Ralph Butler sat atop a deep well of Coca-Cola memorabilia. If the soft drink maker's iconic logo was emblazoned on an item, Butler kept it in his collection.
There were toys, buttons, bottles, banners, signs, decals, serving trays - even vending machines.
Now the lifetime collection of the person some knew as the "Coke Man" is scheduled to be sold. Butler, who died in March at age 97, willed the memorabilia to be auctioned after his death, said Heidi Mitchell, a granddaughter.
The sale is scheduled to take place - in 270 bundles known as "lots" - at the Edgar County 4-H building in Paris, Ill., on July 12. Bidding managed by Moss Auciton Team in Paris also will take place online.
Butler's long relationship with Coca-Cola began when he started delivering the soft drink to local businesses by truck. By the early 1960s he had worked his way up to manager at the bottling plant in Paris, said Mindy Mood, another granddaughter.
He served as plant manager until he retired in 1981. The plant closed eight years later.
Moody remembers playing with her grandfather's Coca-Cola memorabilia - a car, horse-drawn carriage and plastic Coke dispensers - as a child.
“We didn’t look at the items as collectibles," she said. "… We played with the toys, used the pencils and rulers just like every other item.”
The collection includes a few rare items including a well-preserved 48-inch metal sign and a six-foot Coca-Cola bottle sign.
“It is hard to find these items in good conditions," said auctioneer Matthew Moss.
Details for this story were reported by The Tribune Star in Terre Haute, Ind.