In the early days of automobile travel, service stations were unfamiliar and often poorly lit at night. Lighted petrol-pump globes and other oil company signage were key to reassuring and drawing in motorists. Since the petrol pump was a new experience, early pumps allowed motorists to see if the petrol was clean (through a small glass window), and later to watch the price as the gas was pumped (a major innovation).
If you’ve already acquired the barn find vehicle from grandpas’s shed and think there’s nothing left to find? Think again! The dollars in the automobilia warrant a second look, such is the value of the antique advertising of petrol stations and the oil business, think gas pumps, globes, oil bottles & cans, road maps and signage.
Global companies like Shell & Texaco attract big dollars, as do the now defunct or consolidated brands such as the domestic Golden Fleece and Ampol.
Similar to how new cars worth $30k new in the 70’s are fetching prices north of a new Ferrari, some enthusiasts are being left behind. JUST CARS spoke with Automobilia Collector's Club of Australia (ACCA) President, David Lutze.
“It’s great for those who own already or sellers, but for buyers, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to acquire those rare items” - David Lutze, Automobilia Collectors Club of Australia
Graham Lancaster, of Graham Lancaster Auctions agrees, but was buoyed by the results when he hosted his annual automobilia auction in Toowoomba in October 2019. “It went absolutely crazy, we’re extremely pleased with the results. Each year it gets bigger and bigger” Lancaster stated.
So although some may be priced out, others are truly reaping the rewards over time. The Burns & Co Auction in February 2020 was one of Australia's largest, with auctioneer Ashley Burns presenting over 1000 lots.
Burns & Co achieved some remarkable results, acquiring items from Aussie Oil pioneer H.C Sleigh's first oil company, 'Summit Lubricants'. Early 20th century motor grease tins fetched $5,000, while a tin can sold for a mammoth $16,000.
Sleigh went on to co-found the iconic Golden Fleece, represented with items such as the double-manual pump, going to a lucky owner for $4,700.
Burns & Co's Marketing Coordinator, Raquel Cufari was thrilled and encouraged others looking to sell to reach out.
"We saw numerous items breaking the $10,000 mark, our clients are thrilled to receive those kind of returns on their treasures" - Raquel Cufari, Burns & Co
View the results of the full auction here.
Some examples of the larger sales domestically include the $17,700 paid for a Shell ‘stick man’ embossed three-panel enamelled tin sign at Scammell Auctions in South Australia, Tyre brands are popular, with a Dunlop enamel sign fetching $16,000 at Armitage Auctions in Tasmania, while Burns & Co had a 1930's light-up Michelin man selling for $12,500.
So what if you find an item and what to know it's worth? You could get it appraised by an auctioneer. Keith Levy, of Manshed Auctions, who often comes across unknowing sellers whom own a treasure trove of automobilia in thier garage. 'It's great for the seller, quite often they don;t know what their sitting on."
Levy encourages potential vendors to contact him at Manshed if they wish to sell a few items, which he can add to his monthly 'mancave' auction.
If you have a passion for automobilia and own some items, joining the ACCA as a member is a great way to get support, as well as have fun, making new friends and contacts.
"We offer advice and support for all members, including valuation advice" Lutze says. For more info on the ACCA, read a column by Lutze below
With a booming industry, who knows what you might find at the local flea market or grandpa's shed!
Want to keep up to date with the latest auctions? Subscribe to or purchase a monthly copy of JUST CARS, with regular announcements inserted by the businesses mentioned in this article.
Scammell's have confirmed a Collector auction in May.
READ ON: For more info on the Automobilia Collector's Club of Australia (ACCA).
Words and images provided by David Lutze
The Club was started in 1992 by a small group of people interested in collecting garagenalia and automobile-related items. Interest in this field has exploded in recent years and it’s wide range includes old oil company and car advertising signs, oil tins, petrol pumps, both manual and later electric; oil dispensing highboys; oil bottles, tin tops and associated racks; radiator and body badges; motoring club badges; number plates; spark plugs; garage tools and motoring accessories, and even pedal cars. The list is endless...
One of the most important elements of the club is the social aspect. Our club members are a pretty friendly and connected group and regularly catch up at swap meets and auctions around the country and also on social media. We have state and territory reps and from time to time they organise gatherings at member’s homes to meet up and view collections.
Membership is just $60 a year (in Australia) and comes with a quarterly “A.C.C.A. Magazine” jam packed with photos of people’s collections, restoration projects and other great stories.
From a humble beginnings in '92. the magazine has flourished with 36 colour pages, posted to over 400 members here in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Europe.
The other advantage of the club is access to advice on collecting for example if you’re doing a restoration there are people in the club who can help. If you’re thinking of buying a sign and you don’t know if it’s a reproduction there’ll be someone to help.
Many ACCA members are also car or motor bike enthusiasts as well, coming from all walks of life and business backgrounds.
Anyone interested in becoming a member can check us out at accaclub.org.au where you’ll find more info and a membership application link. We welcome all enquiries.
ACCA (Automobilia Collectors Club of Australia)
Author: Matthew Lancaster Images: Manshed Auctions, Scammell Auctions, Burns & Co, David Lutze
Lancaster is a pinch-hitter writer and content marketer that Just Auto utilises when the editor is too busy.
Although loathe to discuss himself in the third-person, he is a senior member of the Just Auto team, providing marketing solutions for automotive businesses since 2015.
Armed with a degree in Media & Communications, his passion lies in promoting the exciting things that his clients do.
Contact: [email protected]