Your first reaction when you hear about Dave Allen’s passion for Coca-Cola memorabilia is that the man must be mad. What sane person has the time, energy or even the space to collect 4,000 or so Coca-Cola branded items?
However, the more time you spend with Dave, learning about his collection, the more you think you've misjudged him. There may be more to his obsession than you realise.
He started collecting in 1985, when he was ten years old. “I’d go shopping with my parents every week and was allowed a can of Coke as a treat,” he remembers. “I saw a misprinted can that had no white paint on it. I thought it looked cool so I bought it and everything started from there.”
Initially, he bought anything with Coca-Cola written on it, but he has become more discerning over time. He now specialises in cans and bottles from the UK and Ireland as well as vintage advertising. Before the internet, Dave used to buy items through the Coca-Cola Collectors’ Club
As a result of 30 years of concentrated collecting, Dave is now the proud owner of some unusual items. “I’ve got the first Coke can that was released in the UK in 1962,” he says. “I’ve got rare diamond design bottles from the 1960s, of which only a handful still exist. I’ve got test market plastic cans which failed in the 1980s and I’ve got all of the limited editions bottles of everything from royal weddings to football world cups.”
He’s got Christmas items too. “I’ve got festive cans and bottles as well as a Coca-Cola polar bear,” says Dave.
His favourite items in his collection are the UK-related advertising posters from the 1940s and 50s. Their scarcity and craftsmanship appeal to him.
“They are so difficult to come by because so many were thrown away,” says Dave. “They’re all in black and white and hand drawn. They’re entirely unique.”
Dave is still driven to collect more, despite his huge collection. “My latest quest is 1960s Fanta cans,” he says. “They’re next to impossible to come by and I just love their simple, bright design.”
At the moment, Dave has nowhere to display his Coca-Cola finds. He used to have his collection on display in a converted garage but since moving in with his girlfriend three years ago, it’s been consigned to boxes.
“It’s taken me all this time to convince her to let me put some of it up in our house,” he laughs.
Like everyone else, Dave’s girlfriend needed to be won over to his unusual hobby. “Everyone thinks it’s weird to start with,” he admits. “They don’t see what I see; the history behind the items, the packaging and the ideas used in the advertising. They don’t understand how much I love the colours and how they stand out and brighten up a room.”
This is what matters to Dave and not the monetary value of his collection. “People could offer me stupid amounts of money and I wouldn’t sell,” he insists. “These items are part of my life now. I wouldn’t part with them.”
For Dave Allen, these items represent the history of Coca-Cola and of those who have drank it over the years. When you look at his collection from that perspective, it doesn’t seem like the work of a madman after all.
Read about Lillian Gish, Ireland's Greatest Coke Collector.
This article was commissioned via NewsCred's NewsRoom and written by freelance contributor Sharon Ní Chonchúir.
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