|By Sarah Campbell
NASHVILLE, Tenn.— “Giving it to Goodwill” turned out to be the unlikely solution for the owners of the Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising, a now defunct museum located in Millersville, Tenn. Paul and Tom Bates, the father and son owners of the museum, donated most of the collection — more than 400,000 pieces in all — to Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. Pieces hit the shelves of various Goodwill stores around Middle Tennessee as well as the national Goodwill auction website (www.shopgoodwill.com) starting the first week of January.
The Bateses began collecting vintage beer cans in the 1970s, and by 1987 had amassed so many beverage containers and related items that they opened a privately owned museum. The collection included more than 100,000 soda cans (valued at $1-50 apiece, according to the Bates), 200,000 soda and beer bottle caps, and hundreds of advertising signs, bottle openers, and coolers. Among the prized pieces displayed were a 1938 Clicquot Club Ginger Ale bottle, early Coca-Cola cans, political soda bottles (Goldwater vs. Johnson Juice) from the 1964 presidential election, camouflage beer cans dating from World War II, and scarce brown 7-Up bottles.
Although it rarely drew large crowds, the museum attracted visitors from all over the country and was featured in Smithsonian Magazine before closing its doors several years ago.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” said Keri Foy, Public Relations manager for Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. “We’ve already had all kinds of calls about it — one man called and offered us $25,000 for whatever pieces we could give him.”
Foy said the value of the collection is estimated at more than $1 million.
The Bates told The Tennessean newspaper they decided to donate their collection in part because they were impressed with the Goodwill organization, but also because they wanted to see their treasured objects end up in the hands of multiple individual collectors.