Collecting provides links to our memories of the past

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A surprising number of us collect something. Why? Collecting is a way for all to relive their youth or even their parents' way of life.

Readers of this column who are octogenarians probably remember going to Woolworth's lunch counter and ordering a Horlick's malted milk shake made with a Hamilton beach mixer. Oh, boy, those are two collectibles that sell quickly in antique shops or shows.

The desire to link a product or an object from the past provides the collector with the start of his hobby.

The noted columnist George Will recently wrote on the demise of the retail giants of the past, citing Montgomery Ward, Marshall Field's and others that dominated our lives. He went on to elaborate on the great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, better known as A&P.

During the early 1950s there were 15,600 stores, mostly east of the Mississippi. Almost everyone shopped A&P and knew their brands. All are gone now. Is the same fate in store for J.C. Penney, Sears Roebuck, even Macy's?

The above facts provide numerous collectibles connected to advertising, products, displays and whatever can relate with the past.

In 1950, there was no such thing as liquid laundry detergent. American Family Flakes was the dominant brand. Powdered laundry soaps, like Dreft and Lux, became the forerunner to Tide, and then - eureka! - came liquid detergent. An empty box of American Family Flakes recently sold for $50!

Do you remember brands such as Rival Dog Food, Fels Naptha, Uneeda Biscuit and the miracle frozen orange juice, Sno Crop? All old packaging is now very collectible.

In 1945, this writer was employed by A&P and witnessed firsthand rationing, the beginning of refrigeration and multi-branding of similar products.

A&P controlled the coffee market with Eight O'Clock, Red Circle and Boker. They gave out small tin banks in the shape of a coffee bag with a purchase of a three-pound bag.

The coffee had to be freshly ground, therefore a grinder was at every check stand. Millions of these banks were given out back then, but today they are rare.

The demise of well-known companies, products and advertising has created a supply and demand basis for collectability and values, as with the American Family Flakes example.

And if anyone out there has a Red Circle Coffee bank, contact me, as I continue to remember "the good old days."

Jerry Glenn is co-owner of Reminisce in Bluffton, where sports collectibles are bought and sold.

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