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Refreshing & Delicious: Vintage Coca Cola signs found on Maple City barn

Apr 28, 2023


MAPLE CITY — Some things apparently do go better with Coke — even barn roofs.

When Michael Conner and his stepson Griffin Carlson tore down the old and dilapidated barn on the Maple City property he bought two years ago they found it roofed with several old tin Coca-Cola road signs.

"We started peeling them off," Conner said. "Some of them are immaculate and some of them are really rough, but it was really cool."

There are seven Coca-Cola signs in all, with each measuring about about 4-feet-by-9-feet. Stripping them off one by one was a lot of fun, said Carlson, 21.

"As we were removing them it felt like a big reveal," Carlson said. "As we kept taking them off they got cooler and cooler."

Several of the signs are specific to the area, with "Thirlby Field" printed at the top of one and "Cherryland Inn & Groc" on another. Others proclaim "Kingsley" and the "Alpine View Party Store" above the iconic logo and a tall, cool bottle of Coke.

The signs were face down, so aside from some rusty edges are fairly well-preserved. The signs are worth more with a little patina on them, Conner said. But it's a fine line — too much patina and the value begins to drop.

"It's a funny market," he said. "People love these retro, antique road signs. There's a little calling for them."

A real estate agent, Conner said he's had a lot of interest in the signs from people he knows in the Chicago area who are interested in buying them. One that states "A good place to stay and eat" is getting the most attention, he said.

He hasn't put the signs up for sale yet, but he thinks they should stay in the Leelanau area.

He’d like to sell them locally and donate a portion of the money to the Leelanau Conservancy.

"We believe that's an important part of the area," he said.

He thinks they may be worth $1,000 to $2,000 each.

The world's first Coca-Cola was served up at Jacob's Pharmacy in 1886 in Atlanta. Back then it was considered a medicinal drink and contained extract of coca leaves, which gave it its name. The extract was removed by 1929, but the drink remains an American classic.

Conner lives in Michigan City, Ind., about a five-hour drive from Maple City. He's been bringing his kids to Camp Kohahna for more than 15 years and usually rented a place in the Glen Arbor or Traverse City area.

When he saw the 9-acre parcel of land for sale in Maple City that had an old single-wide trailer and a barn that was falling over he jumped on it. He is now in the process of rehabbing the trailer into a summer home.

"My wife thought I was crazy," Conner said.

Carlson, a college senior majoring in digital media production, is living on the property for the summer while doing some of the work.

"I spent last summer in LA and now here I am applying some of the knowledge I gained from my dad to renovating this trailer," said Carlson, whose father is a carpenter.

The property was purchased from a man in his 70s who had been raised there and later inherited it from his father. It once had a house that burned down in the early 1980s, Conner said, and was replaced by the trailer.

Conner's best guess, based on the type of construction used on the barn, is that it was built in the 1940s. He believes the signs are likely from about that era.


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