Neon Chevrolet sign sells for $31,000

Ron Kowalke Auction Express News Editor |

B. Mitchell Carlson reporting

The plethora of full-sized outdoor porcelain & neon
signs hanging above this late-1950’s Chevrolet
dealership sign gives some sense of its immense size. 
The Chevrolet sign was the top sale at $31,000.

Mecum Auction Co., as part of its 22nd Spring Classic sale in Indianapolis, presented a segment for neon and petroliana items on May 16 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

As most auction companies do, Mecum tends to start each one of its collector car auctions with a few pieces of automotive artwork or automobilia to “warm up the bidders.” However, Mecum took this activity to another level.

Last year, when Mecum moved its Spring Classic to the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, part of the major collection it auctioned included a number of large outdoor automotive neon signs.  Based upon that success, Mecum elected to make it a stand-alone part of its 2009 sale on Saturday night – immediately after the last car crossed the block.

While the day’s auction slate was running approximately a half-hour behind schedule, we noticed that the general attendance increased a bit as more folks waited for the neon (and other lots of automobila and petroliana) to be offered.  As the last car was rolling off the auction podium, the staff immediately went to work in catalog order and started selling the signs. Although they were clipping right along at a good pace, it still took until nearly 1 a.m. to get the last lot sold.

The top sale was one of the largest single signs ever offereda late 1950s Chevrolet dealership-top neon sign, in blue, that was in four segments for a total length of more than 44 feet and 64 inches tall.  This sign brought $31,000 when the hammer fell. Put into perspective, this is almost as long as three 1957 Chevy Bel Airs parked bumper to bumper.

One of the most famous salvage yards in the Detroit area,
Sam’s of Hazel Park, Mich., had this neon sign outside of
its facility for decades. Its spectacular graphics of a 1950s
Cadillac Coupe deVille with front end damage and a
flashing headlight helped it sell for $25,000.
(B. Mitchell Carlson photo)

Not far behind were two signs that fetched $25,000 each – a 1930s Chevrolet with clock and a Detroit-area landmark from Sam’s Auto Parts. Another strong seller was a 1920s-era Buick incandescent illuminated milk glass and porcelain sign.  Having spent decades soliciting buyers outside of the dealership in Cambridge, Minn., on this day, it found a new owner for $14,000.

While most of the signs brought several thousand dollars apiece, there were some items that could be had by a collector on a budget and were good deals.  The cheapest neon-on-porcelain outdoor sign to sell was a Florida Power & Light, changing hands for only $150. This was also the selling price for a 1970s vintage Ford A-1 Used Cars four-foot-by-four-foot plastic-faced illuminated outdoor sign.

With $840,785 in sales for 318 signs, this segment alone brought in more money than some of Mecum’s smaller collector car auction venues, so we’ll be safe to assume that this type of sale will happen again for next year’s Spring Classic.

Some of the representative prices realized on automobilia and petroliana include (prices reported do not include the 10 percent buyer’s fee):

SIGNS, outdoor, neon with porcelain:
Buick Lubricare; 13’ x 3’; #2; $2,500

1930s Cadillac; Standard of the World; 47” x 72”; #2; $5,200

1930s Chevrolet with clock; 76” x 72”; #2;         $25,000

Dodge Service; 46” x 102”; #2; $4,500

E (Edsel); 126” x 30”; #2; $8,000

(Edsel) Green Light Cars; 3’ dia.; #2; $1,250

1950s Ford A-1 Used Cars & Trucks; 132” x 79”; #2; $7,000

Frontier – Rarin’ To Go; 6’ x 5’; #2; $9,500

GMC Trucks; 44” x 67”; #2; $4,000

1930s International Motor Trucks Sales Service; 2’ x 4’; #2; $4,000

Kaiser-Frazier; 42” x 72”; #3; $3,000

1950s Nash Service Parts; 46” x 45”; #2; $3,500

1940 Packard; 20” x 30”; #2; $3,750

1930s-’50s Phillips 66 (orange shield); 4’x 4’; #2; $7,000

1960s Shelby; 36” x124”; #2; $22,000

1950s Willys Cars – Trucks – Jeeps; 3’ x 6’; #3; $2,500.

SIGNS, neon only:
1955 (Dodge) Red Ram V Eight; 34” x 52”; $2,500

1950s Plymouth I–6  V-8; New in crate; 20” x 42”; #1; $1,200

SIGNS, porcelain, double sided:

Authorized Buick Valve in Head Service; 4’ dia.; #3; $1,100

Chicago Motor Club A.A.A. Bonded Service Station; 44” x 36”; #3; $500

Kaiser-Frazer Genuine Factory Parts & Service; 4’ dia. w/frame; #2; $1,800

Marathon – Best in the Long Run; 40” x 36”; #2; $1,900

Pontiac Authorized Service; 4’ dia.; #3; $1,250

SIGNS, outdoor, plastic face:
1967 Cadillac Authorized Service; NOS; 4’ x 4’; #1; $2,200

1962 Chevrolet Chevy II; 11” x 60”; #2; $2,900

1980s Harley-Davidson; 3’ x 20’; #2; $1,500

1970s (Pontiac) Goodwill Used Cars; 4’ x 4’; #2; $1,400

1970s Porsche, w/crest; 49” x 98”; #2; $1,500

GAS PUMPS:
Gilmore; 1936 Gilbarco; restored; #1; $3,000

Shell; 1936 Wayne Model 60 Showcase; restored; #1; $4,250

Sinclair; 1925 Gilbarco tower-style; restored; #2; $2,750

Standard White Crown; 1950s Bennett; restored w/repro globe; #2; $1,500

Texaco; 1921 Torkheim tower-style; semi-restored; #3; $2,000

PAPER:
1960s Chevrolet dealer showroom poster, Guardian Service, framed; 14” x 18”; #3; $35

1960s Chevrolet dealer brochure display rack w/brochures; #2; $2,500

1962 Chevrolet – A World of Worth & Introducing the new Chevy II banner; 40” x 228”; #2; $300

More Images:

featuredImage
Referred to as the “Jubilee” sign by some collectors, this mid-1950s Ford neon sold for $19,500. (B. Mitchell Carlson photo)

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