glass collection with roughly 1,300 pieces. Slowly over time, John and Karleen, too, picked up a Coke item here and there.
As their son matured, got married and started a family, his interest waned. By then John and Karleen were hooked.
Now their home reflects 30-plus years of finding treasures at flea markets, antique stores, garage sales and while on vacation in such places as Belgium and the Netherlands. The walls of their home are adorned with framed posters and calendars and promotional signs. Shelves in the den and kitchen hold Coke radios, clocks, cookie jars and bottles—empty ones as well those filled with the famous beverage.
Asked to name one of their favorite items, she mentions a 1901 tray purchased for $1,500 and he points to a framed 1946 calendar featuring Coca-Cola’s Sprite Boy given to them by a dying friend.
In addition to the fun of trading and the possibility of making money in buying and selling, John points out there’s a tremendous amount of history that can be learned. He notes that Coca-Cola created Sprite Boy to lift the spirits of the country during World War II.
Collecting has changed over the years, the couple says. The advent of licensing, the Internet and eBay have had a profound effect on trading, buying and selling, they say, adding that the value of many items has dropped.
Still they say they enjoy their hobby.
“It’s been fun,” said John Buchholz, emphasizing the relationships – not so much the deals—they’ve made over the years through the Atlanta club and being a member of the collecting community. “The people are what we really like to emphasize. We have friends all across the world that we visit when we travel.”
They advise others to buy only what they want to personally display and not to approach purchases with designs on the items appreciating in value.
The Buchholzes encourage anyone with even the slightest interest in collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia to attend the convention, particularly the Memorabilia Show and Sale on July 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel. More than 200 tables of memorabilia are expected to be on display. Admission is free. Also, the Atlanta chapter holds monthly meetings at the Smyrna Community Center that include a speaker, show and tell, a swap meet and business meeting.
For more information on the club, visit www.Cocacolaclub.org.