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SAN JOSE, Calif. – They say you can find anything for sale on eBay. Judging from the array of credit union artifacts found on the popular online auction site, it seems, at least for this industry, to be true. During the first two weeks of July, Credit Union Times monitored credit union items for sale on eBay and found an average of 25 credit union artifacts available on any given day. Many were promotional items from credit unions that ranged from fly swatters and rulers to an antique CUNA Zippo lighter. There were also several opportunities to buy first day editions of the 1984 stamp issued to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Credit Union Act. The number of promotional ashtrays for sale provides a reminder of how life used to be in America before smoking was banned in most places. One large glass ashtray dates back 35 years, commemorating the 1969 grand opening of Listerhill Credit Union’s headquarters building, located in Sheffield, Ala. The item features a drawing of the headquarters building in the center. “They (the ashtrays) were very popular with members at the time,” said Melissa Cothran, Marketing Specialist, who added that her manager’s mother still proudly displays one in her home. Cothran researched the eBay listing and discovered that the seller was one of Listerhill’s 57,000 members. The $308 million credit union now has a community charter than spans 12 counties in northwest Alabama, but it originally only served manufacturing SEGs in the area, including Reynolds Aluminum. The credit union still has a few of the mementos, Cothran said, so her department would not be interested in bidding on the item. “Of course, back in 1969, people were allowed to smoke in the credit union, so we kept a supply around here,” she said. Cothran, who is responsible for Listerhill’s premium items, said the ashtray is a reminder of how much credit unions used to spend on promotional items. The CUNA Zippo lighter featured “The Little Man Under the Umbrella,” a cartoon figure drawn by Joseph Stern to promote credit union membership before CUNA was organized in 1934. “Zippos were very popular in the `30s and `40s, so that would be my guess when that sort of thing came out,” said Patrick O’Toole, CUNA Archivist. O’Toole said his organization has thousands of historical items, but the focus has been more on maintaining documents that record the decisions that were made to move the organization forward. Although CUNA has catalogued all historical items in its possession, including promotional items, O’Toole was unable to find a record of a Zippo lighter in the archives. Dorothy Steffens, head of CUNA’s Information Resource Center, said she was intrigued to hear that CUNA promotional items were appearing on eBay, but not surprised at the number of items available. “Because there are so many ways that credit unions have promoted themselves over the years, I’m not surprised to see something like the lighter come up,” Steffens said. “In fact, the lighter could have been made for a credit union, and they chose to put the little man under the umbrella on it.” Steffens said CUNA does not have an area to publicly display historical items, so she often donates items to America’s Credit Union Museum in Manchester, N.H. “We get a lot of items when individuals retire or donations from credit unions, but it would be impossible for us to keep everything,” Steffens said. “So, in some cases, I’ll check with Peggy (Powell, Executive Director) at the museum to see if she can display it.” Steffens said O’Toole would probably begin reviewing available CUNA items on eBay, to cross reference against what they already have archived, and attempt to obtain any items of interest. “On some level, this is an interesting way of educating consumers about credit unions without even doing anything, which is pretty interesting,” Steffens added. [email protected]

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