The Quikoin was named as one of the top five promotional products of the 20th century by Promotional Products Association International, the industry trade group.
AKRON, Ohio — Mike Burns will make you a bet: If you’re over 40, you probably had one of his products a long, long time ago.
And thinking about it will probably give you a bit of a warm fuzzy.
Burns is the third generation to lead production of the Quikoin coin purse, created in Akron in 1951.
For the next three decades, the palm-size rubber coin carriers were all the rage — produced by the tens of millions.
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They were typically handed out as freebies by restaurants, banks and other businesses that had the coin carriers manufactured bearing their name or some memorable message.
Burns loves his company’s place in history. The Quikoin was named as one of the top five promotional products of the 20th century by Promotional Products Association International, the industry trade group.
He knows tens of millions of people had one of the flat coin holders, or they remember their grandpa or dad toting one around.
“When you hand it to a baby boomer, they’ll smile and rub it or open it and smell it,” Burns said. “Then they’ll tell you a story, like how their Uncle Jim had one stuffed with quarters and would hand them out to the kids.
“People relive these moments when they see a Quikoin. It’s an instant time-travel back.”
Burns beams with pride that Frank Sinatra always carried a Quikoin so change didn’t jingle in his pocket when he was on stage.
But just as typewriters have been made virtually obsolete by computers, the popularity of Quikoins has subsided somewhat. We live in a pay-with-plastic society where even some vending machines accept credit cards. Coins, schmoins. Who needs them?
Plus, the Quikoin hasn’t changed with inflation. The rubber, oval-shaped thingamabob holds about $3 in quarters and dimes comfortably. That was a lot of money in the 1950s.
Today, you’d need $24.28 to have the same buying power, but the Quikoin still holds only about $3.
Despite that, the Quikoin has persevered and has even made a resurgence the last two to three years, Burns said.
The product, sold entirely through distributors and not available in stores, is perhaps the most recognized product of Quikey Manufacturing. But it’s just a small part of Quikey’s business.
The 250-employee company, still in Akron, makes a slew of doodads, including rubber key chains, magnets, ID holders and luggage tags.
The Quikoin, however, is coming back in vogue, with 2 million sold each year. “It’s a nostalgia item,” Burns said.
The coin purses routinely sell among collectors for much more than their actual value. They cost about 70 cents each to buy in bulk. Last week, several were sold on eBay for $5 to $7 each, plus shipping.
Quikoins are also being used in new ways. The company routinely hears stories about people who love using them to store earrings, guitar picks or condoms.
The attraction of the Quikoin — or any of Quikey’s other promotional tchotchkes — is that a company’s logo or message never rubs off. You can’t scratch it off. It lives forever.
The company logo is actually manufactured into the product with colorized rubber. The logo isn’t added after production; it’s part of production.
“What can I buy for 70 cents that can get that many ad impressions?” Burns said.
The Quikoin was conceived by Burns’ grandfather, Ben Stiller, who originally created a rubber case to hold the two keys that many vehicles required (one for the door and one for the ignition). The company was taken over by Burns’ uncle, then passed to Burns and his brother and cousin.
The patent on the Quikoin ran out years ago, but competitors haven’t quite been able to duplicate the technology, Burns said.
In fact, the company is so secretive within the walls of its small, rather drab old factory that it won’t allow photographs of the production line.
The Quikoin may be past its prime, Burns recognizes, which is why the company manufactures a 3-by-2-inch rubber credit-card holder. But many people do still use the Quikoin for coins, he said.
If the United States ever goes to a completely cashless society, “that’s probably the ultimate death knell of this kind of product,” he said.