Final offering of the Idaho super-collector’s signs served as opening-day highlight of a Sept. 29-Oct. 1 auction that chalked up $5.1M
DENVER, Pa. – There’s likely to be a very long stretch of highway ahead of collectors before they see another gas and oil advertising collection to rival the one amassed by Bobby Knudsen Jr. Heralded far and wide for its ultra-rare, superior-condition gas, oil and soda pop signs, the Knudsen collection added high-octane fuel to an already energized hobby through a series of three no-reserve sales at Morphy’s that commenced in fall 2022. The last of Knudsen’s envy-stirring signs served as the opening-day highlight of Morphy’s September 29-October 1, 2023 sale and pushed the collection’s series grand total to just shy of $10 million.
“I can’t believe all three Knudsen sales are now part of history. What a year!” said John Mihovetz, Morphy’s Automobilia & Petroliana department head. “It was such a pleasure to handle Bobby’s collection and guide it every step of the way to its exciting conclusion. The Knudsen sales kicked open the doors to the next level of collecting by showing the power that can be generated when high condition meets extreme rarity.”
Prior to the fall 2023 sale – which included property from additional consignors on Days 2 and 3 and grossed $5.1 million – the final selection of signs from the famed Knudsen collection was given the royal treatment. Each was graded, certified and stickered by AGS, the recently launched expert grading service that specializes in antique advertising.
As had been the case in the earlier Knudsen sales, consistently high prices were paid for the “unicorns” – and there were plenty. A show-stopping Bruinoil and Bruin Gasoline (Butler County, Pa.) double-sided tin flange sign with a fantastic central image of a roaring bear was so close to immaculate, it was described in the auction catalog as “most likely new/old stock.” With sides AGS-graded 94 and 91, respectively, on a scale of 1-100, it barreled its way to $92,250 against a $40,000-$80,000 estimate.
A rare and outstanding Beacon Ethyl Gasoline (Caminol Co., Los Angeles) single-sided porcelain service station sign from the 1930s was created in the shape of a lighthouse and realistically detailed to depict beams emitting from its lantern room. The colorful 4ft-tall advertising treasure was AGS-graded 89 and sold at the midpoint of its estimate for $72,000.
Also having a water theme and exhibiting rich marine colors and high gloss, a Harbor Petroleum Products (Los Angeles) single-sided porcelain sign was emblazoned with the image of a large airplane flying above harbor waters. AGS-graded 94, it landed easily within its estimate range at $60,000. The ever-popular aviation theme continued with an iconic Smitholene Aviation Brand Gasoline single-sided porcelain pump plate sign with a dual-prop airplane graphic. Dating to around the 1940s, the 10-inch-diameter sign presented in extremely clean condition and was AGS-graded 93. It sold above high estimate for $40,800.
Several iterations of coveted Mohawk Gasoline signs had appeared in Parts I and II of the Knudsen series. Bidders took advantage of their last chance to take one home from the four offered in Part III, especially focusing on a single-sided porcelain neon sign which, of course, featured the striking image of a Native American brave. Measuring a full 5ft tall by 45 inches wide and AGS-graded 87, it lit up the room and easily surpassed its high estimate to sell for $61,500.
There was also strong interest in a Mustang Oil (Monroe, N.C.) double-sided porcelain service station sign with an appealing graphic of a rearing horse. An impressive 6ft in diameter, the sign was AGS-graded graded 88 and 85 on its respective sides and galloped to $55,200 against an estimate of $15,000-$30,000.
A bright and eye-catching Goodrich Tires porcelain sign from north of the border featured the imposing image of a Canadian Mountie officer in full uniform, including hat and gloves. The single-sided sign measuring 56 inches high was AGS-graded 86 and rose to $38,400 against an estimate of $15,000-$25,000.
Right on par with the Goodrich sign was an extremely rare 1920s Mobiloil double-sided porcelain service station sign with a die-cut graphic of a race car and driver. Mihovetz remarked that it would be “all but impossible to find another one like it.” The 16-inch-long sign, AGS-graded 83/80 per side, sold just below its high estimate for $38,400.
After the hammer fell on the last of the lots offered in the three-day auction, Morphy Auctions’ president, Dan Morphy, commented that handling the Knudsen collection was “definitely one of the great highlights” of Morphy’s 20-year history. “The interest in Bobby’s collection never wavered, and that was reflected in the aggressive bidding and dozens of world auction records that were set during the series. Automobilia and petroliana is a highly visual and relatable collecting specialty that can be enjoyed by all age groups. The future looks very bright for gas and oil collectibles.”
To discuss a consignment of automobilia, petroliana or any other type of antique, vintage collectible or artwork to a future Morphy’s sale, call toll-free 877-968-8880 or email email@example.com. Visit Morphy’s online at www.morphyauctions.com.
All prices quoted in this report are inclusive of 23% buyer’s premium.
All images courtesy of Morphy Auctions
Outstanding Mohawk Gasoline single-sided porcelain neon sign with Native American graphic. Size: 45in x 60in. AGS certified and graded 87 on a scale of 1-100. Sold well above high estimate for $61,500
Rare and exceptional 1930s Beacon Ethyl Gasoline (Caminol Co., Los Angeles) single-sided porcelain service station sign with beautiful image of lighthouse casting beams. Size: 48in x 30in. AGS certified and graded 89 on a scale of 1-100. Sold at midpoint of estimate for $72,000
Bruinoil and Bruin Gasoline (Pa.) double-sided tin flange sign with fantastic central image of roaring bear with slogan ‘The Bear Of Them All.’ Most likely new/old stock. Size: 18in x 14in. AGS certified with sides graded 94 and 91, respectively, on a scale of 1-100, Sold for $92,250 against a $40,000-$80,000 estimate
Iconic Smitholene Aviation Brand Gasoline single-sided porcelain pump plate sign with dual-prop airplane graphic. Circa 1940s. Size: 10in diameter. Extremely clean example throughout. AGS certified and graded 93 on a scale of 1-100. Sold above high estimate for $40,800
Stunning Harbor Petroleum Products single-sided porcelain sign with graphic showing large plane flying above harbor waters. Rich colors and high gloss. Size: 39in x 35in. AGS certified and graded 94 on a scale of 1-100. Sold within estimate for $60,000
Highly sought-after Mustang Oil (Monroe, N.C.) double-sided porcelain service station sign with appealing horse graphic. Size: 72in diameter. AGS certified with sides graded 88 and 85, respectively, on a scale of 1-100. Sold for $55,200 against an estimate of $15,000-$30,000
Extremely rare 1920s Mobiloil double-sided porcelain service station sign with die-cut graphic of race car and driver. Size: 16in x 9½in. All but impossible to find another like it. Bobby Knudsen Jr. Collection. AGS certified and graded 83/80 per side on scale of 1-100. Sold near high estimate for $38,400
Exceptionally clean example of rare Goodrich Tires single-sided porcelain sign with graphic of Canadian Mountie officer. Hard-to-find sign in high grade. Size: 56in x 20in. AGS certified and graded 86 on a scale of 1-100. Sold for $38,400 against an estimate of $15,000-$25,000