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The Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia, which opened in 1977, is closing its doors for good. The Schmidt family plans to auction its mammoth collection of Coca-Cola merchandise over the next few years and invest the proceeds into the Schmidt Family Foundation, which will be used to benefit local and national charities chosen by the family, said Larry Schmidt, the museum's president.
The collection dates back to the early history of Coca-Cola in the 1800s and runs the gamut from posters and calendars to serving trays and bottles. The family also has invested in a series of vintage Coke vending machines, an onyx and marble soda fountain and several automobiles tied to Coca-Cola.
Considered the largest private collection in the world, Schmidt estimates the collection totals about 80,000 items with a value hovering around $10 million.
The family is closing the museum in order to inventory and label each item for auction. The first sale is scheduled for mid-September at the museum on Buffalo Creek Drive, he said. The Schmidt family also plans to take advantage of the Internet to auction some items.
Allan Petretti, author of several Coca-Cola memorabilia guides, is working with the family to ready the items for auction and create a catalog for potential buyers. He said the auctions will garner worldwide acclaim from a diverse range of collectors.
Jan Schmidt, Larry’s mother and co-founder of the museum with her late husband, Bill, said in a statement that the time is right to close the museum and pass the collection on to future generations.
Additional details and related stories will appear in Wednesday's print edition of The News-Enterprise.