Trash to treasures: A qualitative study of the relationship between collectors and collectible brands

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Clara V. Lloyd


Memorabilia, Loyalty, Brands, Collectors

Subject Categories

Mass Communication


It is estimated that one in every three Americans collects something. Although the act of collecting has existed for centuries, this phenomenon has grown to a staggering $8.2 billion industry in the U.S. today. The growth is partially a result of redefining what is being collected. Traditionally, collectible items included books, stamps, art, dolls, etc. Today, memorabilia from movies and TV programs, baseball cards, Christmas ornaments and Barbie dolls have become popular collectibles. In addition, products associated with specialized brands such as Coca-Cola, Mattel, Campbell's Soup, McDonald's, Hershey and Hallmark have been deemed collectible. More and more nationally known brand names are becoming collectible, and more brands are building lines of collectible merchandise.

Two of the most prominent brands to move into this category in the last twenty years are Hallmark Cards and the Coca-Cola Company. This study uses these two brands as case studies in exploring collectible brands. The research posits some of the reasons companies such as Hallmark and Coca-Cola are attracted to the collectible marketplace, as well as providing some insight to the relationship the collector has with these brands.

What emerged from the in-depth interviews with collectors was that the relationship is one of brand loyalty and beyond. Via this collecting activity, Hallmark and Coca-Cola have not only enhanced brand loyalty, they have created a strong emotional link between the collector and the brand. That emotion extends to other collectors of the brand as well as to the items collected. Furthermore, this research suggests that collectors of Hallmark and Coca-Cola use their collections to aid in constructing the past, as well as constructing their own identity.


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