Aetna Insurance Company reverse glass painted sign brings $51,300 at auction

  • ANN ARBOR, Michigan
  • /
  • April 18, 2014

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This Aetna Insurance Company reverse glass painted sign was the top lot of the auction, selling for $51,300 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Showtime Auction Services

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – An Aetna Insurance Company (Hartford, Conn.) reverse glass painted sign with mother of pearl inlay, 34 inches square and in excellent like-new condition, sold for $51,300 at a three-day auction event held April 4-6 at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor. The sale was conducted by Showtime Auction Services, based in Woodhaven, Mich.

“That Aetna sign was one of the most impressive reverse glass signs we’ve ever seen, just beautiful,” said Mike Eckles of Showtime Auction Services. The sign tied for top lot of the auction with an El Bart Gin tin sign, housed in the original frame and copyrighted in 1905 by Wilson Distilleries (Kaufman & Strauss Company, N.Y.). That sign also gaveled for $51,300.

In all, more than 1,800  lots from two major collections, plus consignments from over 100 other advanced collectors came up for bid, in an auction that grossed more than $1.3 million. Headlining the event were the lifetime collections of Robert and Janet Straub of Kansas and Neil J. Frick of Michigan. Both collections were very diverse, with items in more than 40 categories.

The auction was a bit different than past Showtime sales, in that live, internet and phone bidding were permitted all three days. “We used to have live-only auctions the first day of each sale, but that won’t be the case any longer,” Eckles said. “From now on, internet bidding will be available the entire time. Real-time bidding  has really taken hold, and we’re obligated to make our consignments open to all forms of bidding,” he said.

That said, Eckles was somewhat surprised by the large in-person turnout – around 200 people each day. “There were more folks at this auction than our fall sale,” he remarked, “and because of how we spread out all the categories, the audience kept changing.” He added internet bidding was heavy as well: 2,500 people registered online, via and

Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include a buyer’s premium that ranged from 14-20 percent, depending on how the winning bid was placed.

A rare Hires Root Beer, the green version, showing a graphic of the Hires Boy and a price of 5 cents, went for $49,200. The dispenser – 18 inches tall and with no chips or cracks, was stamped “Mettlach 3098” on the bottom. Also, a full-size, bright red 1928 Model A fire hose and ladder truck, fully restored and complete with patriotic banners and ribbons, charged away for $31,200.

Two lots realized identical selling prices of $34,200. The first was a Happy Jap Chewing Gum machine (“Drop One Cent”), patented in 1902, with the original porcelain sign and custom wall bracket (overall 12 inches tall). The second was a Glencoe Brewing Company (Glencoe, Minn.) Vitrolite corner sign (“Uncle Sam Beer”) in great shape and in the original copper flashed frame.

Another beer sign that did exceptionally well was a Yosemite Beer reverse glass sign (Enterprise Brewing Co., S.F.). The sign, in excellent condition and measuring 15 ¼ inches by 19 ½ inches, brought $27,600. Also, a De Laval Cream Separator die-cut two-sided flange sign, mounted on a wood display stand and showing just a few minor rubs and scratches, changed hands for $6,400.

A Skinner’s Satins self-framed oval tin sign (Chas. W. Shonk Lithographers, Chicago), in near-mint condition and with a boldly rendered Native American in full headdress graphic, rose to $24,000; a sheep weathervane made of zinc, in very good original condition, fetched $25,650; and an October Sweet Apple Cider stoneware crock (“Good to the Core”) commanded $2,700.

A Mills one-armed bandit miner-themed slot machine, taking 25 cents per play and possibly attributed to Frank Polk, 76 inches tall and in very good working condition, made $17,100; and a Union Pacific System die-cut porcelain shield sign (“The Overland Route”), professionally restored and in excellent condition, measuring 38 ¼ inches by 42 inches, breezed to $12,540.

Two other lots cracked the $10,000 mark. One was a Puffer Hubbard Company salesman’s sample silo (the Minneapolis panel silo), in very good original condition, 16 inches tall and 8 ¾ inches in diameter ($11,400). The other was an Adams Bagnel antique oscillating gyro fan, the earliest version of a gyro fan by Adams Bagnel and in excellent restored condition ($10,200).

Coffee anyone? A Model 716 Enterprise floor model coffee grinder (Patent 1898) with the original paint, stenciling, eagle finial and pan, in very good condition, 58 ½ inches tall, coasted to $9,000; and a coffee mill container tin and coffee tin with elk motif (A. Schilling & Co., San Francisco; and Norton Brothers, Chicago, makers), in very good condition, realized $3,000.

A Life-Savers die-cut cardboard string hanging two-sided sign, 10 inches by 12 inches, in very good condition except for some edge wear at the bottom and corners and at the top hole went for $9,600; and a rare Merry War pure powdered lye tin match holder (“The girl who knows the best”), made by E. Myers Lye Company (St. Louis, Mo.), 3 ¾ inches tall, commanded $4,500.

A hard-to-find Red Goose Shoes cast-iron string holder with most of the original paint intact and in very good overall condition (14 inches by 10 inches) went to a determined bidder for $4,200; and a Tuxedo Perfect Tobacco cardboard store display box, showing a picture of baseball player Harry Gowdy and with a quote attributed to him endorsing the product, hammered for $2,500.

Showtime Auction Services’ next big auction is slated for October 2-5, also at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor. Headlining the four-day event will be the entire 50-year collection of Bud and Sally Bassett, dedicated collectors of country store and advertising. All 2,000 lots will be sold with no minimums or reserves (other consignments may have reserves).

Showtime Auction Services is always accepting quality consignments for future auctions. To consign an item, an estate or a collection, you may call Michael Eckles at (951) 453-2415, or you can e-mail him at or To learn more about Showtime Auction Services and the Oct. 2-5 auction, log on to

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Mike Eckles
Showtime Auction Services
(951) 453-2415

Showtime Auction Services
22619 Monterey Drive
Woodhaven, Michigan
(951) 453-2415

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