Auction Report: 1906 Rock Island Railroad Reverse Glass Sign Nets $71,500

This 1906 Rock Island Railroad reverse glass train sign, measuring eight feet long and in the original frame, netted $71,500 in an auction facilitated by Showtime Auction Services.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – An 8-foot-long 1906 Rock Island Railroad reverse glass train sign brought $71,500 at an auction held Sept.30-Oct. 2 by Showtime Auction Services, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor. It was a new auction record for an 8-foot Rock Island sign, more than doubling the previous record of $30,000. It was also the top lot of the sale.

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.

This Yeungling’s Beer reverse glass sign, made by the John L. Dawes Mfg. Co., drew a $43,125-winning bid.

The 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 and iCollector) was brisk, with nearly 1,500 online bidders (a record for Showtime). Phone and absente bids were also recorded. Overall, close to 2,000 lots changed hands in an auction that grossed $1.6 million.

“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.

This Alcazar cigar tin manufactured by the American Can Company in mint condition sold for $9,350.

• 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’ porcelain sign, near mint, made $10,350.

• 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” image on both sides, made by the H.E. Starbrooks Co., Ltd. (Winnipeg, Man.), brought $7,150; and a Pratts Veterinary Remedies (Philadelphia) tin front store cabinet realized $6,900.

This Oak Motor Oil “lollipop” porcelain two-sided sign in near-mint condition hammered for $10,350.

• 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 trade sign with the original manufacturer’s label on back went for $4,400.

• 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.

For more information about this auction, call 951.453.2415, e-mail to MikEckles@aool.com or visit the Showtime Auction Services website.

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