The Hobby Goes Hollywood!
First of all I would like to thank everyone who has supported Wayne and me over the years as this issue begins our 21st year of PCM Magazine. It’s hard to believe, I know.
Prices are holding well and good items are bringing good prices, however, I have found it hard to keep up with other factors that surface more often than not. Let me share a few examples and scenarios with you.
The other day I got a call from a friend who asked me what a particular item was worth. Of course I get these calls and emails every day but found myself eager to respond with: “I have no idea anymore!” The words exited my mouth before I realized what I said. But I felt compelled to leave the answer as is. He laughed.
The reason this was a correct answer is because of simple supply and demand. Now don’t get me wrong. Prices can still be estimated with some degree of accuracy and some degree of expectation, but that’s all. We all know a Shell gas globe is very common and one in decent condition should be worth $450-$500 or so. I’ve sold a dead mint one for $650, but that’s it. So when I saw this poor fellow on eBay trying to get $1,250 for one on his second attempted listing, I thought I might step in and help. I was not interested in buying it. I told him what I just stated above and he fired back, “I’ve turned down $1,050 and $1,100 but thanks.” Wow! Really? I’m out of touch I guess!
Certainly this was an exception to the rule as I still have not seen Shells bringing more than $600, but it opened my eyes. Prices are not skyrocketing right now. Prices are good on most items, but the only skyrocketing I have seen is what some people are asking for either common, fantasy or beat up items. What I again learned from this is that you can ask whatever you want for your item!
Believe it or not I get just as many questions about gas pumps as I do gas globes. I am not a pump expert but I do know many prices and restoration estimates since I talk to many people who do this for a living. There are certain gas pumps that should bring and do bring exceptional prices. A Wayne 800 pump or a double visible would bring a great price, as would a Roman Column pump. But I do not understand when I see a common Wayne 60 with a $7,500 price tag. I don’t care if it is gold plated, it just isn’t worth that. I’m being facetious, of course, but you get my thoughts. I know it’s very expensive to restore pumps these days as I talk to many guys that do it and they do great work. But these are not the guys asking the crazy prices I’m referring to. When I see reproduction pumps made from scratch and someone is asking $9,000 or $11,000, that is what I cannot understand. I know, you can ask what you want and when you find that occasional buyer with more money than sense…well… I am guilty too. I have sold some globes out of my collection for crazy prices because I would be crazy to refuse the offer! The difference here is that I will not post a globe worth $10,000 on my sight for $20,000. I have turned down consignments because the seller wanted way too much for their item. It doesn’t happen often but it happens. We all, including myself, have paid too much for an item and that’s okay now and then.
Let’s go back to supply and demand. Most of these crazy prices are caused by a lack of quality items being offered, only because the stuff just isn’t out there like it used to be. I used to buy about eight collections a year, big or small. The last three years I’ve only bought about two or three a year. Luckily I am able to buy many individual items and getting many consignments; collections are just easier to work with in the long run. You take what you can get.
Here is another area of collectibles I do not understand. Let me make an analogy first: Remember when movies and TV shows only had to have a great plot and good acting to be entertaining and interesting? A few still exist today but not so much. Now special effects, computer generated people and explosions are the norm and one doesn’t know what’s real from what was done with a computer program, slow motion, fast motion, repeated scene clips, etc. Is this what Hollywood has to do to maintain our interest? So what does that have to do with our hobby? I see 60 inch signs wrapped in neon that never existed, fancy pumps made from scratch, fantasy gas globes that honestly are really cool and more. I see clocks from any company you could imagine--I have one in my garage and at $200, it was cheaper than a $1,500 real one! But many of these items never existed. I’m not complaining. I’m not expecting these items to go away. I’m just making a point. This is what supply and demand does. It’s a necessity to keep the hobby happy and fed. But our hobby does not need to be that spectacular in my opinion. Man caves are popping up faster than weeds. Don’t expect these people to spend $5,000 on an original gas globe as they don’t need that. They can just buy a cool globe with a race car on it for $350 and they are all set. What I do see a lot of are common signs wrapped in neon, or phony signs wrapped in something, and I tend to just look the other way. That’s just me. It’s cool but it’s not for me. Again, I’m not trying to ruffle feathers here it’s just a point. Honestly some of the new globes being made are awesome! I almost bought one of those fantasy globes with a race car on it for a pump in my man cave and still may do so. If that piece actually existed I couldn’t afford it anyway!
The only real problem here is that it can dilute our hobby over time. So, with many fantasy signs and items mixed in with real items I wonder what this will do down the road. No one really knows. There is nothing anyone can do about that either. I cannot tell you how many people have come to my house and asked which of the many rows of gas globes in front of them were real? Really? Now most of these people are not educated in this hobby but that scares me. It concerns me because many of them are at least aware of our hobby. It gets me thinking. They see so many phony, bedazzling items for sale; they expect a collection to be stuffed with these pieces. I am a collector first. I have collected countless items over the years from trains, rocks, marbles, traffic signs, barber shop items, syrup dispensers, coins and more. I can’t help myself! I never collected for the investment, never. I do buy and sell though. But you should buy with a “what you like”, attitude. Then when it’s over hopefully you made the right choices. That’s all you can hope for.
Let me make it clear I was never concerned about dated items either. As time moves forward less quality pieces will show up and more fantasy will pervade but again, that’s what supply and demand does. Have you ever seen photos of Iowa Gas 25 years ago? It would blow your mind what was sitting on the tables back then. Iowa Gas is still a great show and many neat pieces show up. But the hunt gets harder every day.
So, with good quality items getting harder to find, more man caves getting filled up and more people getting into our hobby this scenario naturally creates itself. It’s not bad; it’s just something I want to point out. When I see that Sinclair Aircraft reproduction sign draped in neon with an asking price of $3,500, well, it’s something like a Hollywood film today. I do like a good flick and understand it but such a sign I could never accept.