From a Blue Collar Hobby
Nov/Dec 2018 edition
Issue #2 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
Over the past decade, the Gas & Oil Advertising collecting world has seen a massive spike in attention, prices realized in public auctions as well as private sales. What started as a small blue collar hobby, has now grown into a multi million dollar industry for dealers & collectors alike. There has also been an overwhelming amount of younger people joining into the fun of the hobby who have begun collecting themselves. Each area of the hobby has grown exponentially, from the beginning collector pieces to the advanced collector grade ‘holy grails.’
The advice I have offered to many beginning collectors is learn before you buy, and avoid the pitfalls of costly beginner mistakes. Time and time again, I see many beginning collectors buy first, and then ask questions after, only to end up getting burned on a phony piece that’s practically worthless. Avoid sites such as eBay, as well as unscrupulous dealers offering items at prices that seem to be too good to be true. A proper beginning into this hobby should begin by figuring out which parts of the hobby do you enjoy. What are you going to collect? Once you have answered those questions (with the emphasis on enjoyment), begin to network with reputable dealers & collectors alike. Swap meets and flea markets are a great beginning spot, and as your knowledge expands, buying at auction from a reputable auction house will be an excellent way to procure some of your more high-end pieces. Websites such as oldgas.com, as well as Facebook offer over twenty different collector groups with over twenty thousand members trading photos, ideas & sharing stories.
In collecting Petroliana, there are a variety of different ways people like to collect. Some people are looking for the rusty barn hangers that are full of character & patina, while others search for only the rarest in the best condition. Some collectors are looking for nostalgia, trying to build a Texaco or Shell collection because their father or grandfather ran an early Service Station. Petroliana, as with any other collectible hobby market, demands top money for rarity as well as condition.
Over the years I have seen ups and downs in prices, and demand for off-condition and beginner related pieces, but the best of the best has done nothing but steadily rise since the hobby began. The early independent brands have also broken out and prices are on the run. Early, graphic brands such as Red Hat & Mohawk are some of the most colorful and rare pieces in the hobby, and are some of the most highly sought after brands.
This particular Porcelain Service Station Sign, is circa 1930’s. The Mohawk, “Drop Feathered” Native American Graphic is simply one of the most subtle and well designed graphics of Early Gas & Oil Advertising. The type font of, “Mohawk Gasoline” is strong and smooth flowing into the bright and crisp colors. This double-sided porcelain sign originally sat in an Iron Curb Stand and advertised Mohawk Gasoline to the Motorists passing by in their travels. Mohawk only has two known examples of advertising with the stoic, “Drop Feathered” Native American. They kept this graphic for only a short period of time, and later changed the graphic to a less detailed Native American side profile graphic with a feather pointing upwards. There are less than ten known examples of this sign. In 2016, an excellent example of this sign was sold at Morphy Auctions, with a final price realized of $45,600.
The best advice I was ever offered, and the advice I offer now to a new or veteran collector, is to collect what you like, and buy the best-quality piece you can afford. There are so many different parallels in this hobby, and the group of collectors is deep & diverse. Some people like immaculate & rare, while others like them crusty and full of bullet holes. Enjoy the hobby, and have fun! One of the best parts of the hobby is growing relationships through the common thread of the appreciation of Gas & Oil advertising.
To read more great columns like this one from petroliana expert John Mihovetz...
John Mihovetz is an Expert and Director of Acquisitions at Morphy Auctions focusing on automobilia, petroliana and antique advertising.