The Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia has announced that it is divesting its extensive collection of Coca-Cola material that dates back to the 1800s and will close the doors of the museum.
The collection, which Bill and Jan Schmidt started in 1972, is considered to be one of the largest private collections of such material in the world. The Schmidt’s son, Larry, who now serves as president of the museum, estimates the value of the collection to be approximately $10 million.
“This collection is the best of the best,” said Allan Petretti, author of “Petretti’s Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide.” “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 – clocks, posters, toys, trucks, bottles. You name it, and they have it.”
Jan Schmidt said that while the family is proud of the collection, it “has become inert and the way to keep it alive is to pass it on – to give others the opportunity to own and showcase the items they want.”
The Schmidt family plans to sell the items of most interest at a series of live auctions; the remainder will be sold online. The family is establishing a foundation so that the vast majority of funds from sales will be used for benevolent purposes.
Area officials say the loss of the museum will be a blow to the area’s tourism trade. Sherry Murphy, executive director of the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau, told The (Elizabethtown) News-Enterprise that the museum drew more than 15,000 visitors in 2010.