2017 - Volume #41, Issue #1, Page #19[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Find Hidden Treasure In Farm Advertising Signs
At an auction held last May in Iowa, farm advertising signs ranging from the 1880’s to the 1960’s were sold. Rich Penn, owner of Rich Penn Auctions in Iowa, had about 300 farm-related advertising signs up for sale. He says signs with eye-catching designs and graphics attracted lots of buyers and sold high.
The top seller was a J.I. Case “Eagle on a Globe” die-cut porcelain sign, which sold for $11,550. Back in the 1930’s and 40’s, Case dealers used to display cast iron eagles like the one pictured in front of their dealerships. They’re quite rare now.
A vintage Renk Dealer metal sign for Renk seed corn company sold for $248. The sign features Kernel Renk, the cartoon mascot with a kernel-shaped head.
An embossed metal Wolverine Hybrids seed corn sign, made for Michigan Hybrid Seed Co., showed a wolverine walking on an ear of corn. It sold for $495. An ad for Wilbur Seed Meal, showing a wooden feed store bin, sold for $2,856.
Signs advertising pigs, sheep, and mules were popular, says Penn. For example, a 2-sided metal Chester Whites pig sign claiming “Large Meaty Litters” sold for $330. An embossed porcelain sign advertising Elephant Brand fertilizer, showing an image of an elephant, sold for $440. “The elephant sign has a cool look, and I think that’s what attracts people,” says Penn. “It’s the feeling you get when you look at them. They make you smile. It has personality and that’s what sells it.”
Slight damage or wear didn’t seem to affect prices too much. For example, there were BB-gun holes on one side of a Charolais beef cattle sign yet it still sold for $880. A two-sided Brown Swiss Cattle sign, lightly scratched, sold for $605.
“People are less bothered today about the condition of a piece of advertising,” says Penn. “If there are dings, scuffs, scratches, or chips or bullet holes, it adds character. There are still collectors who won’t buy anything unless it’s near perfect, but a lot of people don’t mind if a sign shows its wear. Most of these signs hung outside for a long time and they showed it.”
Even without any illustrations, advertising signs for classic farm equipment manufacturers such as J.I. Case, John Deere or International Harvester attracted a lot of interest. For example, a bright yellow and red John Deere brand Waterloo Boy Tractor dealership sign sold for $2,090.
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