Auctioned 1906 Rock Island Railroad sign steams to $71,500

An 8-foot-long 1906 Rock Island Railroad reverse glass train sign brought $71,500 at an auction held September 30-October 2 by Showtime Auction Services, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor, Michigan, US.

It was a new auction record for an 8-foot Rock Island sign, more than doubling the previous record of $30,000. It was also the top lot of the sale.

If a Rock Island Railroad sign rings a bell, it's because another sign for the same railroad, also from around the turn of the century but of a different size and look, soared to $165,000 at Showtime's last big auction, held April 1-3, also in Ann Arbor.

It was the most ever paid for an advertising sign, a record that still stands today. Both signs were housed in original gilt frames.

The 8-foot sign (99 inches by 24 inches overall) was designed by the same maker of the Pullman Car chandeliers. It was given to the Western Sandblasting Company in Chicago, with a contract to produce 50 more.

The 8-foot-long 1906 Rock Island Railroad reverse glass train sign (Click here to view the whole sign)


It is also quite possibly the only one with verbiage on the original frame and sign. It was considered highly desirable to collectors, with the train in the foreground.

The auction attracted around 250 people a day on the first two days and about 200 people on the last day. Internet bidding was brisk, with nearly 1,500 online bidders (a record for Showtime).

Phone and absente bids were also recorded. Overall, close to 2,000 lots changed hands in an auction that grossed $1.6 million.

"This was our biggest and best fall auction ever, no doubt," said Michael Eckles of Showtime Auction Services.

"I was very pleased with the level of Internet bidding activity, which I know was driven by factors such as increased travel costs and the hassles of airport security. But the in-house crowd was great, too, and they really got into the spirit of the event."

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