Valuable glass globes from vintage gas pumps are lined up on display | William Hall photos
By the time this weekend is over, Mecum Auction’s The Road Art Collection could set a world record for the most-valuable single collection of advertising, automobilia and petroliana to ever go to auction. Or so hopes Dana Mecum, who is offering this collection of 1,200-plus pieces in a live, no-reserve auction held today through Saturday at his newly-constructed Mecum Auctions Gallery in Walworth, Wisconsin.
Subtitled “For Those Who Want the Best,” (a slogan taken directly from one of the unique lots on offer) this sale represents top condition items, including rare porcelain signs, gas pumps and globes, displays, oil cans and dealership neon, some of which are only-known examples.
Dan Mecum with the rare Musgo Gasoline sign
The collection is the result of a 35-year effort by a single Louisiana collector whose objective was to collect the best-of-the-best in condition and rarity. Standout from the collection is an incredibly comprehensive group of Oilzum brand collectibles, as well as a rich variety of seldom-seen aviation signage.
One of the stars of the auction is a Musgo Gasoline double-sided porcelain sign, estimated at $100,000 to $150,000. The signs from this Michigan-based gas station chain are exceedingly rare, as the chain was sold to a company which installed sewer systems. Purportedly a number of these signs were used as lids for septic tanks, the caustic gases corroding away the downturned faces. This example is in nearly-mint condition and has an online opening bid of $60,000, with a similar example recently selling at auction for $160,000 excluding premiums. You’d be forgiven for jumping out of bed with your flashlight and slippers to go check your septic tank lid.
Another spectacular piece with great graphics and colors is a Smith-O-Lene Aviation Gasoline double-sided porcelain sign, estimated at $60,000-$90,000. And perhaps the ultimate examples of petroliana are parked in the lot outside; a horse-drawn Standard Oil delivery wagon and a 1938 Chevy/Texaco fuel delivery truck, also offered at no reserve .
Exhausted from greeting bidders, Melvin Mecum rests up before the auction starts
Despite the high-brow estimates on featured lots, there are plenty of entry-level pieces for the beginning collector.
“There’s something here for everyone,” said Mecum auction specialist Joe Canchola. “Even the more-common stuff is in near-mint condition.”
Mecum Auctions was so impressed with this collector’s presentation that they mimicked its design for their new Badger Street Auction Gallery. The construction took two months to complete, with barn-board walls and a tin-roofed gas station constructed inside the facility, which will host future Road Art auctions biannually.
Mecum has nearly 1,000 registered onsite bidders attending the auction, plus another 30 percent absentee online and phone bidders, taking part in what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire the collection’s crown jewel at no reserve.
The auction begins today at 4 pm CST and continues through Saturday. For more information, visit the auction website.
Photos by William Hall