Poster Auctions International, Inc.
ANONYMOUS, Campbell’s Soups- $52,800
ANONYMOUS Campbell’s Soups. ca. 1905 Size 39 1/2 x 27 1/2 in./100.3 x 70 cm Condition Tin sign, with usual scrapes & grommet holes. Framed. This embossed tin sign of soup cans arranged to simulate the American flag remains an icon among early American advertising. It is estimated that there are no more than six copies extant, and it has been sold at auction for $100,000. Part of the appeal is its history: When first produced for in-store displays, there was a furor about the supposed desecration of the flag, and the company immediately recalled and destroyed all of them. Apparently, they have also tried to erase all memory of the sign, as a call to their museum elicits the reply that they have never heard of it. More importantly, the appeal is the image itself: “The reasons this sign is held in such high regard are many, and include its extreme rarity, its extraordinary design, the reverence collectors have for the American flag, the prominence and longevity of the Campbell’s soup brand (which continues to this day), and the manner in which the design of the sign foreshadows the Pop Art Movement of the 1960s (which also featured Campbell’s soup cans as well as American flags as important design elements). The tremendous size ... colors, rarity and overall appeal combine to make this one of the very few, and certainly most famous and classic, of all early American advertising items” (from a 2003 auction catalog). No doubt, the tin sign grew out of the tin box industry. Douglas Congdon-Martin provides valuable background on tin printing in his America for Sale: “The first commercial use of lithography on tin began in 1877 ... in England. [Stone lithography] was replaced with thin zinc sheets introduced in 1895, making the process much simpler. By 1903 a rotary offset lithograph had been introduced from a rounded metal sheet to a rubber roller and then to the tin ... After printing, the tins were heated in an oven to harden the printing and protect against cracking when they were embossed and cut. Because of the decoration, the cutting technology had to be made much more accurate than it had been with undecorated tin” (pp. 12-13). Beach, who printed this sign, incorporated his firm in Coshocton, Ohio, in December of 1901. Year ca. 1905 Price Est: $30000-$40000 Auction LVIII, 168 September 2012, Sold: $52,800
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