Kenai man amasses vast collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia

a man
Kenai’s Kelly Bookey owns over 4,500 pieces of Coca-Cola memorabilia. (Hunter Morrison/KDLL)

Some people collect coins. Others collect jewelry or trading cards. But Kenai’s Kelly Bookey collects Coca-Cola memorabilia, and in large amounts.

What began as a small inheritance of Coca-Cola merchandise after a friend’s death 30 years ago has since grown to museum-level proportions. Bookey estimates that he has 4,500 pieces in his collection, spanning two bedrooms and a bathroom. Bottles, glasses, wall hangings, sports memorabilia, even underwear make up just a fraction of his collection.

“I’ve got a little bit of this, a little bit of that, but I’m always looking for more,” Bookey said.

Bookey frequently scouts yard sales, antique stores and the internet to add more to his collection. For friends and family, he says that the collection makes gift-giving easy.

“I’m starting to outgrow the rooms, and I don’t know what I’m going to do with it all,” Bookey said. “I’ve got the two rooms and the one bathroom completely done, but we’ll just find more space somewhere.”

One of his favorite Coca-Cola pieces is also one of the first he ever acquired. After the death of a close friend, Bookey received his Coca-Cola money clip that he carried with him everywhere he went. The clip has since broken, leaving Bookey on the hunt for a new one.

a Coca-Cola machine
A Coca-Cola fountain from Bookey’s father’s former restaurant. (Hunter Morrison/KDLL)

The most sentimental piece in the collection is a Coca-Cola fountain from his father’s former Kenai restaurant, Bookey’s. He is also fond of a Coca-Cola poster he snagged from the 2006 Arctic Winter Games.

“There were only two of them, and I told them in the office that I was getting them,” Bookey said. “I got one, and they caught me stealing the second one, so I let them have it.”

Bookey acquires new merchandise for his collection pretty regularly. On this particular day, he points to a set of Coca-Cola pocket knives that a friend just dropped off. He also spoke of his son who recently picked up about 50 Coca-Cola items from an estate sale in Reno. Many of those items are still in the original box, which he says is sometimes worth more than the item itself.

Since the dawn of the internet, his collection has expanded greatly. Throughout the years, he’s noticed that the best time to bid on any item of value is during a major event, such as the Super Bowl. While Bookey is the winner of many bargains, he has also been the victim of overpaying.

“Don’t drink beer and get on eBay,” Bookey said. “I wasn’t going to let them outbid me, I paid $65 for them dominos, and the next day you could’ve bought them all day long for seven to ten bucks. But I got the good ones!”

Also in his collection is a sympathy card from the Coca-Cola bottling facility in Anchorage, a letter from Coke’s headquarters in Atlanta and, to top it all off, a Coca-Cola toilet seat. While he has no idea what the value of his collection is, to him, it’s priceless.

“I’ve had a lot of people look at it and they go ‘wow,’” Bookey said. “I know there’s a lot of other people out there who collect Coca-Cola stuff, some of them probably have a better collection than I do. I like it, and to me that’s the bottom line. I like it, and I’m going to continue collecting it.”

As you might imagine, Bookey’s favorite beverage is Coca-Cola. He says he drinks it by the gallon.

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