Studebaker neon sign lit up the top 10 at Milestone’s vintage advertising, toys and coin-ops auction

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794-lot selection was led by fresh-to-market California collection of high-quality gas and oil signs; unexpected star lot: a vintage Louis Vuitton automobile travel trunk that sold for $19,305

All-original Studebaker Art Deco bull-nose porcelain neon sign, double sided, sharp colors, fantastic condition. Size 10ft 6in long x 47in tall at round and 2ft at other end; 12in thick. Made by Walker & Co. From an advanced private collection. Sold for $21,000 against an estimate of $15,000-$25,000
All-original Studebaker Art Deco bull-nose porcelain neon sign, double sided, sharp colors, fantastic condition. Size: 10ft 6in long x 47in tall at round and 2ft at other end; 12in thick. Made by Walker & Co. From an advanced private collection. Sold for $21,000 against an estimate of $15,000-$25,000

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio – Condition was the keyword throughout Milestone’s June 15 auction of vintage advertising, toys, coin-ops and old coins. The 814-lot sale, which totaled a robust $650,000, was chock-full of gasoline, oil and travel-related signs, including a high-quality, fresh-to-the-market collection from California. Many other popular collecting categories were woven throughout the sale, such as advertising clocks and thermometers; watches and jewelry; old radios, pocket knives and ships’ bells. 

An all-original Studebaker Art Deco porcelain neon bullnose sign, with size, originality and great eye appeal in its favor, finished at the top of prices realized. The double-sided sign with a sharp-looking cobalt blue, red and white motif measured 10 feet 6 inches long, 47 inches tall from the top to the Studebaker red dot, and 2 feet tall at the other end. It was made by the noted sign manufacturer Walker & Co., and came to Milestone from an advanced private collection. Many dozens of enthusiasts were watching the near-flawless sign prior to the sale, where it achieved $21,000 against expectations of $15,000-$25,000.

“Even if a neon sign isn’t working perfectly, it will still attract bidders as long as it’s in great condition and the flaw is fixable,” said Milestone Auctions co-owner and principal auctioneer Miles King.” His comment was made specifically with regard to a single-sided, three-dimensional porcelain and neon “Chevron Dealer” sign. Formed in the petroleum company’s distinctive chevron shape and red, white and blue colors, its neon flickered, but did not light up. “Neon sign collectors would know where to go to get that remedied,” King noted. The 32- by 23-inch sign sold for $12,000 against an estimate of $2,000-$4,000.

Like the Chevron sign, a double-sided round porcelain sign for Cadillac Authorized Service was another example of how effective primary colors can be in conveying a message. Described by Milestone’s expert cataloger as being in “equally fine condition on both sides” and marked Walker & Co. Detroit, this appealing sign emblazoned with the distinctive Cadillac brand’s crown-and-shield French coat of arms easily glided past its $5,000-$7,000 estimate to settle at $11,700.

Right alongside the Cadillac sign, both price-wise and condition-wise, a “Night Lubrication” double-sided porcelain sign produced for Shell Gasoline & Oils Co., boasted a bright palette of colors dominated by sunset orange and crimson. With its included stand, it raced past its $4,000-$5,000 estimate to close at $11,700.

Bold and colorful, a double-sided porcelain sign for Pontiac Authorized Service measured 42 inches in diameter and bore the immediately identifiable silhouette of Chief Pontiac, the Odawa chief after whom the city of Pontiac, Michigan, was named. It is also the city where General Motors produced its Pontiac automobiles. In excellent condition, the sign sold for $10,762 against an estimate of $3,000-$5,000.

A large, double-sided red, white and blue porcelain Standard Oil service station sign with a classical torch image measured 59 inches by 42 inches and displayed beautifully, but as is almost always the case when these desirable signs turn up, it was missing its “flame.” Regardless, it realized $5,904 against an estimate of $2,500-$3,500.

Also landing well above high estimate was a single-sided porcelain sign advertising both Veedol 10-20 Motor Oil and Flying A Ethyl Gasoline with the message “Made to go together for Highest Octane Performance.” In excellent condition, the 50- by 18-inch sign finished at $4,674 against an estimate of $1,000-$2,000. 

Some lucky collector will now be able to motor away in high style with their summer vacation wardrobe safely secured in a vintage Louis Vuitton automobile travel trunk. Complete with its two correct interior suitcases, the unit was in 100% original condition with a black leather finish, nickel hardware and “LV” monograms. It even retained its original Louis Vuitton red-and-white label bearing the firm’s 70 Champs Elysees (Paris) address and branch addresses in London, Nice and Lille. Miles King explained that the trunk had come from a local (Cleveland-area) estate. It caught the attention of vintage car buffs and Louis Vuitton aficionados both Stateside and abroad, opening at its high estimate of $5,000. Five phone bidders were in the fray, competing against the floor and Internet, King said. Ultimately, it sold to a US buyer for $19,305. 

A fine selection of signs advertising various products of a century ago included a double-sided porcelain flange sign for Cressman’s Counsellor 5¢ Cigar, $4,059 against an estimate of $300-$500; and a single-sided porcelain sign advertising Lorillard’s Beech-Nut Chewing Tobacco. Displaying rich red, white and blue colors and the trademark image of a Beech-Nut tobacco packet, it more than doubled its high estimate, selling for $3,159.

Early American toys have been on a winning streak lately, and that includes at Milestone’s June sale. An unusual 62-inch-long child’s “Hook and Ladder No 1” wagon presented in all-original condition, even retaining its original side-riding ladders. Finished in red, green and yellow with stenciled lettering and yellow metal wheels and steering handle, it rolled to $4,212 against an estimate of $600-$800.

Soda pop fans lined up for Pepsi-Cola – not a frosty bottle of the popular beverage, but a circa-1955 VMC Model 81D Pepsi 10¢ bottle-vending machine. It had been professionally restored in its correct royal blue with red and white accents and looked absolutely beautiful. It surpassed its high estimate to claim a winning bid of $6,457.

After the 11-hour auction over which he presided, King observed: “There was a lot of action on the phones, but you never know where the winning bids are going to come from. This time most of the big-ticket items sold to the floor, to local buyers. The strongest category was gas and oil, but every category came through for us. In the end, the lots were 99.9% sold. Any auctioneer will tell you that’s a very good day.”

To discuss consigning a collection or a single item to a future petroliana, antique advertising, toy, firearm or coin-op and coins auction at Milestone, call Miles King at 440-527-8060 or email [email protected]. All enquiries are kept strictly confidential and there is no obligation to consign. Online:

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