PHOTOGRAPHS BY MICHAEL FOUNTAINE
Since 1969, Michael Fountaine has been obsessively collecting every piece of McDonald’s memorabilia he can get his hands on. His collection, which he says is valued “in the millions of dollars,” features 75,000 pieces in total.
Since he was 15 years old, Michael Fountaine has been a part of the McDonald’s family. “I have ketchup in my blood,” Fountaine tells Mental Floss. In 1969, on the one-year anniversary of his time working with McDonald’s, Fountaine received a commemorative lapel pin from his manager. This pin was the first piece in what would become the largest collection of McDonald’s items in the world.
Since 1969, Fountaine has been obsessively collecting, restoring, and preserving every piece of McDonald’s memorabilia that he can get his hands on. His collection, which he says is valued “in the millions of dollars,” features 75,000 pieces in total, including 99 percent of the Happy Meal toys ever released.
Fountaine has a love of symbols of Americana. In addition to his McDonald’s memorabilia, he also has a collection of Marilyn Monroe wine bottles, and he owns about 300 Coca-Cola pieces. He firmly believes that American symbols are “something we can all be proud of ... McDonald’s, like Coca-Cola, is an iconic American company. I’d like people to keep these symbols restored and not let them fall apart. We all need to do a better job of preserving our history. You wouldn’t want to see the Statue of Liberty fall apart, would you?”
Fountaine recently acquired a 1962 McDonald’s road sign from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It’s a classic item that Fountaine had been pursuing for years. In Fountaine’s eyes, the sign is a quintessential symbol of Americana. At 26 feet tall and 25 feet wide, the sign is the largest item in his collection. “I love that piece,” Fountaine says. “I’m working on restoring it. We’re putting 300 man-hours into it to over the next few years to make it look good.”
Fountaine is doing what he can to preserve the integrity of American symbols, a necessary feat in his eyes. With every new item he adds to his record-breaking collection, Fountaine is one step closer to achieving his goal.
Fountaine was kind enough to share the 12 items in his McDonald’s collection that mean the most to him with us.
"This is a 1962 McDonald’s road sign from Columbia Avenue in Lancaster, Pennsylvania," says Michael Fountaine (who is on the left). "The road sign needed to be taken down recently due to structural issues, and I was happy to add this rare piece to my collection. I offered the previous owner a donation to the Ronald McDonald Camp and a donation to the Hershey, Pennsylvania Ronald McDonald House. Both charities help children with cancer."
Fountaine has stated that his ultimate goal in building his collection is to, “create a world-class museum similar to The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia. Proceeds of the museum would go to the Ronald McDonald Camp for children."
"This is the Ronald Award, given to me in 1986 for Regional and Community Service," says Fountaine. "This pewter statue, given to McDonald’s owners for outstanding leadership and community involvement, is one of the highest awards a McDonald's owner can receive. It’s the piece I’m most proud of. Very few people receive this award. To me, it’s priceless."
"This is the oldest item in my collection," says Fountaine. "If you watched the movieThe Founder, this is a straw from Dick and Mac's McDonald's Restaurant # 1 in San Bernardino, California. The text says, 'We have sold over 7 million custom-built hamburgers.'"
"Here’s the Dallas Cowboys Super Box 11 (Happy Meal box #2) and Dallas Cowboys Super Box 111 (Happy Meal box #3)," says Fountaine. "Each Happy Meal Box had two player trading cards on it. The trading cards were the Happy Meal toy. This piece is very rare. I am missing the Happy Meal Box # 1. I would love to find it ... Box 2 has NFL players Don Meredith and Bob Lilly. Box 3 had Roger Staubach and Walt Garrison."
"Here’s my Giant Happy Meal Box," says Fountaine. "This was a display box that was promoting the first National Happy Meal, which was 'Circus Wagon' in 1979. I believe it is the only one in existence."
"At the bottom of this picture in the center is an old-style McDonald's 'Red & White' Restaurant made out of LEGO blocks," says Fountaine. "This is one of six of this item in the world. At the left and right, are two large wood and steel soda fountain barrels. These items are from the late 1950s."
"This is a 1961 Slashed Arch McDonald's metal waste can made by Bennet Manufacturing Company Alden, New York," says Fountaine. "It's the only one remaining in the world that I am aware of."
"This Coast to Coast sign was part of my 1964 McDonald's Road Sign," says Fountaine. "The old McDonald’s character Speedee originally held a sign in McDonald’s locations that read '15 Cents.' When Ray Kroc raised the price, he changed the sign to read 'Coast to Coast.' This is a very rare piece."
"This is a life-size Mac Tonight character from the 1987 McDonald’s commercials," says Fountaine. "When people see him, they think he's a real person and they get startled."
"Here’s an extremely rare application to be a franchise owner in 1957," says Fountaine. "This came from Ray Kroc's office at 221 North LaSalle Street in Chicago, Illinois."
"This blue McDonald's Crest Jacket belonged to Fred L. Turner, who was McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc's first grill-man at the first Corporate McDonald's in Des Plaines, Illinois," says Fountaine. "The jacket was given to me by the Turner family after Fred's passing."
"This is my first year service lapel pin that was given to me in November of 1969," says Fountaine. "This is the lapel pin that started my whole collection. I now have over 25,000 lapel pins on display in my office. I started with McDonald's on November 27, 1968, at age 15, and I earned $1.15 an hour."