A Mail Pouch brand six-sheet tobacco sign — a turn-of-the-century full-color lithograph and one of the most spectacular and rare tobacco signs ever printed sold for $19,800 at the sale of the Jim Main Collection, held September 28-30 by Showtime Auction Services. The weekend event was held at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Impressive at six feet wide and over seven feet tall, the sign was in excellent condition, with no tears or stains. It was museum mounted on linen, and framed under UV Plexiglas. “It was a real beauty, with all the color and action you could ever want in a sign of its type,” said Michael Eckles of Showtime Auction Services. “I’m sure it will hang in the saloon or game room of the winning bidder.”

The sign was one of nearly 2,150 lots that sold over the course of the weekend in an auction that Eckles called his “best sale ever.” The event grossed just under $2.2 million. Attendance at the Friday session – at which 700 items were sold exclusively, with no Internet, phone or absentee bidding components – was standing room only. “They were really packed in,” Eckles said. “It was a great sale.”
The centerpiece of the sale was the Jim Main Collection, a staggering array of country store and advertising items, padlocks and handcuffs, cigar cutters and lighters, devotional art, signs and more — many of them never before offered at auction. Also sold was the Larry Schroff Collection (De Laval Cream Separator advertising signs) and the Dan Lewis Collection (vintage National Cash Registers).
“Most of what was offered were extremely rare items and one-of-a-kinds,” Eckles said. “Many of the lots were multiples, with up to 25 items in a single lot. We also secured additional consignments that were just as good as the lifetime collections, in terms of rarity and quality. Frankly, I was expecting this to be the best sale we ever had, and I wasn’t disappointed. Neither were the bidders.”
Highlights of the auction follow. All prices quoted include a buyer’s premium (10% for in-house bidders, 20% for those who bid via phone, absentee and icollector.com on Saturday and Sunday).
One of the top lots of the sale was a salesman’s sample Coca-Cola Glasscock cooler. It went for $28,600. “This Coke collectible is extremely rare and desirable,” Eckles pointed out, “and it was in the best condition of any we’ve ever seen.”Measuring 10-1/2 x 13 x 8 inches, the cooler didn’t even have its original carrying case. But that didn’t matter to the determined bidders who waged a battle to own it.
A Princess Doraldina 5-cent play fortune teller in excellent working condition hammered for $24,750. One of the most desirable of all the fortune tellers, this one (measuring 31 x 94 x 34) had the glue chipped reverse glass sign in front. Also, a Mills Jockey coin-operated slot machine (one-cent), boasting an oak cabinet with copper flash trim, with keys and in great shape, brought $12,100.
A Rock-Ola Commando jukebox, Model 1420, exceedingly rare and one of the most colorful of all the jukeboxes, crossed the block at $23,100. The unit had been completely restored by John Papa and came with a strong 9.9 rating. Features included the renowned Rock-Ola top bowl light show. “This little beauty would spruce up even the most advanced collector’s game room” Eckles said.
A rare Curtis Moth pedal airplane, made in the early 1930s by Gendron, soared to $15,400. The bi-wing, tri-motor plane had its original paint and even came with the 1932 Ft. Dearborn wholesale catalog page featuring the item. Also, a rare Lukat the Lucky Cat coin-operated gumball vendor, made of aluminum, hit $13,200. The coin goes in the cat’s left ear, and a gumball pops out between his paws!
A vintage National Cash Register (Model # 1, Serial # 64923) rang up a sale for $14,300. The very early machine ” a narrow, candy story-style cash register ““ is very rare and desirable. It was originally sold in 1893 to Jno. H. F. Peck in Los Angeles (finding an early cash register sold in Los Angeles is itself a rarity). This one came with an optional time clock and reproduction glass marquee.
A California Powder Works paper sign, made in San Francisco and nicely displayed in a period gesso frame, changed hands for $13,200. Such signs are difficult to come across, and this one measuring 14 x 18-1/2 — was in very good condition. Also, a De Laval Cream Separator tin sign, the red version, with original frame (and “the best we’ve ever seen,” according to Eckles) brought $11,000.
An Electricity is Life coin-operated (one-cent) electric treatment, dated 1900 and made by Midland Mfg. Co., Chicago, realized $8,250. The example, in excellent working condition and standing 58” tall, had an oak cabinet and was mounted on a period-type pedestal with cast iron base. Also, a Columbia candy jar, the granddaddy of cookie jars, 38 tall and with no chips or cracks, made $7,150.
Showtime Auction Service’s next big sale will be held the weekend of April 10-13, 2008, also at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor, Mich. The event will be dedicated entirely to the lifetime, single-owner collection of George Cross, a legendary collector living in Orange County, Calif., and owner of the Pomona Automotive Swap Meet, held eight times annually in Pomona, Calif.
Mr. Cross has assembled, over the course of his long and fruitful life, a truly enviable collection of country store, advertising and other items, nearly all of them in mint condition. Just two of the 1,800 items to be sold (with no reserves and no minimums) are an East-meets-West Henry Hunter rye whiskey sign (est. $50,000) and an English-version Winchester Arms sign (est. $35,000).

Showtime Auction Services is presently based in Chino, Calif., but the firm will soon be moving to Woodhaven, Michigan, located midway between Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, just off Interstate 75. The relocation will be official on January 1, 2008. The company will keep its existing web address and e-mail address. It will continue to hold two large sales a year, as it has done for years.
To learn more about Showtime Auction Services, click on www.showtimeauctions.com. The firm is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign an item, estate or collection, you may call Michael Eckles at (951) 453-2415. His e-mail address is [email protected] Check the website for updates to the George Cross Collection sale, scheduled for April 10-13, 2008