The Likes of Larry at Mecum Auctions Road Art Sale in Kissimmee
The sale of what are generally known as automobilia and petroliana became such an important part of Mecum Auctions’ business that the company came up with its own title for consignments – Road Art – and trademarked the term. .
“It’s not big compared to the automotive sector,” Mecum chairman David Magers said, “but it has huge potential.”
Indeed. A standalone Mecum “Road Art” sale in 2016 accounted for nearly $10 million in sales, more than some collector car auctions. At this sale, a two-sided Musgo Gasoline circular porcelain sign sold for the incredible sum of $230,000 during a Mecum sale.
Here at Mecum’s Annual Classic Car Auction in Kissimmee, Florida, more than 2,500 lots of Road Art, representing nearly 4,000 individual pieces, will be offered for sale from Monday.
Consider that last year, Mecum sold 5,500 Road Art lots in total, including 1,200 in Kissimmee.
“There’s a huge audience,” Magers acknowledged.
So big that in Kissimmee, Road Art gets its own separate auction block.
“It used to be kind of complementary to the auction,” Magers said of how the automobilia would be used to start the auction each day, to remind people that the sales had started and to get them into the arena and into their seats.
Other collector car auction houses offer the automobilia, including Barrett-Jackson at its sale in Scottsdale. Automobilia is also sold by a few major non-automotive memorabilia auctions.
But just like he did with his division gone farmin’ which handles sales of vintage tractors and farm implements, Mecum has established a separate Road Art department with its own staff of five.
The effort is led by Dan Mecum, one of Dana Mecum’s sons, who also leads the Gone Farmin’ effort. Corey Brackmann, who joined Mecum straight out of high school, transitioned from the warehouse to the tractor auction team and now runs the Road Art division with a hands-on approach – in Kissimmee he worked so lights electrical work on a panel – and a year ago Mecum recruited Melissa Smith to join the team after her 17-year career as a boat dealership manager.
Neither Brackmann nor Smith are Road Art collectors, but both eagerly collect stories about items from those who hand them over to sales.
“It’s all history, all old Americana,” Brackmann said, adding that it’s not just automotive-related, but collectors are looking for signs and other items from all kinds of companies. On the Mecum Folder in Kissimmee are three huge non-automotive signs – of the Brown Derby Restaurant, the Wolf Cycle Shop and the Big Bear Supermarket.
As with classic cars and automobilia, many of these items were meant to be scrapped until someone appreciated them for their artistic and, yes, potential economic value.
While some car collectors also collect Road Art to decorate their garages and man caves or sheds, Magers said Road Art also has its own group of collectors. I guess I am among them. Although the bulk of my “collection” involves books on cars, I have panels, photographs, model and miniature cars (and salt and pepper shakers), an unworn IMSA racing sweater, and several pieces of Michelin.
After wandering around the various buildings and tents displaying Road Art here in Kissimmee, here are a few items I would like to add to my collection:
Oldsmobile service panel (see above)
At nearly 5 feet in diameter, I don’t know where I would post this vintage Oldsmobile dealership service sign, but it’s so cool
Buffalo Gas Globe
Measuring only 15 inches tall, this Buffalo Gasoline Globe would be much more reasonable in my recently downsized living quarters. Plus, it could serve as an additional light source in the guest room/library. According to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society, Buffalo Oil was among the first drillers in the Spindletop field in Texas in 1902, but a second well ran dry. Buffalo moved to another site, at Batson, where fires destroyed its equipment and storage facilities.
Phillips 66 Safety Country License Plate End Cap
There is a huge collection of Phillips 66 Road Art that is part of the auction, but there is also a single lot of smaller items that includes a few small gas station attendants, a ticket to a tournament of baseball that the company team played in, and this Safety Country License Plate Topper.
The largest items in the Phillips collection include three of these regional mileage finders. They were displayed at gas stations and even in restaurants and provided the mileage between two cities on a dial that you could move. I loved using them as a kid when we took annual family vacations.
Vintage Michelin Sign (on the top corner left)
Measuring 6 feet tall but only 16 inches wide, this vintage Michelin porcelain sign would fit great next to one of the large bookcases in my library/guest room.
Sign of Oilzum
This porcelain sign celebrates the Olizum brand of oils and lubricants from The White & Bagley Company, which was founded in 1888 in Worchester, Massachusetts, by FW White and HP Bagley, and received the brand name Oilzum in 1905. The brand was popular with those racing in Indianapolis and those competing for land speed records.
Only 24 inches in diameter, this Sinclair Pennsylvania Motor Oil sign shares a wonderful slogan: “Mellowed 100 Million Years”. Sinclair’s mascot dates back to 1933, when the company sponsored the dinosaur exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair.
Refiners Oil Company 5 Gallon Tilt Canister
Roughly the size of a snare drum, but with handles that not only hold it upright but prevent it from rolling, these canisters hold 5 gallons of oil that can be poured with a built-in no-drip spout.
border gas sign
It’s a big sign – 5ft tall and wide – so it needs space, but I like the graphics, which tell me about my grandfather the warden of the prison and how he rode on horseback; even after his retirement, he jumped on them. Frontier was founded in Ontario as Wainwright Refineries, but the company moved to Wyoming in 1976 and changed its name to Frontier in 1996. A few years ago it merged to become HollyFrontier Corp., a Fortune 500 based in Dallas.