The colourful world of Bob the collector

COLLECTIVELY SPEAKING: Bob Ball collects a variety of interesting memorabilia.
COLLECTIVELY SPEAKING: Bob Ball collects a variety of interesting memorabilia. Max Fleet

THE irony is not lost on Kepnock man Bob Ball when he reveals that his favourite drink is actually Pepsi-Max, not Coca-Cola.

The former policeman, best known to people as the chairman of the Bundaberg branch of Crime Stoppers, has covered the walls of his office with a red-and-white sea of Coca-Cola memorabilia.

There aren't too many things Mr Ball can't tell you about what is one of the world's most established brands.

"It's strange, my preferred soft drink is actually Pepsi-Max," he says.

"But there was a time when I used to drink a whole lot of Coke."

His knowledge has been gained from a compulsive interest in the Coca-Cola company that began when he retired from the New South Wales police force in the late 90s. His collection includes hundreds of bottles and cans and Coca-Cola memorabilia featuring the Coke polar bear and Santa Claus.

Bar fridges, t-shirts, yo-yos, bags and hats are arranged carefully in what has become a big attraction for his grandchildren.

Among the haul is a Coca-Cola jukebox that plays classic jingles and a Coke water feature that propels old metal Coke bottle lids through a glass canister.

The Wide Bay Australia Volunteer of the Year 2010 is proud of his collection but is quick to play down its scale in comparison with other collections.

The past president of the Queensland Coca-Cola Collectors Club meets other like-minded people every two years for a conference and to trade and buy elusive pieces and compare collections.

"Compared to some of our members, I only have a very small-scale collection," he says.

Also gracing the walls of Mr Ball's office is an extraordinary collection of police memorabilia and a growing collections of Star Wars and M&Ms memorabilia.

A range of police medals includes one presented to emergency service workers helping the Nazi cause during the Second World War.

Mr Ball is in possession of more than 1000 police shoulder patches from branches across the world and original wanted posters issued by the FBI in the 1920s and 30s. He has police hats from East and West Germany during the Cold War and French gendarmes' hats from the 1970s.

Mr Ball has his favourite shoulder patches pinned in large glass cases on his wall, and others in thick bundles in the drawers of his desk.

"Whenever we have people around, they're usually pretty impressed," he said.

"They each have their own particular design for what area the branch is in and they're all unique in their own individual way."

Mr Ball said his penchant for collecting grew after his retirement from the police force and provided him with a rewarding hobby.

"I'm not a hoarder but I certainly like collecting," he said.

"I get great satisfaction from sitting there and looking at my collection."

"It's a form of relaxation for me and it's a good talking point for conversing with other people."

Topics:  collecting

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