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Tucson weighs future of its iconic neon signs

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Written by RHONDA BODFIELD, Arizona Daily Star   
Friday, 13 May 2011 09:53
Neon tubes highlight the marquee on the Fox Theater in downtown Tucson. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – When history buff Carlos Lozano rolled into town 25 years ago, he was struck immediately by the neon signs along Miracle Mile and Oracle Road.

“They're just so magical,” he said, noting they expressed a cheerfulness and exuberance about life that in some ways modern culture has lost. “I knew when I saw them that there was something special about Tucson.”

Decades later, about 75 percent are gone. No longer does a Godzilla-sized Marilyn Monroe entice travelers to a motel. The Ye Olde Lantern sign no longer lures Tucson foodies to one of the area's fanciest restaurants in its day. Some have been destroyed. Others have been snapped up by collectors or hawked on eBay.

Most of those remaining are at risk. And Tucson is diminished because of it, Lozano said.

The city's sign-code committee is now going over a proposed change in the law that would make it easier to save historic signs, but at its last meeting the group failed to agree on a recommendation to send to the City Council, instead scheduling a follow-up meeting next week.

When Tucson updated its sign code, many old signs were too big, too tall or too near the public rights-of-way to meet the new criteria. They were allowed to remain, but if they ever came down, even for repairs, they couldn't go back up. Also, if the business changed use, the sign would have to come down.

Advocates point to the rusted-out, badly-aged “diving girl,” who, for 65 years, has beckoned visitors to the Pueblo Hotel and Apartments’ swimming pool as the poster child for sign purgatory.

She's flat illegal since the use of the building changed to a lawyer's office. The city's sign code administrator, Glenn Moyer, acknowledged that, technically, if an administrator took over who was not sympathetic to historic signs, the diving girl – and any like her – could be ordered down.

Business owners often sacrifice to keep the signs. Since diving girl takes up all of the business's allotment for signs, the Piccarreta Davis law firm can't put its own sign out front. It still gets inquiries about vacancies. Like many older signs, restoring it would be expensive, but the law firm is willing to do it, if only it were allowed.

Likewise, Steve Fenton, who owns the long-empty Reilly Funeral Home on East Pennington Street, says he'd love to fix up the vintage 1920s neon sign that is original to the building.

“That sign is an integral part of the history of that building,” he said. Fenton said he's unable to say how much work the sign will need, because to date it's been a moot point.

“Historic signs are part of the historic fabric of Tucson, so it's only logical that we should try to keep them in place,” Fenton said.

Bob Vincent's Southwest Animal Health on North First Avenue stands in the shadow of a large boot, outlined in neon, with a fluorescent orange spur, which has marked the entrance to the business complex for more than 50 years. When it's fixed up, it can be seen from blocks away, he said.

It worked when he moved in 17 years ago, but has fallen into disrepair. “I hate to see it all dilapidated,” Vincent said. “It makes my business look bad.”

City leaders, acknowledging the role the distinctive signs played in the rise of the Oracle-Drachman corridor, even put a 30-foot-tall neon sculpture of a saguaro in the median at the gateway of the old tourist court strip, as an homage to its history.

Still, the wheels of government turn slowly. It's been two years since the City Council turned the job over to an ad hoc citizens’ committee in June 2009.

The group identified about 200 signs that might qualify as historic. Since then, they had many a spirited debate about what criteria to use to keep out signs without historic value, said Jonathan Mabry, the city's historic preservation officer.

Take the No-Tel Motel. The naughty little witticism might lend a sense of place, but the sign itself isn't anything special, Mabry said.

What they ended up agreeing to was a special designation for signs installed prior to 1961, as well as transitional signs installed between 1961 and 1974. They would have to meet nine criteria for automatic approval, from having neon or incandescent lighting, to being non-rectangular and exemplifying historic heritage. Those that don't meet all nine can still petition for the designation.

Business owners looking to incorporate new text, such as their name, into a sign may be able to do so, as long as it doesn't change the sign's character.

No longer would the historic signs count toward the business’ signage area, allowing them to put up their own sign.

Two provisions ran into some turbulence with sign-code advisers, who have long fought against visual blight – letting historic signs be relocated to an area with a concentration of historic signs allowing replicas as long as they are installed on the original premises. Commissioners feared those provisions would reopen the door to the types of signage that in the 1970s gave Tucson brief notoriety as having the nation's ugliest street – Speedway.

But advocates of historic restoration say that, in a sea of plastic uniformity, there is a need to preserve examples of quirky American folk art.

Sharon Chadwick told the sign code advisory committee that losing historical elements will hurt. “You'll become like a person who doesn't have a memory.”

But Mark Mayer, a longtime billboard opponent, objected that rather than being narrowly focused on just the most worthy signs, he thought the law would “open a wide door where grossly oversized signs” could be restored, relocated or replicated.

Mayer urged dumping the measure, and instead making a list of signs worth keeping.

Mabry said a list wouldn't work. “That's exactly the kind of approach we should not take,” he said, adding that what makes a sign “historic” is not nostalgia or even personal opinions about its aesthetic.

The sign committee will meet again May 19 to discuss the change and forward their take on the proposal. It could go to mayor and council for action possibly in June.


Information from: Arizona Daily Star,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-12-11 0857GMT

Neon tubes highlight the marquee on the Fox Theater in downtown Tucson. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 May 2011 10:31

Dr. J ABA jersey hits $190,414 in Grey Flannel's $2.4M auction

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Written by Auction House PR   
Thursday, 12 May 2011 15:22
1972-73 Julius Dr. J' Erving Virginia Squires ABA game-used and autographed road jersey, sold for $190,414 in Grey Flannel’s May 11, 2011 Summer Games Auction. Grey Flannel Auctions image.

WESTHAMPTON, N.Y. – An autographed Virginia Squires ABA road jersey game worn in 1972-73 by the great Julius “Dr. J” Erving smashed through the existing record for a basketball jersey at auction in Grey Flannel’s May 11, 2011 sale with a final bid of $190,414 (all prices quoted include 20% buyer’s premium). In total, the event took in $2.4 million, the highest auction gross ever achieved by Grey Flannel.

Finishing as the auction’s top lot, the Dr. J jersey was a rare style in use for only one year in the ABA. “We had never even seen a common jersey of this type, let alone a Dr. J game-worn example. We knew it had an excellent chance of making $100,000 at auction. It did that and much more,” said Richard E. Russek, president of Grey Flannel Auctions.

The iconic navy and gold UCLA staff jacket that beloved basketball coach John Wooden (1910-2010) wore throughout his career with the invincible Bruins was another slam-dunk winner in the sale. Offered with a letter of authenticity signed by Wooden, it garnered 17 bids before settling at $183,500.

Downtown Freddie Brown took it all the way to an uptown bank with a winning bid of $115,242 on his 1979 Seattle SuperSonics World Championship player’s ring. The sharp-shooting captain of Seattle’s 1978-79 team is a sports legend in the NBA; he holds the Sonics’ all-time record for points in a regular season – 58. Brown’s 14K gold Championship player’s ring, emblazoned “NBA WORLD CHAMPIONS” and featuring a large central diamond, was accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Brown.

“I think it’s very significant that seven out of the top 10 lots in this sale were associated with basketball. It’s a category that has continued to attract many new and serious collectors to our auctions over the past few years,” said Russek.

Among the top basketball lots were Wilt Chamberlain’s 1968-69 L.A. Lakers Playoffs game-used road jersey, $73,409; a circa-1897 leather-laced basketball with side-panel construction, $59,135; and 1981 NBA Finals MVP Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell’s Boston Celtics World Championship player’s ring with a letter of authenticity from Maxwell, $55,152.

The priciest football-related item was Steve Wright’s 1973 Green Bay Packers Super Bowl I player’s ring, with LOA, which scored a winning bid of $73,409. “To our knowledge, it is the only player’s ring from the first Super Bowl ever to be offered in a public auction,” said Russek.

Baseball lots were dominated by a 1959 Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh Pirates game-used flannel home jersey vest, which knocked it out of the park at $55,152.

Russek commented that the excitement level for the sale was “unprecedented…The phones ran hot till 6:55 a.m. We knew that the Dr. J jersey, John Wooden jacket and multiple Championship rings would finish at the top, but we didn’t know in what order. It was a great sale, and we want to thank everyone who participated in the bidding.”

Grey Flannel's annual auction held at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is slated for Aug. 12 this year. The Hall of Fame is located in Springfield, Massachusetts.

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1972-73 Julius Dr. J' Erving Virginia Squires ABA game-used and autographed road jersey, sold for $190,414 in Grey Flannel’s May 11, 2011 Summer Games Auction. Grey Flannel Auctions image.
Last Updated on Monday, 23 May 2011 19:47

Opera house poscards convey civic pride

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Written by TONY HERRMAN, Hastings Tribune   
Monday, 09 May 2011 09:31
Author Willa Cather’s childhood home is located in Red Cloud, Neb. Built circa 1878, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. RED CLOUD, Neb. (AP) – When Guide Rock's International Order of Odd Fellows Opera House opened in 1905, it was indicative of the optimism spreading across Nebraska at that time.

“Guide Rock built their opera house in 1905, when the town had 419 people, and they built an opera house that had 400 seats in it,” said Jay Yost, president emeritus of the Willa Cather Foundation board of governors. “To me that was the height of optimism, because it's not as if you're going to get the same 400 people in town for four performances, so they thought the town would get much bigger. It just showed you what people thought would happen with their towns.”

That opera house in Guide Rock is just one of 63 from across Nebraska represented by the Yost/Leak collection of postcards and memorabilia displayed in the Red Cloud Opera House. The total collection includes more than 200 opera houses. The collection will return to the Red Cloud Opera House Aug. 15 and remain in the gallery until Sept. 10.

Yost, who grew up in Red Cloud, now is a New York City banker. He discussed the collection and the opera houses in “Social Networking 1890: Nebraska Opera Houses in their Heyday,” a presentation he made as part of the 56th annual Willa Cather Spring Conference.

“Now we have Twitter and Facebook and all those ways for people to connect,” he said during an interview.

“Back in the 1890s and 1910s, one of the major ways people were able to connect with other people was getting together at the opera house. That was for community plays or weddings or dances as well as performances by traveling troops or musical companies or opera companies. Things like that.”

Stephany Thompson, director of foundation programming, said the Yost/Leak collection provides a local context to the overall theme of the annual Willa Cather conference.

“I think it brings a sense of what the state of Nebraska's history of popular culture was,” she said. “I think many of the topics discussed in the conference will be of an international theme. The fact that we have a collection of Nebraska postcards really brings it to back to this state, to this area.”

Yost began collecting artifacts relating to pre-World War I performance spaces in Nebraska and Kansas around 2000.

“I got on the Cather Board in the late ’90s,” he said. “We were in the process of raising money to do this restoration (of the Red Cloud Opera House), and eBay was just coming out then. I thought it would be cool to start collecting opera house memorabilia thinking someday we would want to do something like this.”

The Yost/Leak collection includes more than just postcards. In the Opera House gallery now there are souvenirs such as spoons from the Arapahoe Opera House.

“Again, it shows you how important the thing was when they were doing commemorative souvenirs of these places, because it was one of the places in town that somebody would want to remember,” Yost said. He said at one time there were 513 documented opera houses in Nebraska. A study in the late 1980s showed only about 25 percent of those opera houses remained by then and only about 25 percent of those hadn't been significantly damaged.

“For me it's just sad that so many small towns don't have a place to come together now,” Yost said. “You might have a community hall, but there's really no soul to it. You can't put on a performance, or we have had the prom dinner here the last couple of years, so people are recreating those memories three generations down the road.”


Information from: Hastings Tribune,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press.

All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-06-11 2248GMT

Author Willa Cather’s childhood home is located in Red Cloud, Neb. Built circa 1878, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Last Updated on Monday, 09 May 2011 10:04

Organ played on 'Bozo's Circus' to go to museum

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Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 06 May 2011 10:37
A costumed and face-painted Frank Avruch, circa 1960s, one of many TV actors who portrayed Bozo the Clown. Photo appears with permission of GNU Free Documentation License.

CHICAGO (AP) - A Chicago marketing executive has paid $3,000 at auction to buy the electric organ used on the long-running Bozo's Circus television show.

The Chicago Tribune reports that while David Plier grew up watching the show, he doesn't plan on keeping the organ. The 43-year-old Plier says he will donate the organ to Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communications. Plier serves on the museum's board.

The museum has other Bozo historic pieces, including a bass drum, costumes and the famous Grand Prize Game. Plier says the museum will create a Bozo exhibit in its new facility.

Plier says the organ needs some cosmetic and mechanical work before it can be displayed.

WGN-TV stopped broadcasting Bozo's Circus in 2001.


Information from: Chicago Tribune,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Last Updated on Friday, 06 May 2011 10:49

Ginger Rogers gowns, shoes sold at Ore. fundraiser

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Written by PARIS ACHEN, Mail Tribune   
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 10:14
1937 Promotional photo of Ginger Rogers for Argentinean Magazine (printed in USA), produced by RKO Pictures and supplied to CINEGRAF. MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) - Actress Ginger Rogers bought a ranch on the Rogue River in 1940 to serve as her sanctuary from the Hollywood madness.

"The ranch was her hideaway and a place she could go and not wear makeup,'' said Roberta Olden, Rogers' former personal secretary.

When Rogers visited Southern Oregon, she put away her gowns in favor of casual clothes she could wear fishing on the Rogue River or picking blackberries to make jam.

Rogers' presence at her Southern Oregon oasis on the 1,000-acre ranch between Eagle Point and Shady Cove helped to build the region's reputation as a tourist destination where visitors could be one with nature, Olden said.

Rogers, who died in 1995, left her mark yet again Sunday when some of her most glamorous gowns and shoes were sold at a tea and fashion show to raise money for Southern Oregon Historical Society, an organization dedicated to keeping Rogers and other characters in Southern Oregon's history alive in the minds of the public.

"It helps to show that history can be very glamorous,'' said Allison Weiss, the historical society's executive director.

Since 1998, the historical society's budget has withered from more than $2 million to $600,000 per year due to the loss of funding from Jackson County, as well as the economic downturn. The organization relies completely on donations, grants and interest earnings. The event Sunday was expected to raise about $15,000.

Sharon Wesner Becker, wife of Jacksonville Mayor Paul Becker, came up with the idea about six years ago after seeing some of Rogers' gowns in a closet at Olden's home in Palm Desert, Calif. Paul Becker was a personal friend of Rogers for 20 years. The idea finally took form this year in honor of the 100th anniversary of Rogers' birth.

"Ginger was history here,'' Sharon Becker said. "She probably was one of our most famous residents.''

Models on Sunday breathed life into 20 of Rogers' personal gowns and paraded them down a catwalk set up before an audience of about 300 at the Rogue Valley Country Club. Five of the gowns were auctioned off at the end of the event, and 25 pairs of Rogers' shoes were sold at a silent auction before the fashion show. One of the gowns that Rogers wore in 1981 for an event, titled 'Texas Women: A Celebration of History,'' sold for $1,200.

Rogers bought her Rogue River ranch in 1940, the same year she starred in Kitty Foyle for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She visited the ranch when she had time off and wanted some solitude, Olden said. After she retired in 1969, she spent summers at the Southern Oregon ranch and spent the winter in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Olden said.

She used to shop at Quality Market on Jackson Street and the old Safeway, Olden said.

Rogers is the namesake for downtown Medford's Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater. She performed in the Hunt's Craterian theater in the 1920s and later, was instrumental in securing the seed money from the Fred Meyer Trust to build the current Craterian theater, which opened in 1997 after Rogers' death, Paul Becker said.

Becker met Rogers in Los Angeles in 1978 when he worked on a radio station.

"She introduced me to the (Southern Oregon) area, and I fell in love with it,'' he said. She also was a draw for others to visit Southern Oregon, including stars such Clark Gable.

Rogers' magnetism also drew two women from out of state to Medford on Sunday.

Joanne Carlson of Chicago and Whitney Hopler of Fairfax, Va. flew into Southern Oregon especially for the event. Both women said the actress was their role model during difficult times in their childhood.

"She was caring, but she wasn't a pushover,'' Carlson said. "When there was a conflict in my life, I would always ask myself what would she have done.''


Information from: Mail Tribune,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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1937 Promotional photo of Ginger Rogers for Argentinean Magazine (printed in USA), produced by RKO Pictures and supplied to CINEGRAF.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 May 2011 10:33

Gretzky's NHL rookie card auctioned for $94,163

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Written by Associated Press   
Tuesday, 03 May 2011 10:54
Wayne Gretzky rookie card auctioned by SCP Auctions, Inc. for $94,163. Image courtesy of SCP Auctions, Inc.

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (AP) - The Great One is still setting records.

Wayne Gretzky's NHL rookie card earned $94,163 at an online sports memorabilia auction Sunday. SCP Auctions says that's the highest price ever paid for a hockey card.

While a Gretzky rookie card is easy enough to find on eBay, it is rare to find one free of small flaws or imperfections. The card sold Sunday was graded 10, or mint condition, by Professional Sports Authenticator.

SCP calls it "arguably the most valuable modern trading card in existence.''

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-02-11 1510GMT

Wayne Gretzky rookie card auctioned by SCP Auctions, Inc. for $94,163. Image courtesy of SCP Auctions, Inc. Wayne Gretzky rookie card auctioned by SCP Auctions, Inc. for $94,163. Image courtesy of SCP Auctions, Inc.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 May 2011 12:57

University of Akron auctioning train collection

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Written by CAROL BILICZKY, Akron Beacon Journal   
Friday, 29 April 2011 14:21
AKRON, Ohio (AP) - When the University of Akron bought Quaker Square in 2007, a valuable hoard of railroad memorabilia came with it.

Now collectors will have a chance to get their hands on some of it.

UA will auction off tens of thousands of items divided into more than 1,300 lots Saturday at the former shopping and entertainment complex in downtown Akron.

The train collection once was the heart of the complex that opened as a tourist mecca in 1975. The shops, restaurants and bars in the former oats factory were decorated with model trains and actual train equipment, plus memorabilia.

"When people come here, that's the first thing they ask: 'What happened to the trains?'" said Mike Szczukowski, the UA materials handling director who is overseeing the sale.

UA already has held two tag sales of Quaker Square hotel furniture, decorations and memorabilia, the last of which in June generated about $40,000, he said.

Saturday's sale offers such one-of-a-kind items that UA decided to hold an auction.

Auctioneer Paul Wingard will sell off the items from Quaker Square's basement via camera. As many as 1,000 bidders will watch the proceedings from first-floor cameras, Szczukowski said.

The highlight probably will be the miniature railroad buildings, people and scenery made in the 1940s and 1950s by train enthusiast Mack Lowry, who moved his Railways of America Museum on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls to Quaker Square in 1976. His collection was billed as the largest model train display in the world.

The collection was so vast that about half of it immediately went into storage in the 400,000-square-foot complex and never emerged.

Lowry's widow eventually sold the collection to Quaker Square owner Jay Nusbaum, who in turn handed it over to UA.

The sale also will include towel bars, pipe holders and storage racks from actual trains; six real-size luggage carts, some of them loaded with old suitcases; 20 leather-backed chairs from dining cars; round brass tables from dining cars; train artwork, magazines and advertising memorabilia; two mailbags; and old railroad tools.

The auction will feature more than trains.

Wingard also will auction off models and props handmade for a miniature circus, plus two big-top tents, amusement rides and a wide variety of miscellany.

Akron rubber worker Robert W. Harned created the Greatest Little Show on Earth in the basement of his home starting in the mid-1920s, displayed it at stores and sold it to Lowry, who in turn moved it to Quaker Square.

The auction won't spell the end of trains or the circus at Quaker Square. The university is maintaining displays of both in the museum next to the gift shop on the main floor. The auction pieces are all extra.

Nor is this the end of the UA sales. In coming months, the university will spotlight a trove of other Quaker Square memorabilia, from airplanes to stained glass to car parts, as it edges closer to turning the facility into classrooms. Part of the hotel already has been turned into a residence hall for students.

For now, the focus is on clearing out the train and circus memorabilia. Interested bidders can preview the items for two hours beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday.

Like items that will be sold as groups will be bundled together in clear plastic bags or displayed together on tables.


Information from: Akron Beacon Journal,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-04-26-11 0150GMT


Last Updated on Monday, 09 May 2011 09:45

Museum's Coca-Cola auctions promise to be ‘delicious & refreshing’

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Written by TOM HOEPF, Auction Central News International and Outside PR Source   
Friday, 29 April 2011 14:19
Like most early Coca-Cola posters, this one issued circa 1895 featured an attractive woman. It is the only one like it known to exist and is estimated to sell for $30,000. Image courtesy of the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Collectibles. ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (ACNI) – The biggest and arguably the best privately held collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia will be sold over a two-year period, much of it at public auctions starting as soon as mid-September.

Owners of the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia in Elizabethtown have decided to disperse the collection of more than 80,000 items, which is estimated to be worth as much as $10 million.

“The response has been overwhelming. We’re just telling collectors to get signed up for updates and notices about the auctions,” said Larry Schmidt, who represents the fourth generation of the Schmidt family to be active in the Coca-Cola bottling business. He has been involved in the museum since its founding in 1977 and was president of the family owned Coca-Cola franchise in the 1990s.

Unlike his parents who assembled the Coca-Cola collection, Larry Schmidt said he is not a collector and will hold nothing back.

“Everything will be sold,” he said. “It’s a premier collection.”

“A big portion of our life has gone into collecting these wonderful, artistic pieces,” said Jan Schmidt, who, along with her late husband Bill, started the collection in 1972 when they went to an antique advertising show in Indianapolis and came home with a carload of vintage Coca-Cola memorabilia.

“That was the 1970s at the start of the Coca-Cola advertising craze. At that first show there was a huge amount of marvelous things at low prices,” said Larry Schmidt.

The Schmidt collection consists of one-of-a-kind posters, rare serving trays, early bottles, lighted signs, advertising clocks, antique delivery trucks, even the side of a barn emblazoned with “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles.”

“With 80,000 items it will be necessary to sell some things in larger lots, but we don’t want to do anything that will harm the value. We want to sell the collection in a slow, controlled fashion that will protect the market and collectors,” said Schmidt.

“This collection is the best of the best,” said Allan Petretti, author of Petretti’s Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide, who is appraising the collection and helping the family market it. “The Schmidts defined collecting. The depth and breadth of their collection is beyond incredible. They have the rarest of rare pieces. They have things from every era and from every category. You name it, and they have it,” said Petretti.

Richard Opfer Auctioneering Inc., Timonium, Md., will conduct the auctions, which will be held on-site at the museum at 100 Buffalo Creek Drive in Elizabethtown, 50 miles south of Louisville.

The museum has been closed to catalog the items and prepare for the sales.

Items of greatest interest will be sold at the live auctions. Many items with lower value will be sold through the museum’s website beginning in mid-June, said Schmidt.

Coca-Cola runs deep in the Schmidt family heritage. In 1901, Frederick Schmidt became only the fifth Coca-Cola bottler in the nation when he opened a plant in Louisville, Ky. In 1920, the franchise, which covered much of Kentucky and parts of Southern Indiana, was split into three areas with Luke Schmidt, Bill’s father, taking over the Elizabethtown operations. Larry Schmidt, Bill’s son, became the fourth-generation president when he took over in the mid-1990s. The Schmidts later sold the franchise while the museum has remained.

“It’s a historic collection and an amazing legacy my parents have created,” said Schmidt. “It’s been a part of the fabric of Elizabethtown, so this has been a difficult decision but it’s the right one. It creates an opportunity for others to own a piece of history and it allows us to give back to the community.”

The Schmidt family intends to establish a foundation where much of the funds from the sales will be used for charitable purposes.

For details and updates about the sales visit the museum website at

Copyright 2011 Auction Central News International. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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In the video below, Larry Schmidt comments on the contents of the museum.


Like most early Coca-Cola posters, this one issued circa 1895 featured an attractive woman. It is the only one like it known to exist and is estimated to sell for $30,000. Image courtesy of the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Collectibles. The Schmidt museum has the only known complete collection of more than 200 styles of Coca-Cola serving trays. This is the hardest to find, dating from 1897. Image courtesy of the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Collectibles. Larry Schmidt represents the fourth generation of his family to work in the Coca-Cola bottling business. In the background is a side of a barn painted with the Coca-Cola logo. Image courtesy of the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Collectibles. Bill and Jan Schmidt posed for this photo in 1983. The soda fountain, which was part of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, will be sold at the first auction. Image courtesy of the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Collectibles. The paper label indicates this 1920s wooden barrel of Coca-Cola syrup was delivered to a wholesale grocer in Junction City, Kans. Image courtesy of the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Collectibles. Baird Clock Co. produced one of its many advertising wall clocks for Coca-Cola in 1893. Image courtesy of the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Collectibles.

Last Updated on Friday, 29 April 2011 15:26

Grey Flannel Auctions inks deal with Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation

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Written by Auction House PR   
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 16:19
Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards, Baltimore, where Grey Flannel's free sports memorabilia appraisal fair will be held on June 4, 2011. Photo by Andrew Horne.

WESTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Officials at Grey Flannel Auctions announced today that they have entered into a multi-year marketing and promotional deal with the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation Inc. The foundation is an independent, not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to perpetuating the historic legacy of Babe Ruth, Baltimore's Orioles and Colts; and local and regional sports.

As part of the new arrangement, Grey Flannel will conduct two annual events at the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards, located adjacent to Baltimore’s Oriole Park. The first of this year’s jointly sponsored events will be an appraisal fair conducted from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 4, 2011, in the Sports Legends Museum’s theater.

Grey Flannel’s team of experts will be on hand to accept consignments to future auctions and provide free appraisals on game-worn apparel, equipment, vintage collector cards, autographed items and any other professional sports memorabilia.

“It’s a great honor for us to be associated with the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation. Their exhibits and programs at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum and Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards instill a very positive and lasting impression on youngsters, while at the same time honoring Baltimore’s titans of professional sports,” said Grey Flannel Auctions’ president, Richard E. Russek.

The appraisal fair will take place on the same day as an Orioles home game at Camden Yards (start time: 7:05 p.m.). “It’s a perfect way to spend the day – visiting the Sports Legends Museum, meeting the Grey Flannel team at the free appraisal fair, and topping it off with an evening in Baltimore’s beautiful Oriole Park, watching the O’s play the Blue Jays,” Russek said.

Additional information about the appraisal fair will be available soon at and

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Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards, Baltimore, where Grey Flannel's free sports memorabilia appraisal fair will be held on June 4, 2011. Photo by Andrew Horne.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 April 2011 18:09

Fans promote comic books as reading aid

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Written by BILLY WATKINS, The Clarion-Ledger   
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 09:24
The Amazing Spider-Man No. 23 (April 1965), featuring the Green Goblin. Cover art by co-creator Steve Ditko. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Spider-Man All Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1965 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved. JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Shayla Patton isn't bothered by her husband's collection of 55,000 comic books stored in a makeshift office at their home in Florence, Miss.

“I read some of them, too,” she said, laughing. “But, seriously, I'm glad Charles has them to come home to. He works in the emergency room at (the University of Mississippi Medical Center). These comic books are a good stress reliever. They help get his mind off things he has to witness every day that most people don't have to deal with.”

And there is another reason she doesn't complain: The Pattons are certain that reading comic books has increased their two daughters' vocabulary, comprehension and love of books.

“I remember when (11-year-old) Amiyah was in third or fourth grade, and she brought home these vocabulary tests she had taken,” Shayla Patton says. “One of the words she had defined correctly was ‘comrade.’ I was pretty impressed. I said, ‘How did you know that?’ She said, ‘I remember seeing that word in a Batman comic book and asking Daddy what it meant. He explained that Batman and Robin were comrades.’ There is no doubt comic books have opened up the world of reading for them.”

Jay Long, owner of Heroes and Dreams: Comics and Collectibles in Flowood, Miss., says he frequently hears similar stories.

“Comic books offer one of the best ways for a child to learn to read because one half of the brain grabs the artwork and the other half grabs the words and story. It's a full reading experience.”

Flowood library includes graphic novels – a series of stories from previously published comic books – and Japanese-style comic books in its children's section.

“It makes reading fun for a lot of youngsters who have never liked to read before,” said Antoinette Giamalva, children's service librarian in Flowood. “And the teenagers really like the Japanese comics that are read back to front and from right to left.”

Comic books, which first appeared in the 1930s, remain a hot collectible.

“Our clientele includes kids who are in elementary school all the way up to people who are retired and have been collecting all their lives,” Long said. “Many of them are in here every Wednesday to pick up the new releases.”

“The movies have really helped,” said Van Peeples, owner of Van's Comics and Cards in Ridgeland, Miss. “People will see a Batman movie or a Spider-Man movie, and then want to come check out the comic books about them.”

Prices are still reasonable from the two largest publishers – $2.99 for new single copies by DC, and $3.99 for those issued by Marvel.

Visually, comic books have come a long way over the past few decades.

“They used to be printed in four-color on paper that was much like a newspaper,” Long said. “Today, the art quality is just incredible. They use multi-colors and the pages are slick. And the art really draws the reader in.”

Some things haven't changed: Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men and Wonder Woman are among the top sellers.

“But DC and Marvel will come out with something special for the summer,” Long said. “This year, DC has The War of the Green Lanterns, because there is a Green Lantern movie coming out. DC also has The Return of Doomsday, the character who killed Superman in 1992.”

Have no fear – Superman is alive and well.

“Death doesn't seem to be a big sticking point in comic books,” said Clark Lee, 38, a media specialist at Mississippi Public Broadcasting and an avid collector, particularly of Batman and X-Men. “They even killed Batman off in a way ... sent him back to the beginning of time. But they always find a way of reviving them. And it makes for some pretty good collectibles.''

Like most hobbies, collecting can be as expensive as one wants to make it.

“The most I've ever paid for one was $370,” Lee said. “It was The Incredible Hulk, No. 181. I bought it because it was the first full comic appearance of Wolverine. I got that in 1999.''

Giamalva, 24, has been collecting about two years.

“We were setting up for a comic day here at the library and I picked one up and started reading,” she said. “I found it really interesting. Now, I'm into mostly the graphic novels of Lois Lane, Batman, Mockingbird, Hawkeye, Black Canary and Green Arrow. I'm buying something every month.”

Everyone collects differently, Long said.

“When people ask me how to get started, I encourage people to read what they like,” he said. “So many people back in the 1990s were buying comic books on a speculative basis, trying to figure out what comics would gain value and be worth a lot of money about the time their kids were starting college. That's a pretty unrealistic way to look at it.

“So I suggest people find a character that touches them, that they love reading about and if it becomes worth a lot of money one day, great. If not, they still have something they love.”

And, in some cases, a guide to life lessons.

“Our oldest daughter, MiKayla, is 12 and nearly 6 feet tall,” Shayla Patton said. “She doesn't like being in the spotlight, but it's sort of hard for her to walk around and not be noticed. So we always tell her, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ She first heard that when we were reading her a Spider-Man comic book. And that's a saying we use throughout this house today.”


Information from: The Clarion-Ledger,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-04-25-11 1818GMT


Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 April 2011 12:26

Police recover rare Superman comic stolen from Nicolas Cage

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Written by ANTHONY McCARTNEY, AP Entertainment Writer   
Wednesday, 13 April 2011 16:38
Action Comics No. 1 features the first appearance of Superman. Very few examples are known to exist. This one sold for $1 million in a private transaction brokered by on Feb. 22, 2010. Image courtesy

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A valuable comic featuring the debut of Superman has re-surfaced in a storage locker, and police said Monday that it appears to be the same one stolen from Nicolas Cage more than a decade ago.

The mint copy of Action Comics No. 1 was in police custody after being found last week in a San Fernando Valley storage locker. An investigation into its theft and recovery is under way.

The comic was authenticated and appears to be the one stolen from Cage in 2000, said Detective Don Hrycyk with the Los Angeles Police Department's Art Theft Detail.

It is unclear whether the 1938 comic will be returned to the Oscar-winning actor. Hrycyk said Cage accepted an insurance payout after its theft and will have to work out the details with the company.

The actor made clear in a statement that he would like it back. "It is divine providence that the comic was found and I am hopeful that the heirloom will be returned to my family," Cage said in a statement released by his publicist.

Cage is an avid comic collector, and the Action Comics issue is one of the highest-coveted books in superhero history. A copy of the issue was sold in March 2010 for $1.5 million. It was originally sold for 10 cents.

The recovery of Cage's comic was first reported Sunday by the Ventura County Star. The paper said it was found in a storage locker in the San Fernando Valley last week and that a comic collector who originally sold the book to Cage verified its authenticity.

Hrycyk said his investigation is in its early stages and he is checking out all the stories about how the comic was found.

The detective said a number of false leads on the comic were generated over the years, including a tip in 2002 that the issue was in a safe deposit box in Tennessee. Police searched the box, but found a replica of the comic's cover, which depicts Superman hoisting a car over his head, wrapped around a woman's lingerie catalog.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 April 2011 16:42
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