$350 for a Stick of Gum? (It's 100 Years Old)

March 1st, 2011

Every once and a while, doing my research for Collectors Weekly overviews, I stumble across a fact that makes my jaw drop.

Writing about gumball machines, I came across this doozy: In the U.S., there are about half a dozen serious collectors of gum, and more than one serious enough to pay $350 for a stick of Colgan’s Taffy Tolu Chewing Gum, dating from 1900 to 1910.

Hey, hold your ew! Unchewed 100-year-old gum is not gross the way the vintage “ABC” gum found on Seattle’s Gum Wall or San Luis Obispo’s Bubblegum Alley is. Here’s the full story, found in the unassuming “Pocket Guide to Coin-op Vending Machines,” by John Carini. The author is quoting coin-op machine collector, Paul Hindin.

“A fellow collector and I got a lead on a National Colgan’s Taffy Tolu gum vendor from a Chicago dealer who had found it in an old barn. We decided rather than try to outbid each other, we would make a fair bid and purchase the machine together. Please with our $2,000 purchase, I took it home and opened it up and cleaned it. I was pleasantly surprised to find seventeen sticks of Colgan’s Taffy Tolu Chewing Gum inside.

“In the past I had found other sticks of chewing gum, and they sometimes brought as much as $35 per stick. However, this gum was a mystery to me. So I called up the most knowledgeable man in the industry, Bill Enes. When I told Bill what I had found there was a long pause on the phone. He asked, ‘Are you sure?’ Bill then told me he wasn’t certain of the value, but suggested I not let them go individually for less than $350 per stick—then offered to buy all seventeen sticks!

“Bill provided me with the names of some serious gum collectors to contact if I was interested in selling. There are about a half dozen serious gum collectors here in the U.S., and about two dozen not-as-serious collectors. Each collector I called couldn’t wait to get their hands on a few sticks of this mystery gum, as none of them had this brand in their collection. In the end, my partner and I sold thirteen sticks of the gum for $300 to $350 each, making a $4,000 profit without even selling the machine!”

This book was copyright in 2002, and it appears that since this startling discovery, the excitement over Taffy Tolu has died down. On May 30, 2009, a lot of four sticks of this same turn-of-the-century gum went for a measly $300, or $75 a pop, through Morphy Auctions. Still, collectors — it never hurts to look inside your vending machines and mechanical banks to see what gum, coins, paper currency, and other surprises they may hold. I wouldn’t bother with the gum stuck under a school desk, though.

Tell us: Do you have a story of finding hidden treasures?

9 comments so far

  1. Tom Says:

    Nice story and congratulations to seller and buyers for this rare collectibles. I could tell similar story about my topics – passport collecting.

    Regards
    Tom

    http://www.passport-collector.com

  2. annette french Says:

    Does anyone know if chum gum still exists? if so how to get it, if not..tell someone to make it again. It’s one of my strongest scent memories of childhood. mmmmmm chum gum. don’t think of shark bait. it was fruity and delicious.

  3. Emm Says:

    I wish that since this was an excerpt from a book? that there was more about what happened after, like, has anymore information been found about this gum and what flavor it was? Was the gum brand based in Chicago? (Since the machine was found in a barn there.)
    Interesting tidbit of info anyway. :)

  4. brenda kirby Says:

    i have a pack of juicy fruit gum that is packeged in red wax paper it belonged to my grandmother can anyone give me info about it

  5. Don Says:

    I have found an unopened pack of Orbit chewing gum that my father gave my mother in November of 1944. Are there collectors of such things? How do I find out if it is of any value?
    Thanks,
    JDonS

  6. Jody Says:

    I just sold a single piece of Colgan’s Gum on Ebay for $78. I found it in a bunch of papers in my Grandfather’s attic. Still perfect and sealed in the package. I am not sure that this gum had a flavor, or none was listed. It is marked Chicago.

  7. Roy Via Says:

    Have a factory wrap pc of gum. American Circle Co., New York
    WHITE’S
    YUCATAN
    CHEWING GUN
    On back – good for heart burn, beautifying teeth and sweeting breath and other.
    Brown wrap paper. Is it worth anything?

  8. Sissy Says:

    I have an unopened pack of Beechnut gum, 5 sticks peppermint, found behind our mantel in 1946. This is the only gum my grandmother would chew. It is now more than 67 years old, kept wrapped in a cloth in a locked drawer all this time. The wrapper still looks good. Do you think it is worth anything?

  9. David Says:

    I have a nearly mint pack of Beechnut Spearmint Gum from 1944. I found it perfectly preserved behind the old kitchen cabinets that I removed during remodeling. Does anyone have an idea on what this pack of gum would be worth?


Leave a Comment or Ask a Question

If you want to identify an item, try posting it in our Show & Tell gallery.