If a Rock Island Railroad sign rings a bell, it’s because another sign for the same railroad, also from around the turn of the century but of a different size and look, soared to $165,000 at Showtime’s last big auction, held April 1-3, also in Ann Arbor. It was the most ever paid for an advertising sign, a record that still stands today. Both signs were housed in original gilt frames.
The 8-foot sign (99 inches by 24 inches overall) was designed by the same maker of the Pullman Car chandeliers. It was given to the Western Sandblasting Company in Chicago, with a contract to produce 50 more. It is also quite possibly the only one with verbiage on the original frame and sign. It was considered highly desirable to collectors, with the train in the foreground.
The auction attracted around 250 people a day on the first two days and about 200 people on the last day. Internet bidding (facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.com and iCollector.com)
“This was our biggest and best fall auction ever, no doubt,” said Michael Eckles of Showtime Auction Services. “I was very pleased with the level of Internet bidding activity, which I know was driven by factors such as increased travel costs and the hassles of airport security. But the in-house crowd was great, too, and they really got into the spirit of the event.”
Headlining the auction was the lifetime country store, advertising and toy collection of Mike and Colleen Empey. The sale also featured barber shop, coin-op, gambling, folk art, toys, banks, Coca-Cola and other soda, gum, candy, firearms and gunpowder, tobacciana, coffee, salesmen’s samples, whiskey, breweriana, petroliana, automobilia, match safes and pedal cars.
Following are additional highlights from the sale. All prices quoted include a 10 percent buyer’s premium for in-house sales or an 18 percent buyer’s premium for Internet bidders.
A circa-1880s Cigar Store Indian attributed to Thomas Brooks, 69 inches tall, in excellent condition, brought $49,500; a Yuengling’s Beer reverse glass sign, made by the John L. Dawes Mfg. Co. (Pottsdown, Pa.), in near-mint condition, realized $43,125; and a Moose Beer reverse glass sign, made by Duluth & Malting Brewing Co. (Duluth, Minn.), near-mint, rose to $38,500.
An extremely rare John Deere sand and wood one-sided sign, one of only two known and in excellent condition, breezed to $14,960; a rare oak six-foot double tower showcase with nickel corners (69 inches by 35 inches), in remarkable shape, climbed to $13,750; and a scarce Heinz Pickles string holder, near-mint and the best example ever offered by Showtime, made $12,100.
A circa-1840s museum-quality Dutch child’s sled, exquisitely hand-painted with swans and other birds and in excellent condition, with a beautiful patina, coasted to $12,100; an inlaid gold quartz match safe with multi-colored diamond pattern and engraved detail throughout went for $10,620; and an Oak Motor Oil two-sided ‘lollipop’
An Alcazar cigar tin with exceptional graphics and color, made by the American Can Co., in mint condition, commanded $9,350; a Rodeo Coffee 5-pound pail with bale and “Let-R-Buck”
A DeLaval Cream Separators self-framed tin sign made by H.D. Beach Co. (Coshocton, Ohio), 25 ¾ inches in diameter, hammered for $5,775; a hand-carved shotgun trade sign, 65 ½ inches long and in excellent condition, rose to $5,500; and an oak, nickel-cornered, curved glass showcase with original brass tag made by Excelsior Showcase Co. (Quincy, Ill.), fetched $4,950.
A Swift Wing sand and painted wood trade sign, beautifully constructed and in superb condition (41 inches by 11 inches) garnered $4,675; a hanging apothecary show globe and original griffin bracket, with no chips or cracks (22 inches tall) finished at $4,675; and a Johnson Halter papier-mâché
A Sampson Bachrach Collar Button store display, with original brass tag and decals and collar button finial on top, brought $4,125; a Super Greyhound Motor Fuel porcelain sign, 58 inches by 34 inches, crossed the block for $4,125; a circa-1950s near-mint White Owl cigar tin made $3,025; and an R. O. Beitel jeweler’s watch trade sign, 16 inches by 25 inches, hit $3,960.
A scrimshaw ivory tusk, 8 inches in length and decorated with the images of three women, went to a determined bidder for $2,950; a Signal Gas round porcelain tin sign, 72 inches in diameter and in excellent condition, found a new owner for $2,200; and a Sharpleigh’s Razor Blade store display case with product, wood and glass with original decals, finished at $1,210.
Showtime Auction Services’ next big sale will be an absentee Internet auction, slated to end Jan. 28, 2012, at 6 p.m. (EST). Offered will be around 300 lots in a wide array of categories. Then, on Mar. 30-Apr. 1, 2012, Showtime will hold a huge live auction at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor, Mich. Sold will be 2,000 lots, similar to what changed hands in this sale. Featured will be the best collection of original pedal cars Showtime has ever offered.
Showtime Auction Services is based in Woodhaven, Mich. The firm is always accepting quality items for future sales. To consign an item, an estate or a collection, you may call Michael Eckles at 951-453-2415;
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Ken Hall writes pre-sale and post-sale press releases for auction houses, for a fee. He writes, submits and tracks stories for clients. Submissions are published in trade magazines, posted on industry websites and appear in local newspapers.