Gerald Tebben

Five Facts

Gerald Tebben

Gerald Tebben, a Coin World columnist for more than 30 years, also contributes to Coin World’s Coin Values and edits the Central States Numismatic Society’s journal, The Centinel. He collects coins that tell stories.

Coin World’s bloggers are not edited by Coin World’s editorial staff and blog posts reflect the views of the individual author.

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The collectible that smells

In the early 1970s, when my wife and I were young and poor, Olga sold Avon products door-to-door in our Ohio State University campus-area neighborhood.

“Avon calling” was the company’s advertising catchphrase, and women brought the firm’s lotions, perfumes and beauty products in their homes, much to our good fortune.

In the 1960s, the company’s marketing focus shifted from products to packaging. Aftershave might be sold in a bottle made to look like a car one month and a fish the next.  

Customers began buying the products for the bottles. The bottles themselves moved out of the bathroom and onto display shelves in the living room. Collectors followed. Production increased to meet expanding demand. Collectors started chasing vintage bottles from the 1950s – produced before the collecting frenzy began. Prices rose.

Price guides, with often wishful-thinking values, were produced by several publishers. Sellers moved the bottles to the front of their displays. Avon was hot – until it wasn’t.

In the 1980s, the market dissipated. Today more than 7,000 Avon bottles are listed on eBay. Most have no bids. The few that do sell go for a few cents to a few dollars each. 

This summer the Central Ohio Numismatic Association’s club auction featured a 1970s Avon aftershave in a bottle shaped like an 1877 Indian head cent. It sold for a buck amid much joking about what it must smell like.

An article in the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call a few years ago noted, “Smell aside, what should you do with your bottles? Junking them is a very viable approach. If you have a garage sale scheduled in the months ahead, put them in a box with a sign reading ‘Your Choice: 50 cents.’ Have two other signs in reserve, one reading ‘Your Choice: 25 cents’ and the other reading ‘Free For The Taking.’ "
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