- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2007

ATLANTA — The Coca-Cola Co. wants the real thing — in this case, three rare Norman Rockwell paintings. The beverage company is searching for missing one-of-a-kind oil paintings that it commissioned from the Americana master more than 74 years ago. Each could be worth more than $500,000 if sold at auction.

The paintings were among six works depicting children that Mr. Rockwell did for Coca-Cola’s advertising campaigns of the late 1920s and early 1930s. The company has the other three paintings — including two on display at the new World of Coca-Cola museum in downtown Atlanta and another that hangs in the executive offices of its world headquarters nearby.

The paintings, described by Coca-Cola’s archivist as “seminal pieces” of the company’s history, were likely lost over time because they were used to create magazine and poster advertisements in an age when Coke employees wouldn’t have thought to hold on to them once the ads ran.

“If anybody knows where these missing children are, we’d like to know about it,” says archivist Phil Mooney.

For years, Coca-Cola has tried to solve the mystery of what happened to the missing Rockwells. Coke has an undisclosed budget to purchase the paintings, if need be, but it won’t say how much it is willing to spend for them.

“If anybody finds [a painting], I’d like to think they would give it to us but that’s unlikely as there’s a market for these things,” Mr. Mooney said.

The three missing works are:

• “The Old Oaken Bucket,” 1932, which depicts a boy sitting on a well with a small wooden barrel of Coke bottles in his lap.

• “Wholesome Refreshment,” 1928, a sepia-tone magazine ad made for the Saturday Evening Post that depicts a smiling young man lounging with a Coke while well-dressed adults, circa 1920, are playing with children. At the bottom is a legend that says “8 million a day.”

• “Office Boy — 4 p.m. — The Pause That Refreshes,” 1930, depicting a smiling boy in a suit and tie carrying a tray of two bottles of Coke and two glasses and opening a door marked “Vice President.”

In the era when a bottle of Coca-Cola cost only a nickel, Mr. Rockwell likely was paid at least $2,000 a painting, Mr. Mooney said.

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