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For Some, Collecting Makes The Heart Beat Faster
Reprinted From The Herald-Mail
Article by Andrea Brown-Hurley and photos by Ric Dugan
Welcome to Curtis Kauffman's time machine.

From the outside, the Maugansville area home looks like many others in the comfortable suburban neighborhood.

But after passing James Dean at the entrance to Kauffman's basement, dropping a dime in the original Westinghouse Coke machine for a bottled grape Nehi soda, sitting on a bottle-cap barstool at the classic soda fountain and perusing a menu with such items as 25-cent king-size hotdogs and 39-cent royal banana splits, it's obvious Kauffman's house is decades removed from those of his neighbors.

"Your average house is pretty much basic," said Kauffman, 36, owner of Memory Lane Antiques in Hagerstown. "When you walk in here, it's like walking back in time," he said.

Kauffman is a collector.

For the collector, life might seem to revolve around the "perfect find." The hobby might dictate vacation venues, and time and money investments.

It might be considered an addiction, or an obsession.

Kauffman's typical response when he finds that vintage Coca-Cola, slot or condom machine? When he stumbles upon an old sign, "Buddy Lee" doll or pedal car?

"How much?" he said.

Kauffman said he has gone to great lengths to support his Coke habit.

He travels to Canada, Maine, Florida and places in between to search for additions to his collection. He frequents estate sales and auctions. He haunts small town general stores, and rents U-Hauls to tote his treasures home.

Kauffman's house is wired with an elaborate alarm system to protect his mushrooming collection of vintage Coca-Cola and other products. He said he has more than 4,000 items, but wants more.

"That's not even the tip of the iceberg," he said. "I want everything."

He plans to build an addition onto his house.

Kauffman said his hobby is "very expensive," but adding to his burgeoning Coca-Cola collection is like "putting money in the bank."

And he loves doing it.

"There's nothing like the excitement of finding something you don't have," said Kauffman. "It's an adrenaline rush. If there's something I want bad enough, I'll pay what I need to pay to get it."

Today's children are flabbergasted by the products in Kauffman's basement, he said.

"Most kids nowadays have never gotten a soda out of a machine where they've had to open the case and pop the top," said Kauffman.

All the machines in Kauffman's basement, and the Westinghouse soda machine in his shop, are stocked, and he said kids and adults alike "get a big kick" out of dropping dimes for bottled Dr. Pepper, Nehi and Cheerwine.

His favorite soda?

Pepsi, he said.

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