The auction was conducted at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Davenport, Ia. It represented something of a departure for Matthews Auctions, a firm already established as the nation’s premier auction house for petroliana (gas station collectibles)
“The auction was a huge success and I’d like to do more of them, maybe at the same venue,” said Dan Matthews of Matthews Auctions, LLC. “We had a great single-owner lifetime collection of motorcycle memorabilia out of Texas, much of it Harley-related. It included vintage clothing, posters, parts, signs and accessories. The market and demand for these items is strong.”
Between 125-150 people packed the Clarion Hotel, a good percentage of them big fans of Harley-Davidson. Prices of vintage clothing seemed to be strong, as one online bidder spent $15,000 on clothing alone. About 200 people registered to bid online, through Proxibid.com. By the time the final gavel came down, 650 lots had changed hands and everyone went home happy.
“It wasn’t our biggest-grossing sale ever, but it was a fun sale,” Mr. Matthews said. “The motorcycle memorabilia overall commanded nice high prices, and that was especially true for the signs. Certain accessory items totally took me by surprise. For example, we had a 1939 Harley-Davidson wind sock, 11 inches long, in very good condition, that sold for an amazing $4,400.”
The Harley cardboard sign was the auction’s top-selling lot. It came with a separately framed bonus: related documentation that included an invoice, a letter on Harley-Davidson stationery and an original Harley-Davidson envelope. The documentation showed Harley owed the recipient ten cents, which it hoped to resolve by attaching two five-cent stamps to the letter.
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include a 10 percent buyer’s premium.
Other Harley lots that did well included a single-sided, rolled edge tin chalkboard sign (“Use Genuine Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Oil / Change Every 1,000 Miles”), rated 7.5 for condition, 24 inches by 17 inches ($4,125); and an embossed single-sided tin self-framed sign (“Harley Davidson Sales & Service, Plainview, Texas”), a 29 inch by 29 inch square ($3.300).
A Harley-Davidson handle bar grip-style cigarette lighter, 2 ¾ inches long, made $1,045; an ornate brass fender fixture showing the Harley-Davidson eagle on bar and shield logo fetched $1,760; a Harley-Davidson bottle opener/spinner accessory, in good condition, went for $1,045; and a Harley-Davidson men’s mesh shirt, large (“Relic Riders, Auburn, Mass.”) breezed to $990.
Indian Motorcycle lots included a Champion brand long-sleeved pullover shirt with appliqué back and silk-screened from showing the Indian logo, with a helmet having an applied 1959 AMA tour award, hand-painted ($2,090); a mirror in a wooden frame, advertising Indian “Moto-Cycles”
Top lots in the petroliana category included a Veltex (“100% Pennsylvania Motor Oil”) double-sided porcelain sign, rated 9+/8.9, 7 inches by 11 inches ($6,160); a Hancock Gasoline (“Early Rooster”) porcelain pump plate sign, with great gloss and color, rated 9+ ($6,050); and a Signal Diesel Fuel porcelain pump plate sign, rated 9, measuring 12 inches in diameter ($5,500).
Rounding out the other top achievers in the petroliana category, a Vico Motor Oil Pep 88 Gasoline porcelain pump plate sign with great color and gloss and rated near-mint at 9+, 10 inches in diameter, topped out at $4,675; and a Fortune Gasoline porcelain pump plate sign with Mercury holding a car logo, 12 inches in diameter, rated highly at 9, changed hands for $4,400.
Matthews Auctions' next big sale will be the 2013 Fall Peotone Petroliana & Automobilia Auction slated for Thursday and Friday, Oct. 17-18, in Peotone, Ill. The event will be held prior to the start of the big Chicagoland Petroliana & Advertising Show, held twice a year in Peotone. Hundreds of lots of petroliana and automobilia, plus a few motorcycle items, will be offered.
Dan Matthews has written a book about petroliana, titled The Fine Art of Collecting Petroliana. For information on how to order a copy, please log on to the Matthews Auctions, LLC website, at www.matthewsauctions.com. For more information about Matthews Auctions, LLC, and the upcoming Oct. 17-18 sale in Peotone, please log on to www.matthewsauctions.com.