Kevin Roche collection of Coca-Cola festoons featured in Morphy’s Mar. 11-12 auction Morphy’s March 11-12 auction features an exceptional collection of multi-piece Coca-Cola signs known as “festoons,” which decorated soda fountains from around 1900 to the mid-20th century.
News-Antique.com - Feb 24,2011 - DENVER, Pa. – Coca-Cola is an American favorite, both as a beverage and as a collectible. Ask any antique advertising collector and they’ll tell you there’s no other product of the last hundred years that can rival Coke – with its ads featuring good-looking people in social situations – when it comes to presenting an image of all-American fun.
Morphy’s March 11-12 auction features an exceptional collection of multi-piece Coca-Cola signs known as “festoons,” which were created by the soft drink giant specifically for display in soda fountains from around 1900 till the middle of the 20th century. Kevin Roche, a mergers and acquisitions adviser from Minnesota, spent the last 20 years building the collection to be auctioned, which contains many highly desirable rarities in superior condition.
“Back before the time when people could just go into a grocery story to buy Coca-Cola, they’d have to go to their local soda fountain to get it,” said Roche. “Coca-Cola would send festoons to some establishments on a regular basis, perhaps four times a year, and they’d be displayed behind the bar.” The subject matter on the point-of-purchase advertising varied, said Roche, but most often including smiling, good-looking people enjoying a leisure activity with Coke in hand.
Most festoons were of cardboard or paper, but some others were of wood and metal. Also, about one of every 10 festoons was designed with a fold-out appendage that enabled it to stand directly on top of a soda fountain’s bar counter.
Roche, who had been a collector of other types of Coke items, said he became attracted to festoons because of their beauty. “But I soon discovered that they were some of the hardest things to find,” Roche said. “They’re large and were not easy items to store, so many of them got thrown out. As a result, most festoons are quite rare.”
Recognizing their scarcity, Roche took great pains to have the festoons in his collection professionally framed using only the finest archival materials. Roche said they deserved to be protected and maintained to the highest standard possible. “Many of the festoons were absolutely mint and still in their shipping envelopes when I acquired them,” Roche said. “The first time they had ever come out of their envelopes was when I removed them so I could have them framed.”
Among the rarities in the collection is a 5-piece festoon with Oriental lanterns and a couple in festive costumes. “No one I’ve talked to has seen another one like it, and I can’t find it in any of the Coca-Cola reference books,” said Roche. Other top lots include a 5-piece “Wherever You Go” airport festoon with airline pilot and stewardess, and a 7-piece military-theme festoon with a young woman and uniformed officer chatting over the phone alongside a banner that says, “It’s a date at the fountain.”
A 1940s set comprised of nine wood-and-metal discs includes images of golf, baseball, tennis, sailing, bowling and several other sports scenes around a centrally positioned map of