A high octane lineup of gas and oil signs, including a fresh collection from Canada that yielded many rarities, catapulted Morphy’s October 5-7, 2019, Automobilia & Petroliana Auction to $2.8 million. Even when bids rose to two and three times the high estimate, there was no shortage of enthusiastic participants, including many who were brand new to the hobby.
A menagerie of motoring mascots dominated the top 10, starting with an extremely rare Buffalo Brand Gasoline, Oils and Greases (Winnipeg, Manitoba) embossed tin sign promoting Electro Gasoline and English Motor Oil. One of few known examples of its type, the 60- by 36-inch sign featuring the image of a stern faced buffalo, condition 7.5+, thundered past its $5,000-$10,000 estimate to stop at $43,050.
Three eye-catching pieces of advertising emblazoned with the Bengal Gasoline leaping tiger were among the sale’s leaders. A Bengal Pep & Power porcelain sign, 66 by 36 inches in condition 8.9+, was described in Morphy’s catalog as being “one of the rarest signs in all of the gas and oil hobby.” It sold above its high estimate for $40,590. Two different lots containing a stunning Bengal Green Gasoline 15-inch single-globe gas pump globe lens with a bright and glossy tiger graphic also handily surpassed estimate. Each landed at $19,200.
Anyone who has taken a leisurely Sunday drive in the countryside has probably passed a dairy, but the days are long gone when one might see a roadside sign as attractive as the one Morphy’s offered for Coors Dairy. The double-sided die-cut porcelain neon sign with Art Deco styling and the image of a figural cow illuminated flawlessly in vivid green and red. Garnering 33 bids, the condition 7.9+ sign swept past its $10,000-$20,000 estimate to settle at $43,520.
An exceptional 1954 Marathon Gasoline die-cut porcelain sign with a classical image of a marathon runner, graded 9.0 and 8.9+ respectively on its pictorial sides, crossed the finish line at an estimate-topping $22,800. A 48-inch (diameter) porcelain sign from Enarco/White Rose Gasoline, emblazoned with the Canadian company’s trademark “slate boy,” raced past its $3,500-$6,000 estimate to sell for $15,600; while a very clean and complete Firestone Tires porcelain neon sign that appeared to be new-old stock commanded $16,800.
A rare Federal (Philadelphia) neon clock with a green, red and white Texaco Gasoline & Motor Oil marquee was in excellent working order and ready for functional use. A good-looking timekeeper whose original paint showed only minor age wear, it was bid to $9,600 against an estimate of $3,000-$5,000.
Several non-petroleum related signs found favor with the audience. A Five Roses Flour porcelain sign with a Native American graphic went twice its high estimate and then some, reaching $12,300. An exceptional example of a 1939 “Drink Coca-Cola – Fountain Service” sign in 9.0+ condition served up a winning bid of $6,150 against a presale estimate of $1,500-$2,500.
An outstanding Wayne Roman-column gasoline pump with an illuminating glass cylinder was restored in Richfield Gasoline’s trademark yellow and cobalt blue livery. It went to a new owner who paid $27,675. Also, a very desirable, 1910 Maryland porcelain dealer license plate led a selection of early plates, clinching $8,610 – a remarkable 17 times the high estimate.
After the sale, Morphy Auctions president and founder Dan Morphy described the event as “an absolute blockbuster,” adding, “We were thrilled to have several outstanding collections to offer bidders, including that great collection from Canada, which grabbed a lot of attention at the preview. I don’t think any auctioneer could have asked for a better lineup.”