DENVER, Pa. – The serious players in automobilia and petroliana collecting canceled any existing plans once the word got out that a spectacular private collection would be headlining Morphy’s October 8 auction. “It was one of the biggest gallery turnouts for a gas and oil sale that we’ve had for years,” said Morphy’s Automobilia & Petroliana division head John Mihovetz. “The attraction was the collection of more than 400 lots that were in 9 or 9-plus condition. There was a lot of buzz about the auction beforehand, and we sensed that bidding would be strong.” Several new records were set during the 747-lot sale, which included absentee and Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers and grossed over $2.1 million. All prices quoted here include a 20% buyer’s premium, per Morphy’s pre-stated terms.
Collectors tipped their hats to the envy-stirring porcelain gas sign [see top of page] that led prices realized at $66,000, a new auction record for a sign of its particular type. Publicizing Red Hat Royal 400 Gasoline, the richly colorful 48-inch-diameter sign had been held in the same private collection for more than 25 years and was “one of the better examples ever to be publicly sold,” said Mihovetz.
Also widely regarded as one of the most sought-after advertising items in the gas and oil hobby, a porcelain sign touting Houston Gasoline bore the striking image of Texas patriot Sam Houston on horseback. It drew 18 bids and swept past its $25,000 high estimate to settle at a record $33,600. Its next destination? “It’s headed for the Lone Star State,” Mihovetz said.
The $21,600 price achieved by a very rare sign advertising Cosden Liquid Gas Horsepower Plus Special was “an absolute shocker,” Mihovetz said. “However, it’s the only example of this sign that I know of that has ever appeared at auction.” Emblazoned with a stylized image of four horses in bright primary colors, the sign approached the auction block with a $5,000-$8,000 estimate and attracted 28 bids before ending its high-octane bidding run.
Other signage highlights included a very rare 30-inch porcelain Marathon Gas & Motor Oil curb sign featuring the image of a classical athlete with the tagline: “Best In The Long Run.” Super-clean and retaining vivid coloration, it set a record for its type and size, at $22,800.
Bidders also clamored for a Sunoco Motor Oil die-cut porcelain flange sign that rose to $11,400 against a $4,000-$6,000 estimate. “There were multiple veteran collectors after that piece because it’s the finest known example ever to be offered publicly. The new owner will never need an upgrade,” Mihovetz said.“
Graphics, condition and rarity were also on the minds of gas globe buyers. “Some gas globes are seen as works of art, and this sale produced some of the rarest globes in the best possible condition, like the one for Husky Gasoline,” said Mihovetz. All original on an orange ripple body, with a stunning image of a husky dog against a backdrop of the Arctic Northern Lights, the globe was a visual knockout. With pre-sale expectations of $14,000-$18,000, it was chased to $24,000.
Flying even higher, a fantastic Gregory Independent Oil globe lens for Aerio Gas was a bidder favorite with its appealing image of a primitive airplane against a bank of towering blue clouds. On a mint-green ripple body and graded a firm 9.0, it was an example that would be “very hard to improve on,” Mihovetz said. It surpassed its $15,000-$20,000 estimate to land at $28,800.
Vintage gas pumps are highly prized by petroliana enthusiasts, and whenever an example as rare and beautiful as the Wayne “Roman Column” 10-gallon visible pump auctioned by Morphy’s becomes available, collectors put the pedal to the metal. Superbly restored in Sinclair Gasoline’s distinctive green and white motif, and in all-original condition with no reproduction parts, it hit the midpoint of its estimate at $30,750.
Useful accessories that once adorned the walls of America’s “filling stations,” pictorial advertising thermometers were snapped up at prices as high as $5,227.50. That was what one bidder paid for a Red Crown Gasoline & Motor Oil thermometer that promised “Power Mileage.”
“It was such a privilege to present this collection to the public,” said Mihovetz, who was personally involved throughout the auction process, from brokering the consignment deal to cataloging and working with Morphy’s marketing team to ensure maximum exposure for the sale. “An added bonus was knowing that the auction catalog, with its exceptional color photography, would become a must-have reference book for collectors in the future.”