Iowa Gas 2014 Show Coverage
Stability of Gas Station Collectibles
Have you noticed the prices lately? If you haven’t, you’re not paying attention. Up they go again! Lots of people are asking why. Are they moving too quickly? Are prices over inflated? No one has a perfect answer, but there are the usual obvious reasons for the increase. Number one reason is simply, supply and demand.
If you have been in this hobby for at least eight years you remember the big price adjustment of 2007-2008. The US economy took a dive and over inflated prices in the gas and oil collectibles were about to burst too, like the housing market back then, which they did. In my 40 years in this hobby, to date I have never seen such a big adjustment in prices as I did in 2007. Am I worried about pricing today? Not really.
Between 2010 and today I have seen prices on all items, even common ones, slowly increase to even new levels that we have today. The only items that just have not had enough sales to see where they stand are the $50,000 globes. Though some gas globes have sold in that range and higher, I don’t see as many $25,000 single inserts out there as years past, though there are a few. But I do see a few $15,000 plus single inserts out there. Recently, a Texaco Aviation one piece globe sold for $55,000.
But what I like are the overall steady increases on all items, like the comeback of quart cans, large porcelain signs and signs overall, gas globes, maps and especially gas pumps. Gas pumps have really taken off, like the staple brands such as a Wayne 60, Tokheim 36B, Fry 117, etc. These pumps, if sold in good original condition are bringing new record prices across the board. The common Wayne 60 gas pumps, and I do mean common, are regularly bringing $1,800 to $2,000 plus these days. A few years ago they would bring upper hundreds at best. Everyone wants a good Wayne 60 gas pump and that is where supply and demand dictate a high price as this common pump disappears into collectors’ hands.
Other unwanted items are taking off, too. Take the large 20’ outdoor sign poles. Fifteen years ago you couldn’t give one away. Now they bring hundreds or more dollars and it seems like if you have one for sale, someone will want it! Large porcelain signs, like the 6’ version and larger, were items too hard to ship, display, or just even enjoy. Now they decorate man caves across the country.
I’ve been in this hobby too long to ever enjoy plastic signs. That’s just me. But even those today are finding homes that a few years ago were discarded just like they discarded rare pumps and signs and globes 50 years ago. There is a place for everything in this expanding hobby of ours.
What amazes me is the price of items realized that are in very rough condition. Signs that 15-20 years ago I could see as free sometimes bring $1,000 and more. By the way, Sinclair Aircraft signs are not that rare. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great sign and everyone wants one! They adorned countless Sinclair stations across the country, not airports. I know the excellent ones are above $12,000 today. But when I see beat up ones, condition 6 or less and an asking price of $3,500 or more, well again, guess I’ve been in this hobby too long. So what’s causing this? Again it goes back to supply and demand.
But that’s a good thing, yes? I think it is, as no matter what piece you have, rare or common, mint or rough, someone out there will buy it and pay you good monies for it.
By the way, as this hobby grows many people have asked me about shows like American Pickers, Pawn Stars, etc. and how they have helped our hobby. Sorry but I can’t agree with that 100%, maybe partially though. Cool guys, I give them credit. I used to watch the shows, and to me they were somewhat entertaining. I’m too busy these days to watch anymore. You all know they are staged events, even the “free styling” as they call it. In my opinion, they have made more people aware of gas and oil collectibles but that’s all the good news. The problem is everyone out there is an, “expert” now, everyone out there thinks their item is the holy grail of collectibles. Then when you make them an offer they know it’s not good enough as they learn from the shows that they are selling at 50%, in their minds. Again, this is only my opinion.
So, back to our hobby. Yes it’s still strong now as I’ve said over the years, so strong right now that sellers are creating gas pumps from scratch and asking thousands of dollars for them. I guess there is a market for that. I don’t really have a comment in that area but is does surprise me. Can you create a gas pump from scratch and ask $15,000 or more for it? Honestly I don’t know but it is happening. I’m not sure if they are getting that. It’s just another aspect from the hobby that is new to me. I guess supply and demand will either allow that or it won’t. It has been done with gas globes, signs, cans so why not gas pumps?
Enjoy the hobby today and buy what you want, not what might be a great investment, unless of course you are into this just for the money. But buy carefully. I see people buying globes and signs on eBay or other sites in worn condition for $2,500 and not aware that in another venue a near mint one sells for $2,350. So check around. Just because demand is high and supply is low doesn’t mean you have to pay too much for the special piece you want. So shop around and have fun.