MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - If anyone knows about Coca-Cola, it's Dick McChesney. The 88-year-old has spent most of his life collecting anything with the company logo on it because, for McChesney, Coke is it.
"It's America. I think it's growing up. I took my bike down to the gas station. It was a nickel. I had a Coke all by myself," said McChesney. "It intrigued me, the signs. I was intrigued by the bottle. The bottle was like a piece of magic to me."
McChesney's 75-year search for the real thing started when he was just 13 years old and the Coca-Cola home delivery service next door hired him to sort bottles.
He worked for the Home Beverage Company for 18 years, then bought out the owners and ran it for more than half a century.
"It was a natural thing. Different size Coke bottles started coming out, 10 ounce, 12 ounce. I would display them on a shelf and put a clock next to them. Started adding to that collection."
Over the years, McChesney amassed a huge collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, everything from bottles and posters to clocks and syrup dispensers. His wife even made him a Coke-inspired cover for his car.
Some pieces were extremely rare like a Coca-Cola chandelier from the early 1900s, while others were more common like pop cans representing the different eras of the popular pop.
"Coca-Cola put their name on almost anything they could. The categories for collectors never stop."
"It could be big cardboard signs. It could be smaller serving trays. They came out with serving trays every year. What's more fun than to collect all these trays?"
In the 70s, McChesney started the first Coca-Cola collectors club in the country in Minnesota.
He also became a founding member of the national Coke collectors club, which eventually grew to have up to 30,000 members in almost every state, as well as chapters around the world.
"It was fun to find people who I was fascinated by them collecting the same things I was collecting, only different categories. They didn't have as much as I did but then we were all starting."
In the 90s, Coca-Cola paid for McChesney to travel to the Middle East to promote Coke memorabilia collecting in places like Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
"It was the most memorable thing that can happen to anybody other than a marriage. Nobody can take it away from me."
McChesney sold most of his collection when he retired a few years ago.
These days he helps other Coke collectors track down rare and unusual finds.
"I want to keep the concept alive. That's very special. Very special. It also means you will have a friend for life. Many of them become friends for life."
McChesney recently finished a book about his 75-year adventure titled The Beverage: A Coca-Cola story.
He may have drunk the Kool-Aid about the fizzy flavored soda but Coke has certainly given his life some pop.
"Because it served my purpose. It provided my breakfast food in the morning and my cars in the afternoon. It touched me in almost every way it can."