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For years, Beverly Rose has searched for the ``real thing.' She has combed through garbage bins and abandoned stores. She has traveled to flea markets and faraway antique shops. The results of her quest have finally ended up in a small building in her backyard.

``It started when a friend gave me this match box and pocket mirror. I think she was going to throw the things away and I asked for them,' she said, running one hand over the worn flap of a small red match box and holding a gold-trimmed oval mirror in the other. ``Now my collection has grown from two to 400 pieces.'Both of the items bore a faded white ``Coca-Cola' logo. That's what makes them meaningful to her. Beverly Rose has been a ``Coca-Cola' collector for 12 years. A spacious two-room utility building outside her Eden residence houses all of the items she has accumulated.

Some people search for specific Coke items such as bottles or thermometers. But believing that everything goes better with Coke, the 48-year-old Rose gathers anything with the Coke logo on it.

Old Coca-Cola bottles dating back to 1915 line shelves. Drinking glasses with wide mouths,narrow bottoms and no handles are placed neatly on top of a bar. Decorating the walls are framed Coke magazine advertisements from 1930 to 1978 and large and small antique store signs, embossed with slogans like ``Coke adds life' or ``Enjoy Coke.' Other items include miniature bottles, soda crates, T-shirts, serving trays, toy trucks and wagons, towels and puzzles, all bright red with a Coke emblem on each.

``That's one thing about it, Coca-Cola is colorful, isn't it?' said Rose, glancing around.

A telephone in the form of a bottled Coke hangs on the wall near the entrance. She pushed the buttons on the bottom of the bottle while pretending to talk into the mouthpiece, which is located in the center.

``Before we built this place two years ago, I had this phone hooked up inside the house. I've had people to come in and think I was crazy talking with a soda bottle up to my ear,' she said, laughing.

The phone is one of the most unusual items in her collection, said Rose, who spent more time searching for it than any other piece she owns.

``I saw it in a book and told my husband I wanted one. We finally found it a year or two later at a novelty shop in Gatlinburg, Tenn.,' she said. Rose and her husband, the Rev. Ben Rose, purchased the phone for $50 around 1982.

Beverly Rose collects the objects not just for their investment value, but because they remind her of her childhood days in Knoxville, Tenn.

``We used to drink a lot of Coke back then,' she said.

Several members of Draper Methodist Church, where her husband is pastor, have contributed to the collection. Her latest donations came in February when two anonymous members mailed her two old Coke bottles. One bottle is dated Dec. 25, 1923, Leaksville, and the other - a Mae West bottle - is dated 1915, Danville, Va. Each bottle is worth about $8 or more, Rose said.

Most of the old-fashioned signs on the walls date from the early 1950s. A red sign, hanging on the front wall and measuring 4 feet by 4 feet, was found by her husband during a fishing trip at Nags Head several years ago.

``It was just laying at the back of an old store. It was too large to get inside the car, so I asked a man accompanying us from the church to tie it to the top of his station wagon. We were determined to get it here,' Ben Rose said.

Beverly Rose's prize possessions are a 6-cent Coke machine and a 25-cent Coke machine, standing in the corners of one room in the utility building. Instead of falling through a slot, the sodas are pulled from the side of the machines.

Ben Rose exchanged a .410-gauge shotgun for the 6-cent machine when he was pastoring a church in Kernersville in 1981.

``A fellow in the church had it and wanted the shotgun. I told him, I'll trade for it,' said Ben Rose.

Other significant items in the collection include an original 1936 serving tray worth about $600 and the Coca-Cola Bottling Co.'s annual stock report for 1939. The report shows the company had annual assets at that time of $93 million.

``It also shows that the liability figures were the same, so they didn't make any money that year,' said Ben Rose.

The Roses, who have three adult children, came to Eden in 1984 after living in Kernersville. Beverly Rose currently runs a state-registered day care center in her basement.

Ben Rose, often teases his wife about her hobby. ``He's always saying that if something happens to me, he's going to sell the collection and move to another country,' Beverly Rose said.

She spends most of her leisure time reading or writing in the building. As of now, she wouldn't sell or trade anything in it.

``I'm proud of it, just proud of how it turned out. And I love to show it off,' she said.

Ben Rose decided to built the utility house two years ago because many of the items in his wife's collection had been packed away in boxes or were bunched up in his woodworking shop inside the house.

``I told her I had to build it to get all her stuff out of my way,' he said.

They are planning a summer vacation to New England and will comb stores for more items.

``I'm trying to find a 1950 or a 1960 Coke toy dispenser,' said Beverly Rose. ``They are very valuable now because they aren't made anymore.'

The Roses said it's harder to find Coke items now compared to 12 years ago. Many people own the real thing and aren't aware of it, Ben Rose noted. ``People have got stuff in their basements, and they think it's junk. They throw things away like old bottles and thermometers. They don't realize how valuable they are,' he said.


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