Published: May 3, 2011
A Rock Island Railroad reverse glass sign, made in 1890 by an employee of the firm who fashioned reverse glass lamp shades for the Pullman cars, sold for $165,000 at an auction conducted April 1″ by Showtime Auctions at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds. The 54-by-43-inch piece was housed in the original gilt frame.
“Not only was the sign the earliest and most important piece of advertising ever made for the Rock Island Railroad, the price realized was the most ever paid for an advertising sign,” said Michael Eckles of Showtime Auctions, adding, “The previous record was $66,000, set at one of my previous auctions.” The Rock Island sign had been in the same family for more than 80 years.
The auction was a huge success by anybody’s yardstick. Nearly 1,900 lots changed hands, and by the time it was all over the sale had grossed just under $3 million. About 800 floor bidders attended the event over the course of the three days, grabbing 69 percent of all lots sold. Online bidding saw a 23 percent sell-through.
Headlining the auction was the Earl Hagerman collection of country store and advertising items, many pieces from the Chesapeake Bay Fire Fighting Museum in Maryland and more than 200 rare and vintage toys out of Kansas.
Another lot that exceeded the $100,000 mark was a professionally restored 1870 T.J. Coolidge horse-drawn hose cart used for firefighting. It soared to $110,000 and featured an etched glass with clear and cobalt blue lantern and retractable swiveling hose nozzles on the back. A related lot †a fully restored 1919 American LaFrance fire truck †commanded $60,500.
A 1910 Allen’s Red Tame Cherry embossed die-cut easel-back sign, titled “Drink Allen’s Red Tame Cherry and You’ll Smile, Too” (American Artworks, Coshocton, Ohio), in near-mint condition, gaveled for $55,200; and a rare Ferris Corsets tin die-cut two-sided store display, with both sides in near mint condition, 20 by 25 by 14 inches, hit $17,825.
A late Nineteenth Century cigar store Indian chief, carved by Thomas Brooks (1828‱895), who mentored such renowned carvers as Samuel Robb, 76 inches tall, in very good condition with the original paint still intact, breezed to $51,750. Speaking of tobacco, a Polar Chewing & Smoking Tobacco tin store bin in original condition topped out at $5,750.
A rare Gilt Edge Whiskey paper sign titled “A Treat That Can’t Be Beat,” in the original frame, measuring 29 by 23½ inches overall, realized $46,750. Also, an equally scarce Old Prentice Whisky label-under-glass saloon display bottle (J.T.S. Brown & Sons, Distillers, Louisville, Ky.), 17 inches tall, brought $18,400.
A pair of hard-to-find Five Jacks Whiskey items both did well. A paper sign with unique graphics illustrating Uncle Sam, gambling and Indian and a cowboy, framed under glass, 25 by 20 inches, fetched $24,750, while a multicolored enamel pinch bottle with card suit motif, 6½ inches tall and with no visible chips or cracks, hit $16,500.
A collection of 12 salesman’s sample canes, with each shaft bearing a different wood and measuring about 18 inches in length, arranged on an easel display (Gerlach-Barklow Co., Joliet, Ill.), demanded $21,450. Also, a colonial-era Philadelphia volunteer fire hat (“7”), made of waterproof wool by Garvin & Cutter (Boston), made $10,925.
A Mr Peanut “tapper’ (used for a window display to tap on the window, to get the customer’s attention), 28 inches tall, with some repaint and without a cane but in otherwise very good working condition, went for $20,900; and a Patterson’s Toothache Wax store display jar with label under glass with ground glass collar and lid rose to $8,000.
A rare Sunset Trailers cigar round tin (“2 for 5”), stamped “Factory No. 854, 13th Dist., O” and measuring 5 by 4¾ inches hammered for $17,050; while a Johnson’s Log Cabin Coffee tin store bin, 24 by 28 by 18 inches, topped out at $11,500.
A Buddy L pressed steel toy trench digger (No. 400, circa 1928″1), 24 inches long, sold for $16,500; a Buddy L pressed steel toy oil truck (Model No. 2003, circa 1930″2), 24 inches long, with enclosed cab and doors that open, garnered $12,100; and a Ford Service arrow-shaped two-sided neon steel sign found a buyer for $9,775.
All prices quoted include a 10 percent buyer’s premium. For additional information, www.ShowtimeAuctions.com or 951-453-2415.
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