Abandoned Artifacts, Junk and Treasure!
Ever see a couple plastic signs or modern gas pumps sitting abandoned in back of your local service station? You don’t even give it a second thought do you? It’s junk. It has no value.
How about a 1970s, 1980s or current gas pump dispensing kerosene off to the side of some truck stop or C-store? You see them everywhere. But right now it’s worthless to you. It has no value.
Don’t forget those plastic signs atop current gas pumps advertising the latest Hi Octane gasoline, the best new prices of fuel or some special credit card deal. It’s junk, worthless to you. They have no value.
How about the new gas pumps with TVs built into them? I think they are cool. But right now they are nothing but brief entertainment. They have no value to us.
But someday they will.
We may not be around to see the value of these items here but future collectors will.
Imagine for a moment it is 1932 and you visit your local service station. Would you have ever given the gas pumps, signage, gas globes and cans a second look back then? Of course not. They were advertising from that period and worthless. Their only value at that time was to lure you into that station to buy some gas or product. But they had no collectible value.
I remember back in the early 1970s when I first got into this hobby. The 1950s pumps and many 1940s pumps were not only not collectible, but many were still being discarded back then. Clock-face and visible pumps were collectible but not the later pumps. I’m sure there were a few people out there setting the later pumps aside but I doubt many of those people realized the market values were about to change drastically in the coming years.
There were some people I have spoken to over the years that for some reason decided to keep a gas globe or pump. They actually had the foresight that some day it may be worth something. Most of what was kept over the years and eventually handed down to us were simply items there just weren’t thrown out. Oil bulk plants, farms, old and abandoned service stations, repair shops, older car dealerships and other buildings were loaded with collectibles that we now own only because those items were just not thrown out.
Below are a few stories I’d like to share. I know many of you have some great stories of your own. Most of my stories center around gas globes because up until the last 10 years, that was my only focus.
Many years ago, a friend told me he talked to a man back in the 1970s and here was his story. The year was about 1935. This gentleman was told to take several boxes with gas globes to the local dump and discard them. He decided to look in the boxes for some reason and really liked what he saw: mint red Sinclair Aircraft one piece globes so he disobeyed his boss and kept them. There were about eight of these globes headed for oblivion but he saved them. They are now in collections all over the country and I have handled many of them over the years. They are all dead mint and if there is a grade of 11 they fit well into that category.
Check out the Sinclair U.S. Motor Specifications globe pictured here. Nice globe, eh? I have the box it came in. They turn up now and then. No big deal, right? Well the story is short but fascinating. I bought this from a local gentleman last year and he had owned it since he was a young kid, about 50 years. He was in front of his house playing when a truck hauling garbage and junk came by and this globe, in its original box, fell off the truck! I would say it jumped knowing that in the next hour it would have no chance to survive. Anyway he grabbed the box not knowing what it was. The globe survived intact and he kept it until I bought it last year. It is dead mint.
Speaking of heading to the dump…Back in the mid 1990s, I went to an auction in some very remote location here in Ohio on a very wet Tuesday afternoon. I knew no one would show up and there were four gas globes, two fairly rare. One was a Sohio Ethyl on 15” metal and the other was a dead mint 15” metal Red Crown Gasoline with the red crown pictured, still in the box! I asked the owner where he found the Red Crown globe. He told me back in the 1960s a truck loaded with boxes stopped at the only gas station in this small town to get gas. The truck was headed to the dump. He happened to be there and asked what was in the boxes. The truck driver said he was asked to dispose of the remains of an old bulk distributor/station. He asked if he could keep one of the globes and chose this box! That was the reward. The truck had dozens of boxes in its bed! One could only imagine.
The only known gas globe with the early GM Ethyl Logo, a one of a kind Good Gulf Ethyl one piece etched globe, was found just a two years ago. Neat find, huh? Yes it is, but the short story that follows it is even better. The gentleman that found it buys foreclosed houses. He was looking at an abandoned house and guess what was in the bathtub? Yes, this globe. We have no idea why someone left this priceless artifact in their bathtub but if the people that lost this house had any idea what this globe was worth they probably could have kept their house! Check out the photo of this great globe.
About two years ago I spoke to a guy who found a really good globe, and I’m sorry I cannot remember the brand, maybe, Farmers Union, left on the curb for garbage pickup. Seriously in 2011? You would think in this day and age anyone would know any gas pump globe would have some value!
Remember the stories from very recent years in PCM of the rare SPOCO one piece etched dug out from the dirt by a basement wall. How about the Red Crown one piece chimney cap found in its crate, unopened, back in 2000 which I wrote about? Many time very recently I have read on the Oldgas.com website about pumps, signs and other items left abandoned and found by the road, in a building, under a bridge, in a field, etc. As we dig deeper more of these tales surface.
The recent find of the only known Crown Gas and Oil porcelain sign from Crown Central Petroleum was literally dug out of a creek bed. I have read many stories lately of signs being found under roads, piles of dirt, under buildings, etc. We are actually digging up artifacts from the ground more and more these days.
Back in the 1970s I was walking along a small river in the town where I grew up here in Ohio. I came across, to my surprise, the shell and remnants of a 1930s clock-face gas pump! I had learned later that apparently in the 1930s, there was a devastating flood several miles up the river in town and the local service station was washed away. Yet there it was but I left it alone. I just wondered where the globe was!
Wayne Henderson just told me this story. Recently in Newport News, Virginia, a former Mobil bulk terminal was now an experimental fish hatchery or such and he noticed a very nice porcelain Mobilgas shield sign holding back one of their ponds! Wayne had to make a new support but talked them out of the sign! How many stories have we seen of signs and cans being used as building materials? The stories there are countless.
Yes there are a million stories out there and we all share a few of them. But the collectors that started back in the 1960s and 1970s have some of the greatest stories to share. These stories keep our dreams alive. I’ll share one with you before we end off.
My good friend and fellow collector, Kyle Moore stopped at a bulk plant back in the day. The owner knew he had boxes in the attic but also knew the boxes had been emptied many years ago. Kyle disagreed and begged him to let him look just one more time. The owner even said if you find anything you can keep it because I know it’s all gone. The first row of ten boxes Kyle looked into were, in fact, empty. But the next 40, yes 40, were filled with NOS globes! There were one piece Champlins, Texacos, and many more!!! He took them all home.
So the next time you fill up your tank, take a good look at the worthless junk laying around. Check out the tall, stainless steel gas pumps right in front of you. Look at the plastic signs on the walls and on top of the pumps. Look at the worthless modern items just lying around. Look at the modern air meter that needs 25 cents to start working. Give it some consideration!
It has been quite a while since we did a Repro Alert but recently a collection of reproduction gas globes has been brought to our attention. We were asked by an estate executor to appraise a large collection of gas globes from Michigan and upon looking at the photos of the globes we were quite alarmed. Apparently the original owner of the globes, now deceased, had bought these “rare globes” thinking they were real. There was a Red Head with the boy (one piece etched), a Coastal Gasoline with the sea gulls (one piece etched), a Sinclair Sinco Oils (one piece etched, wrong body format and wrong logo), a Frontier Oil Company 90 (one piece etched) and many others. These globes, other than the Sinclair Sinco, did not exist as one piece etched globes. We informed the executor that we would not appraise the collection and waste his money which he seemed fine with as the items were not his. What a shame that someone spent good money on these items and they are nearly worthless. We can only hope the original owner never suffered from the real identity of what these gas globes were before he passed and perhaps enjoyed them in his own way.
On the lighter side, the hobby still has a way of correcting things and it seems when unmarked reproductions turn up we all stick together and inform one another as to what is going on. This is why the hobby is so strong and will continue to grow in the years to come. So again we always say, “Ask lots of questions,” and someone will be there to help you out when they can.
Also some other good news: eBay has been trying a little harder to crack down on people selling fraudulent items. We now have a direct “in” into the watchers and moderators of eBay and recently have shut down many phony signs, gas globes and cans from being sold to the public. We will never catch them all but if we knock out a few of them here and there maybe they’ll get the message.
If you suspect something is phony, there are a couple things you can readily do. First, you can always call us and we may be able to sort out the problems with you concerning its authenticity. Second, post a photo on oldgas.com as there are enough members there to sort it all out. Together we have a lot of knowledge!
And again, by the way, be careful buying signs from Argentina, India, etc.