Day one of the auction of the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola, held yesterday by Richard Opfer Auctioneering, saw two items sell for six-figure prices.

Top money went to a circa-1896 cameo paper sign that sold for $120,750 (with 15% buyer’s premium). Showing a woman holding a soda fountain glass of Coke, the 40- by 30-inch poster was lettered, “Drink Coca-Cola / Cures Headache, Relieves Exhaustion.” It was printed by J. Ottmann Lithograhic Company of New York.

Cameo paper sign, $120,750.

The poster reportedly hung for several years over a soda fountain in a theater in the Times Square area of New York City. In the auction catalog, Coca-Cola expert Allan Petretti wrote, “The custodian of the theater had a fascination with printed posters. At the end of theater production instead of throwing them out he folded them up and took them home. Thankfully this piece was among the stacks found in the attic/office of his home by his daughter and granddaughter after their mother passed away. I met them at the auction where I acquired this piece in the mid-1970’s, and they related the story of finding hundreds of theater posters in his trunk.”

Petretti had the poster restored, and it remained in his possession before landing in the Schmidt Museum collection.

The 12th edition of Petretti’s Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide by Allan Petretti (Krause Publications, 2008), the most recent of the author’s price guides, lists the sign at $35,000 and notes, “Pre-1900 paper signs are very rare.” The auction house estimated the piece at $25,000 to $30,000. The six-figure selling price indicates the strength of upper-echelon items in today’s market, regardless of the lingering effects of the recession.

The other highlight of the day was a circa-1915 Coca-Cola leaded-globe soda dispenser that realized $115,000. Lettered “Coca-Cola” in script, the 11.5-inch stained-glass globe was mounted on a metal fixture atop a baluster-shaped marble base. It was in near-mint condition.

Leaded-globe soda dispenser, $115,000.

The auction continues today in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Tomorrow we’ll publish highlights of today’s session.

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