In the mid-1960s, Coca-Cola bottlers around the country ran a promotion featuring the images of pro athletes inside bottle caps.
The idea was, you collected complete sets of NFL players or whatever. Then you could redeem them for various modest prizes.
I'm sure the marketing concept was to get little kids like me to badger their mothers into buying more Coke products. But there's only so much sugar water one family can drink. So, I devised a plan.
If I taped a magnet to the end of a long section of wire clothes hanger, I could reach into vending machines and withdraw the caps from the cap-catching chamber directly below the built-in bottle-opener.
That's what I did. And my haul was impressive, if gooey.
Oh, there were a few run-ins with store employees who initially suspected that I was helping myself to coins. But mostly I was unmolested as I went around town making my rounds.
I ended up exchanging my many completed bottle-cap sheets for footballs, NFL pennants, NFL book covers and what have you.
I can't remember if other kids caught on and copied my magnet gambit. Maybe every town had one of us.
If the Internet had been around back then, we could have formed some sort of association and traded tips.
“Hi, Bob in Evansville. I understand what you are saying about the merits of asking permission to harvest caps when you first go into a store. But I've found that just gives someone the opportunity to say No.”