A Coke and a smile

Krystle Wagner • May 16, 2018 at 12:00 PM

NUNICA — Walking into the basement of Sue and Jerry Meeuwenberg’s home is like stepping back into the 1950s. From the jukebox to the 1950s-themed diner bar, the room is a dream-come-true for Jerry.

The room also houses some of the hundreds of Coca-Cola items the Nunica couple is selling after years of Jerry collecting them.

With Sue then working full time and teaching an additional two nights a week, she encouraged Jerry to find a hobby, so he started collecting Coca-Cola items in the late 1980s and stopped about 15 years ago.

Jerry, who was self-employed as a fence builder, went searching for items every weekend and joined a statewide auction mailing list. He said he’s most enjoyed the thrill of “squashing someone at an auction.”

The first item Jerry purchased was in Baldwin — a Coke sign from a hardware store.

Over the years, he has purchased items such as an airline cooler, wooden crates, Coca-Cola bottles, ornaments, ashtrays, key chains, belt buckles, radios, coasters and a pencil sharpener.

After buying something, Jerry would place the items in a room in the house.

The couple used to have a Christmas tree in the basement decorated with Coca-Cola ornaments and lights. Sue said she didn’t know they had a Coca-Cola village until February.

“I had no idea,” she said.


Each item has a story about where he was or what he was doing when he bought it, Jerry said. For example, Jerry purchased a Coca-Cola dispenser in Ludington. He saw the dispenser behind a business, so he offered to pay $400 for it. The next day, the offer was accepted, Jerry said.

Jerry has also collected Elvis memorabilia.

Over the years, Jerry turned bare cement basement walls into a game room on one side and the 1950s room on the other. Jerry, who said he always wanted to have a 1950s room, said he likes the music.

The 1950s room features a bar with a neon light, jukebox and pinball machine. Sue said she plays the jukebox all the time.

After years of collecting, Sue, 69, and Jerry, 75, are selling some of their Coca-Cola collection. Sue said they made the decision because they’re growing older and their son isn’t interested in the entire collection. Sue said they plan to keep some of their favorites.

Since Christmas, Sue has spent time going through the items, researching their worth, organizing and creating a spreadsheet with information, and taking pictures. She also joined an online Coca-Cola collectors group.

The Meeuwenbergs have sold almost $3,000 worth of memorabilia since the beginning of the year.

Jerry said they initially wanted to sell their items as a package, but they didn’t find a buyer interested in all of it.

In spending time looking through and organizing the items, Sue said she now understands how collectors feel.

“I’ve fallen in love with this stuff,” she said.

The Meeuwenbergs are tentatively planning a yard sale around the Fourth of July. In the meantime, anyone interested in items from the Coca-Cola collection can call Sue at 616-446-8405.

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