Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dr Pepper artifact is huge news story; Social media advances at Heritage

May 5, 2009
Posted by Jim Halperin

(There is little for me to say, today, other than thank you to Heritage’s co-founder Jim Halperin, who has lent his time and name to today’s post. He’s one of the more recognizable names in our business, and also a futurist of significant note – if you haven’t read his best-selling 1996 novel, The Truth Machine, it’s worth a go, especially of you like your fiction on the sci-fi/speculative side. You can buy it at Amazon.com or download it free at www.TruthMachine.com. With all the news of late about the Dr Pepper ledger going up for auction May 13 here, we all felt it was a perfect time for Jim to step in and address the blogging public. – Noah Fleisher)

What an exciting seven days here at Heritage!

We started last week with the sale of “The King of Coins,” a Class III 1804 $1 at our Central States Numismatic Society Platinum Night Auction, Thursday, April 30, for $2.3 million, garnering international media coverage. When a coin of this magnitude and fame comes to auction, the world takes notice. The auction itself netted approximately $45 million, a record for any numismatic auction other than a few Heritage FUN auctions, which occur every January in Florida and are invariably the largest numismatic auctions each year.

If that wasn’t enough, the Associated Press broke the story last weekend about the presence of a circa 1880-1890 ledger from The Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, TX, which we are auctioning off on May 13. This ledger contains what we believe to be the earliest known reference to the name Dr Pepper, and possibly an original formula of sorts for a tonic that may well have evolved in to the Dr Pepper we know and love today.

In the last two days, the story has taken on a life of its own. We’ve seen it in more than 400 worldwide media outlets, from New Zealand to India and the Philippines, and on NPR, BBC, on local news broadcasts across the region and on too many blogs to count. For several hours on Monday morning it was the most viewed and the most emailed story on the entire Internet, according to Yahoo! News. Just Google Heritage auction Dr Pepper formula, and you’ll see.

Now the Dr Pepper Company, which sent a delegation here last week to view the formula, has issued a non-denial denial about the formula in the book, stating simply that it’s not the formula that is used to make Dr Pepper (which we never said it was). Uh, no kidding. To their credit, however, they are not denying that it’s an original Dr Peppers Pepsin Bitters formula from the late 1800s.

My whole family and I LOVE Dr Pepper, by the way, as do practically all Texans – even transplants like us.

Greg Rohan, President of Heritage, has stated it best in our own clarification to the media, as follows:

“In its carefully worded statement, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group never claims that the ledger book from The Corner Drug Store in Waco, currently in our vault and preparing for auction on May 13, isn't the original formula, just that it's not the current one. We agree! We've always indicated that this document dates back to around 1880-1890, precisely the time when the first patent for Dr Pepper appeared.

“We know of no earlier reference to the name, and certainly not one that can be traced, conclusively, back to the drugstore where Dr Pepper was created. Like millions of others, we at Heritage Auction Galleries remain fans of the beverage and of the way its formula tastes today. We certainly wouldn’t recommend reverting to the original formula!”

Heritage operates from a place of transparency and honesty. The way we’re presenting this lot – and, happily, the way in which it is being portrayed across the planet – reflects that honesty, no matter how anyone else may try to spin it.

It is exciting when one of our upcoming auctions captures the world’s attention, as the Dr Pepper lot has done, but it’s a whole new ball game when a news story gets legs like this. This story has now survived several different news cycles – a feat in and of itself – and still seems to have steam.

Last but not least, throughout all of this, Heritage has been on top of the wave of social media. I’ve been Twittering about developments since the 1804 $1 sold last Thursday, and since the Dr Pepper story broke, and you can also find plenty of Heritage Auction stories if you dig into StumbleUpon, Reddit and Digg, all state-of-the art social media meant to keep people informed in this instant-fix 24/7 news environment. I’m proud to say that I know of no other auction house on earth that is, or ever has been, as technologically adept and current as Heritage. We owe our valued consignors and bidders nothing less.

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