It's the real thing. Oh, wait. Wrong cola.
Either way, Salt Lake couple Mary and Raul Garcia are certainly the real deal when it comes to the biggest, baddest Pepsi collection in all the land. A Model T delivery truck. Bobbleheads (125 of ‘em). Fine china. Model airplanes. A gilded cash register from 1925. Mini jukeboxes. An $8,000 straw dispenser. And that’s just the beginning of what the Garcias estimate is more than a $1 million accumulation of Pepsi knick-knacks and collectibles.
To think this obsession started as a bit of a joke. Nearly two decades ago, Raul, who owns local company Midwest Cabinets, was commissioned to build custom cabinets for his sister to display her extensive Coca-Cola collection. When the project was done, he jokingly asked his wife if she’d like to redo their kitchen as an ode to Coke, too. “Why would I do that?” Mary recalls saying. “I always liked Pepsi better.”
Now, 19 years later, the Garcias have traveled the country, hitting collector conventions and stopping in at just about every antique store along the way as they build their extensive treasury of Pepsi items. Even the Pepsi museum in the cola’s New Bern, N.C., birthplace seems like a drop of syrup in the bucket compared to their collection, which has taken over their three-car garage (where two Pepsi trucks are parked) and their four-room basement. “I was just supposed to decorate my kitchen, but then we started finding all these other things,” says Mary, who admits they designed their new home to better display the Pepsi goods. “We should be the museum.”
The history is certainly there. Pepsi was born as “Brad’s Cola” in 1898 and took on the name Pepsi-Cola three years later. The Garcias have collectibles from just about every decade since—a metal serving tray with a Gibson Girl holding a Pepsi-Cola (1909), a cone-shaped paper cup (1945), a bright blue gas pump (1960), a Britney Spears Barbie-esque doll clad in Pepsi gear (2001) and Barack Obama and John McCain bobbleheads (2008). “We started collecting before eBay, so we got some really great items,” Raul notes.
It’s tough to play favorites, they say, but Mary’s top picks are the detailed Michael Garman sculptures featuring Pepsi advertising from over the decades, while Raul favors an autographed Pepsi promotional photo of former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.
And with Pepsi clearly the soda of choice, what happens when it’s not on the menu? “If all they have is Coke, you drink a Coke,” Raul says.