By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Collecting is an art form, an expression of our personality, and a connection to our past. For some, it can be a handful of items. For others, it becomes a lifetime quest to find the defining items to make the perfect collection. The Coca-Cola soft drink has been a part of Sue Reed’s life since she was a child. It only seems fitting to have two rooms dedicated to her own pursuit of nostalgic and carbonated happiness.

There was an air of excitement as Reed led the way to her second floor collection. Unique pieces of Coca-Cola memorabilia are found scattered around Sue’s and her husband Larry’s house if one takes a moment to look, but the real treasure trove begins the moment you walk upstairs.

It’s an impressive collection of every items you could possibly think of: Board games, Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels cars, phones, umbrellas, press items, and numerous cans and bottles from all over the world. There were also multiple holiday themed items on display such as the “Coca-Cola Polar Bears” and “Coca-Cola Santa,” whose 1931 advertising shaped the depiction of Santa Claus we know today.

Reed’s collection began in 1981, but the soda has always been in her family. Her father drove a Coca-Cola truck when she was a child.

“We always had Coca-Cola in the household,” Reed said. “All my cousins would like to come in the summertime because we had Coca-Cola. Their parents wouldn’t buy it for them very much, but they always liked to come.”

Reed hadn’t planned on turning Coca-Cola memorabilia into a full-time hobby, but her personal connection to the soft drink paved the way to grow a dedicated collection.

“Wherever I would go, I would see something Coca-Cola and I’d buy it,” Reed said. “Wherever we went, I would always find something that was Coca-Cola.”

“And then other people saw that I was collecting and would bring something back from all over the world, really. So that’s something I wished I had written down everything that everybody brought.”

Reed’s oldest piece is a company-issued music box that plays a rendition of Leo Friedman and Beth Slater Whitson’s “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” She received the music box when she was 10 years old. Reed also has some old trays from her father, as well as his uniform shirt.

Reed smiled as she remembered her father picking up from school while driving his Coca-Cola truck, and the excited reactions she would get from classmates.

The search for Coca-Cola products has led to acquisitions from all over the world. Numerous cans from various countries lined display shelves in her display room. And of course, Reed has visited the World of Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, Georgia.

“I thought it was interesting they had Cokes from all over the world,” Reed said. “You could get Cokes from wherever, and it tasted different, but it still had Coca-Cola on it.”

When asked how many unique items she had in her collection, Reed couldn’t say for certain.

“What do you think, Larry,” she asked her husband.

“I have no idea,” Larry said with a chuckle. “It’s a lot.”

“Millions, I guess,” she laughed, though the number of items likely ranged into the the thousands of pieces, large and small.

For now, Reed is still actively collecting, and friends still bring her things. She said she hopes someone will preserve her collection in the future.

As the interview and tour concluded, Reed asked if I wanted a Coke to drink. On a hot summer day, I naturally and graciously accepted the offer.

I couldn’t have imagined a more appropriate and fitting ending to this particular journey.

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