Ad panels, often referred to as ad glass, are small glass plates that adorn the upper areas of some gas pumps, circa 1930s-1960s. Most are made of glass, though some are porcelain, often referred to as ad panels. These are not found on visible gas pumps and rarely found on clock face gas pumps. They adorn computing pumps of all kinds. We can trace their early origins back to about 1934 or so. Normally rectangular in shape, some have curved edges or angled edges and some are curved glass like the ones that go on A-38 or A-1 National gas pumps.
Recently on eBay, we saw a rare porcelain ad panel from a later Bennett pump. While discussing this and ad panels in general, Wayne and I agreed that for decades now these have been the biggest sleeper in our hobby. I’ve noticed that is changing. A few years ago, just about any ad panel could be purchased for a couple bucks. There seemed to be little interest in them other than for the completion of a gas pump project. Even in that case most collectors today settle with the reproductions that are readily available. Some collectors occasionally pick up a panel or two, perhaps to embellish a gas globe on a shelf or to just have another collectible from that company. Today I see the scarcer ad panels bringing anywhere from $20-$75 each and more. Many unique ones are turning up from either unknown or unidentified companies and that makes them even more fun to collect.
What I like about ad panels is that the logos are fired on glass, just like gas globes and anyone can afford them. I try and match up an ad panel with a gas globe I have collected. Some companies just didn’t use ad glass panels on their pumps and some are so rare you just never see them.
I like ones with seldom used generic words, like “Prime, Fuel Oil, White, Kerosene, Go Mix, etc.” You just don’t see these very often. I really like the ones that went on dual pumps, which say one thing, like “Regular” on one side, and “Ethyl” on the other side. Dual ad glass panels are very hard to find, just like dual gas pumps! See the photos here with this article on some of the more unusual ones. When I can match one with a globe (especially a rare globe) it makes it more fun. I still have the only known Sinclair Green Gas globe as well as the only known Sinclair Green ad panel. That’s what makes collecting so interesting.
At Iowa Gas 2012 I picked up a rare Rainbow ad glass and at Iowa Gas 2013 I picked up a rare Sohio “X-Tane.” Sohio didn’t use many ad panels so any you find are quite rare! I live in Sohio country and I just never see any for sale.
Other than the gas and oil shows, eBay has been a good place to find these collectibles and again prices range from $10-$75 or more. It seems that just about every week or two we see one that we have never seen before, just like gas globes and signs.
Check out page 10 of the September PCM issue, the report from Iowa Gas, showing a few very rare ad glass panels. Pictured is the Sohio X-Tane I purchased, the Hancock, which is very rare, and the “Four Corners Trading Post,” which is probably unique and made just for a certain gas station back in the day!
Because of the size, I do not collect the larger A-38 or similar ad glass panels. These do look great on gas pumps and many oil companies used these on certain pumps, especially National Pumps. Flying A, Shell, Marathon and others had very graphic examples of their company logos.
Probably the prettiest ad glass panels I have seen are the “Terribles.” These are from a gas station out West and named after a guy nicknamed “Terrible Herbst”, because of his ruthless price cutting wars! These glass panels are multi-colored and quite rare. I have several variations including several dual pump ones. Check out the photos! D-X used some attractive glass panels but the picture logos are hard to beat. Pennzoil ad glass panels are always pretty with the Liberty Bell as is the Rainbow. Super Soc pictures a little boxer. Any of the more colorful brands look great in any collection.
The biggest challenge in collecting ad panels is how to display them. I take the easy way out and just lay them next to a gas globe. They are not lit up but I still enjoy them. Some collectors I have spoken to build boxes or frames for them, light them up and set up some really nice displays. Many people use them in their gas pumps which is really the best option if you have a pump. But if you are collecting only panels, then display them as best you can. It’s fun once you get hooked on them trying to find them at the next gas show or flea market. They are as rare as anything else in our hobby and they won’t set you back a few thousand each. A $100 bill should buy you several, if you can find them!
Enjoy the photos here of some of the panels from my collection and others we have seen over the years. For more information on ad glass panels, see our Gas Pump Restoration book where an entire chapter is devoted to them, showing sizes, lots of photos and data about this “sleeper” in our hobby.