There are real problems when searching for a subject to write about -- the main one being that I get really interested in these items and start buying them. After doing a little research, with the help of Coca-Cola Collectors Club member Alan Wright, I'm looking at Coca-Cola postcards in a whole new way. I hope you'll do the same.

Before writing this, I knew nothing about postcards. I did know that postcard collectors spend hours digging through shoeboxes marked "foods," "sodas," "towns" and "store fronts" -- looking for the Coca-Cola logo anywhere on that card. When I passed these collectors at shows I'd think, "way too much work for me." I'm starting to rethink that.

Postcard collecting is the third largest collectible hobby in the world. In many ways the popularity of postcard collecting is much like collecting Coca-Cola. Just about every area of collecting is covered by the postcard. A Coca-Cola collector may search for only Olympic memorabilia or Coca-Cola trucks. A postcard collector may narrow the search down to Olympic-related postcards or only ones that show old trucks or certain model cars. You can see how collecting postcards and Coca-Cola could mix.

A collector gets into collecting Coca-Cola postcards much like anyone turns into any collecting field. In researching this column I've looked at quite a few postcards. I loved seeing the old signs. You could see a time when much of The Coca-Cola Company's signage was the focal point of a town or community. You could envision an older person telling you about a sign or clock -- how the community would gather around it or check the time and temperature each day as they passed on their way to work or school.

Alan Wright turned to Coca-Cola postcards in a different way. Alan already collected postcards. His specialty was collecting postcards related to Huntsville, Alabama. Alan even wrote a book, Huntsville in Vintage Postcards. He was attending shows, searching for Huntsville cards, when he met a Coca-Cola memorabilia collector in Atlanta who had a few postcards in his collection. Alan now had a new mission -- collecting Coca-Cola postcards -- and the search was on. 

I asked Alan about his collection and he told me that he "knows of about 50 towns that had postcards of local Coca-Cola bottling plants. Postcards of predominant Coca-Cola signs, along with trucks and advertising pieces, are also out there. They are getting harder to find." Alan made a pretty good point. I've seen tons of cards that are called Coca-Cola postcards. Some of them require a magnifying glass -- or even the Hubble telescope -- to find our favorite logo.

Many of Alan's cards feature the local plant or the actual bottling operation. Some of these bottling plants sent out postcards to announce a new location. Some cards were given out as souvenirs of plant tours. Like many Coca-Cola collectibles, cards may not have been produced by The Coca-Cola Company. I've got a great card featuring a Coca-Cola truck, sent to the bottling plant from the truck manufacturer to promote a new truck.

One of the nice things about collecting Coca-Cola postcards is the ability for everyone to get into the hobby. Cards can go for a few dollars each to a few hundred for the really rare ones. You could spend as little or as much as you'd like. It reminds me of bottle collecting, with a wide range of rarities and prices to choose from.

If you're collecting Coca-Cola postcards, you're not alone. Millions of people worldwide collect cards. If you don't usually look for cards, take a look at some the next time you see a box full. You might be surprised. 

Bill Combs has been a Coca-Cola collector since 1986 and is the vice president and former president of The Coca-Cola Collectors Club