HomeThe Market2016 top stories: 7 – Automobilia soars at Mecum Road Art auction

2016 top stories: 7 – Automobilia soars at Mecum Road Art auction


Dan Mecum gazes at the Musgo gasoline sign that sold for a stunning $230,000 | William Hart photos

During 2016, the collector car hobby reached new heights and widths in excess. Premium collector cars raised the ceiling on world-record sales prices, while such complimentary interests as classic motorcycles, automobilia, petroliana, automotive art, garage accessories and car condos filled out the hobbyist lifestyle experience.

Barrett-Jackson, Mecum and other auction houses have raised the profile of vintage automobilia with inclusion at their classic car sales, making the case that no garage or car collection is complete without accompanying regalia.

The Road Art auction featured major pieces of automobilia

Mecum in particular has recognized the varied interests within the hobby, with a separate Gone Farmin’ tractor auction division, the absorption of Mid-America motorcycle auctions, and the formation of a new Road Art division focused on collectibles, advertising, signage, petroliana and automobilia.

The company believes so strongly in the new division that it constructed a separate 15,000 square foot Mecum Auction Gallery to host twice-annual Road Art events in the corporate hometown of Walworth, Wisconsin, and has paired with a local resort to offer lodging for those flying in for the events.

The inaugural Road Art event, held October 21-22, offered a privately owned collection of more than 1,200 one-of-a-kind and exemplary-condition porcelain signs, gas globes and advertising neons. Regarded as one of the finest collections in the world, the total sales exceeded a stunning $7.5 million before commissions. The results were a sea change; automobilia had finally hit the big time, and this sale was the turning point.

Even a hardened auction veteran like myself, numb to six-figure prices being doled out for barn-find cars, was taken aback by the level of interest and value in these collectible objects. A single, wafer-thin porcelain, four-foot Musgo gas sign exceeded its high estimate by more than $80,000, selling for an astonishing $230,000. To channel my father, “You could buy a house for that!”

Clearly, there is untapped opportunity in the automobilia sector as collectors gather the pieces that evoke special memories and complete collections that have become lifelong quests.
Look for eye-opening sales in 2017 as this newly elevated segment of the hobby takes flight, enriching the landscape of the collector car lifestyle.

Read the top ten stories from 2016

William Hall
William Hall
William Hall is a writer, classic car broker and collector based in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He has spent the whole of his professional career in the automotive industry, starting as an auto-parts delivery driver at the age of 16 to working for some of the nation's premier restoration shops. He is a concours judge and a consultant to LeMay-America's Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.

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