Wichita — About 200 collectors are converging on Wichita this weekend for the International Coleman Collectors Club convention.
They have come from all over the United States and as far as Canada, Holland and Germany to collect all things Coleman - from arc lights to camping coolers - in the city where W.C. Coleman started manufacturing in the early 20th century.
The collectors come from all backgrounds: Amish farmers from Ohio, dentists and lawyers, financial consultants and mechanics.
Jim Nichols, the club president and a Wichita Coleman employee for 36 years, has collected lanterns for years. They remind him of how his grandparents treasured Coleman lights on their Great Bend farm years ago.
But beyond the memories, Nichols said the collectibles are good investments. An arc lamp that originally sold for $27 at the turn of the 20th century can now sell for $6,000.
Tim Daniel, Coleman's vice president for special markets, marvels at how faithful and loyal collectors have become.
W.C. Coleman was selling typewriters in Alabama when he met a man selling gasoline lamps. Coleman soon became a lantern salesman.
It was when a saloonkeeper in Kingfisher, Okla., showed Coleman to a back room that Coleman found his calling. That customer had a large collection of useless gasoline lamps, and saw no purpose in buying more.
Coleman stayed in Kingfisher, borrowed $2,000 from his brother and started a business making, installing and maintaining gas lamps.
In 1901, he moved his Hydro-Carbon Light Co. to Wichita. His plant would later expand to cover more than two city blocks.