Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

May 5, 2005
Colleen is it

It’s been over 30 years in the making, but this story isn’t about the Star Wars saga, it’s about Colleen Johnson’s extensive Coca-Cola collection.

From signs, coolers, mugs and curtains to music boxes, staplers and syrup barrels, Colleen’s amassment of knickknacks is all about Coke. Even her car (which happens to be classic coke slogan red) has the license plate WWW.COKE on it.

“I never thought it would get to this extent, but they just keep making all this stuff,” said Colleen noting the latest addition to her collection — a fiberoptic Coke sign that she picked up in Las Vegas.

It started with a nickname

Though her mother wouldn’t let her drink the product when she was little, Colleen somehow wound up with the nickname “Coke” and has had a love of the brand ever since.

Interesting enough, she hasn’t had a drop of the brown liquid in more than three years, yet she still remains an avid fan of all types of Coke merchandise. In fact she has so much Coke paraphernalia she has to rotate the items she puts on display with trinkets she has in storage.

“Even though I have no place to put some of my stuff and ought to get rid of some of it, I just can’t throw it away when it says ‘Coke’ on it,” said Colleen noting that she has enough Coca-Cola Christmas ornaments to decorate three Christmas trees.

When asked what her favorite item was among her thousands of objects she replied, “I was afraid you were going to ask that.”

She said it’s “too hard” to pick just one. However, one collectable she is especially attached to is a bottle from the Salt Lake City Bottling Company that is over 100 years old. It was made before Coke created their signature tapered bottle.

Coke here, there and everywhere Her collection isn’t isolated to just one room in her house. In fact the only room in her house that hasn’t been “Coke-ized” is her bedroom. She has even decorated her Tooele County Commission office space with Coca- Cola merchandise.

When people visit her there they say, “Wow, you have a big collection,” but Colleen says that is just a taste of her Coke accumulation and that they “don’t know the half of it.” The stuff in her office is like only seeing the bottle cap of a 10- foot-high Coke bottle.

“It’s gotten out of control” she says with a smile.

Her collection is also not limited to items found in the United States. She has Coke bottles from such far away places as Chile, Venezuela, Pakistan, Thailand, Shirlanka and Saudi Arabia. Her display of Coke pins also show a variety of languages ranging from Russian to Japanese.

Support for the growing collection Though she is not trying to expand her immense collection Colleen says “it just seems to expand itself.”

Several people have left Coke items on her front porch or in her driveway, and most of the time Colleen and her husband Bob have no idea who dropped off the gifts. Some of them have actually been very valuable collectors items.

While she has received a few repeat items, she said it’s always okay to have more than one of something and that she doesn’t mind having extras.

When asked if her husband Bob supports her Coke accumulation she said he just laughs and says “It’s cheaper than Hemi parts.”

She said when her two sons were little “they would hide different pieces of my collection to see if I noticed and sure enough I did.” They still tease her about giving her collection to the DI when she passes from this life, but she tells them they had better sell it on E-bay or she’ll come back and haunt them.

Though she has never had her collection appraised she has heard of other people’s collections generating between $70,000 to $80,000. If and when she or her family members ever sell her collection she plans to have it done “lock, stock and barrel.”

Wish list

Despite her extensive collection, there are two items she would still love to find, Coca-Cola chewing gum and real Coca-Cola silverware.

And although she already posses some Coke wallpaper, she hopes she can find more or that more will be produced so she can add to her decorative walls. She also hopes that one day the Coke bottle handles she has for her kitchen cabinets will be installed.

Coke’s beginnings

When asked if she knew the origins of Coke, she said she knew that the “secret recipe” was thought to be created as a headache remedy by John Pemberton in 1886 and that it originally supposedly had cocaine in it.

While the Coca-Cola Web site (www.cocacola.com) doesn’t mention cocaine, it does mention that Pemberton was a Civil War veteran and an Atlanta pharmacist. He concocted the formula in a three legged brass kettle in his backyard and the syrup’s name was a suggestion given by to him by his bookkeeper Frank Robinson.

Being a bookkeeper, Robinson also had excellent penmanship. It was he who first scripted “Coca-Cola” into the rolling letters which remain as the company’s current logo.

The soft drink was first sold to the public at the soda fountain in Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta on May 8, 1886. About nine servings of the soft drink were sold each day. Sales for that first year added up to a total of about $50, but interestingly enough it cost Pemberton over $70 in expenses, so the first year of sales were a loss.

Today approximately 1.3 billion Coke beverages are sold daily.

A final tidbit: Don’t say the “P” word (Pepsi) in front of Coca-Cola Colleen.

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