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80,000 Coca-Cola Items For Sale In Elizabethtown Saturday and Sunday

I’d wager that somewhere in your house is at least one item that has the Coca-Cola label on it. Heck, the former Coca-Cola Bottling Company building is in downtown Owensboro.
Owensboro Coca Cola Bottling Co
Photo by Andrew Lundy

But nobody can compete with the Schmidt family of Elizabethtown, KY. Their 80,000 Coca-Cola items fill an entire 32,000-square-foot building at 109 Buffalo Creek Drive! Now, it is for sale. The Schmidts have decided to share their massive and unique collection with the rest of the world when they auction off 80,000 items this Saturday and Sunday. 120 tickets called the “best seats” have sold for $1,000 each!

You can go all the way back to the 1890s, right at the beginning of Coca-Cola – and go all the way forward to the mid-70s. The Schmidts own some Coca-Cola memorabilia that even the official Coca-Cola Company Museum in Atlanta, GA. does not have.

In the Wall Street Journal, Allan Petretti, author of “Petretti’s Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide” predicts that this is THE event in the world of Coca-Cola collecting. The rarity of some of the items will have collectors drooling. Among some of the items, which are estimated to have a collective value at $10 million or more, is a late 19th century “Victorian Girl” serving tray valued at $30,000.

Trays were a favorite for the Schmidts and with more than 200 styles produced by Coca-Cola, the Schmidts have them all.

There are also antique Coca-Cola delivery vehicles, turn-of-the-century bottling works, vending machines, toys, bottle displays, signs and a Santa exhibit.

Right now, their collection is in The Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia in Elizabethtown. Originally it opened to the public in 1977 at the site of their bottling plant. As the collection grew, so did the need for additional space and it is now in a stand-alone building which drew about 30,000 visitors each year. In preparation for the auction, it closed in April, but the gift shop remains open.

Starting in Louisville, in 1901, Frederick Schmidt was the fifth national bottler of the beloved beverage. Frederic had three sons, one of whom was Luke. When Frederick split up the bottling giant into three franchises, Luke gained the Elizabethtown plant.

Luke passed away in 1941 and his wife, Irene, took over the operation and remained in charge until her son Bill was ready to run it. In 1955, after a stint as an Air Force pilot, Bill and his wife, Jan, became the third generation Coca-Cola bottlers.

Over the years Bill and Jan accumulated hundreds and thousands of Coca-Cola memorabilia as part of a collection that began as merely items to decorate their offices. In the 1970s their son, Larry, became actively involved in the operation of the plant. The Schmidts sold the franchise in 1999, but not the collection.

Bill Schmidt passed away in 2007. Now, Larry Schmidt, Bill’s son said the family decided it was time to share what his parents started with the rest of the world of Coca-Cola memorabilia collectors. With the proceeds of the auction ,they hope to create The Schmidt Family Foundation which would support local and national charities.

All of the photos in the gallery are from the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia.



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