(Ann Arbor, Mich.) – An extremely rare El-Bart Dry Gin tin advertising sign, made in 1905 for the Wilson Distilling Company by Kaufmann & Strauss Co., Lithographers, of New York, sold for $60,500 at the sale of The George Cross Collection held April 11-13 at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor. The auction was staged by Showtime Auction Services, of Woodhaven, Mich.
“This was one of the finest collections of its kind in the United States,” said Mike Eckles of Showtime Auction Services. “Nearly everything Mr. Cross owned was in mint or near-mint condition. It was a treasure trove for serious collectors who were attracted to the high quality merchandise and the fact that every lot was sold without minimums or reserves. Everything went, regardless of price.”
In a sad footnote to what was otherwise a high-spirited and well-attended auction, Mr. Cross passed away just weeks before his collection crossed the block. His collection was huge, and included advertising and country store collectibles; Old West memorabilia; petroliana; coin-op; coffee grinders; gambling; Coca-Cola; occupational mugs; bronzes; barber shop items; automotive; and more.
By the end of the weekend, about 1,880 lots had changed hands. The El-Bart Dry Gin sign, still housed in its original gesso frame, was the sale’s top lot. About 500 people made it to the event, in addition to the nearly 2,000 registered online bidders (through eBay Live and iCollector.com). Also, over 1,000 phone bids and about 1,500 absentee were recorded. The sale grossed about $2.7 million.
“The results were just incredible,” Mr. Eckles said. “This auction will change the entire complexion of the advertising sign category. It had been strong, back in the ’80s, then it went soft, but now it’s back in a big way and this sale proved it. Signs were sailing past their high estimates to fetch unbelievably strong prices. People are hanging signs on their walls as fine art — and at fine art prices.”
Other highlights from the sale follow. All prices quoted include a buyer’s premium (10% for on-site bidders; 13% for credit card purchases; and 20% for phone, absentee and Internet bidders).
A stunning Buffalo Brewing Company tin charger (Sacramento, Calif.), in a gold gesso frame and in near-mint condition, was expected to bring about $12,000, but soared to $57,750. Also, a rare Buffalo Brewing Company reverse glass sign (for Buffalo Beer), arguably one of the most beautiful reverse glass signs ever made — near-mint and in a gold leaf gesso frame — rose to $50,850.
An H. Guggenheimer & Co., reverse glass sign (Distillers of Fine Whiskies, Cincinnati, Ohio; Napoleon Wine Co., Napoleon, Ohio), possibly a one-of-a-kind and in near-mint condition, with a sepia-tone image of a nude at a dressing table, achieved $38,500. Also, a rare Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad reverse glass sign with mother-of-pearl inlay (¾ view), in mint condition, hit $36,000.
An extremely rare Henry Hunter Fine Old Rye Whiskey tin sign, titled “East Meets West” (A. Hirschman & Co., Proprietors, St. Paul, Minn.; Tuscarora Advertising Co. Lithographers, Coshocton, Ohio), gaveled for $38,500; and a Days of 49 Whiskey paper sign (Meyerfield, Mitchell & Co., San Francisco), 43? x 30? overall, in its original frame and in excellent condition, made $33,000.
A Cyrus Noble Whiskey paper gambling scene sign titled “Bucking the Tiger” — framed under glass in a period oak frame – went for $28,600; a Huylers Chocolates and St. Nicholas Pepsin Gum coin-operated porcelain candy and gum one-cent vendor fetched $27,600; and a rare Wells Fargo & Co. Express two-sided sand sign, wood, measuring 31? x 15-1/4?, found a new owner for $27,500.
A Winchester paper sign (the rare American version, measuring 13? x 31?, image only), in near-mint condition, commanded $25,300; a P.T. Barnum & Co. Greatest Show on Earth paper sign, framed under glass and in a period oak frame (39-1/2? x 36-1/2?), reached $25,800; and a Tackle Trade Symbol, tin with gold wash and in very good condition (36? long), found a new owner for $25,200.
A Gordon Motor Car Supplies paper sign depicting a man putting a tire cover on, with original bands top and bottom and framed under glass in a period oak frame (17? x 25? image) brought $24,200; a Pulvers Chocolate & Cocoa Gum one-cent coin-operated embossed tin dispenser (1899) hit $22,550; and a Dr. Leisures Veterinary Cabinet with embossed tin front (21? x 21?) reached $22,000.
A Schells Carbonated Mead Paper sign from 1908, with incredible color and graphics and in near-mint condition, framed under glass, changed hands for $19,250; an American hand-carved walnut long horn steer rack with oak horns (circa 1880s), with exceptional detailing (30? wide x 36? tall) realized $17,600; and a complete cast iron bull perfumer, the rare one-cent version, made $17,050.
A Cooks Water embossed paper sign showing a pretty Victorian woman, framed under glass with a period oak frame, brought $16,500; a nickel-activated bicycle trade stimulator in which the mechanism activates the wheels, in excellent working order, saw a top bid of $16,200; and a rare Wells Fargo & Co. Wooden Express treasure box, the perfect symbol of the Gold Rush Era, rose to $14,300.
An Atlantic White Lead Dutch Boy Paint die cut tin string holder in all-original, near-mint condition (14-1/2? x 32?) hammered for $15,400; a Marlin Repeating Rifles & Shotguns paper sign depicting two men in a canoe by the artist Philip R. Goodwin, original bands top and bottom, went for $13,750; and a Teddy & the Lion mechanical bank with most of the original paint intact made $13,750.
A Wells Fargo & Co. Express Safe, made by the Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Co., one of only two known and in all-original, excellent condition gaveled for $13,560; a Grape Nuts self-framed tin sign depicting a little girl and a St. Bernard, in near-mint condition (20? x 30-1/2?) brought $13,200; and a Hires Root Beer embossed die-cut tin chain hanging sign, one of seven known, sold for $12,100.
A Hopkins & Allen Arms Co. firearms poster (referred to as The Prairie Girl), in a period oak frame and in near-mint condition (9-3/4? x 24-3/4?) soared to $11,000; a porcelain Murad Turkish Cigarettes two-sided flange sign in near-mint condition (12-1/2? x 20?) achieved $10,450; and a Y.B. Cigars cast-iron cigar lighter in the shape of a steer, with original etched globe, hammered for $9,350.
A Falstaff self-framed tin sign, titled “The Peace Maker” (31? x 23?), sold for $9,350; a bicycle discount wheel cigar trade stimulator, with oak cabinet and original key, garnered $8,800; an Enterprise coffee grinder, No. 9 (Philadelphia), with original paint and stenciling, made $8,250; and a Wave Crest tobacco jar with lid, unmarked, depicting a Native American buffalo hunt, reached $7,200.
Showtime Auction Services’ next big sale will be held the weekend of October 10-12, also at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor, Mich. The auction will feature The Sandy Rosnick Collection, as well as other selected estate items. Sold will be tobacciana; country store; soda fountain; general store; saloon; gambling; arcade; coin-op; advertising; showcases; fixtures; furniture; barber shop memorabilia; vintage toys; banks; salesman samples; Western Americana; glass; and more.
To learn more about Showtime Auction Services, click on www.showtimeauctions.com. The firm is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign a single item, an estate or collection, you may call Mike Eckles at (951) 453-2415. His e-mail address is [email protected]. Check the website as the October 10-12 sale approaches, for additional information and images of lots.