Rock Island Railroad sign fetches $165,000 at Showtime Auctions A magnificent Rock Island Railroad reverse glass sign, made in 1890 by an employee of the firm, sold for $165,000 at an auction held April 1-3 by Showtime Auctions in Ann Arbor, Mich.
News-Antique.com - Apr 13,2011 - (ANN ARBOR, Mich.) – A magnificent Rock Island Railroad reverse glass sign, made in 1890 by an employee of the firm who fashioned reverse glass lamp shades for the Pullman cars, sold for $165,000 at an auction held April 1-3 by Showtime Auctions, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds. The 54 inch by 43 inch piece was beautifully housed in the original gilt frame.
“Not only was the sign the earliest and most important piece of advertising ever made for the Rock Island Railroad, the price realized was the most ever paid for an advertising sign,” said Michael Eckles of Showtime Auctions, adding, “The previous record was $66,000, set at one of my previous auctions.” The Rock Island sign had been in the same family for over 80 years.
The auction was a huge success by anybody’s yardstick. Nearly 1,900 lots changed hands, and by the time it was all over the sale had grossed just under $3 million. About 800 floor bidders attended the event over the course of the three days, grabbing 69 percent of all lots sold. Online bidding -- via iCollector.com and LiveAuctioneers.com -- saw a 23 percent sell-through.
Headlining the auction was the Earl Hagerman collection of country store and advertising items, many pieces from the Chesapeake Bay Fire Fighting Museum in Maryland, and over 200 rare and vintage toys out of Kansas. “Nearly every lot that crossed the block was an investment-grade, quality collectible item,” Mr. Eckles said. “It was easily the best sale we’ve ever had.”
Another lot that exceeded the $100,000 mark was a professionally restored 1870 T.J. Coolidge horse-drawn hose cart (#1), used for firefighting. It soared to $110,000 and featured an etched glass with clear and cobalt blue lantern, and retractable swiveling hose nozzles on the back. A related lot – a fully restored 1919 American LaFrance fire truck – commanded $60,500.
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include a 10 percent buyer’s premium.
A 1910 Allen’s Red Tame Cherry embossed die-cut easel-back sign, titled “Drink Allen’s Red Tame Cherry and You’ll Smile, Too” (American Artworks, Coshocton, Oh.), in near-mint condition, gaveled for $55,200; and an extremely rare Ferris Corsets tin die-cut two-sided store display, with both sides in near mint condition, 20 inches by 25 inches by 14 inches, hit $17,825.
A late 19th century Cigar Store Indian Chief, beautifully carved by Thomas Brooks (N.Y., 1828-1895), who mentored such renowned carvers as Samuel Robb, 76 inches tall, in very good condition with the original paint still intact, breezed to $51,750. Speaking of tobacco, a Polar Chewing & Smoking Tobacco tin store bin in excellent original condition topped out at $5,750.
An extremely rare Gilt Edge Whiskey paper sign titled “A Treat That Can’t Be Beat,” in the original mat and frame and in excellent condition, measuring 29 inches by 23 ½ inches overall, realized $46,750. Also, an equally scarce Old Prentice Whisky label-under-glass saloon display bottle (J.T.S. Brown & Sons, Distillers, Louisville, Ky.), 17 inches