George Cross Collection grosses $2.7 million


El Bart Dry Gin Advertising Sign(Ann Arbor, Mich.) – An extremely rare El-Bart Dry Gin tin advertising sign, made in 1905 for the Wilson Distilling Company by Kaufmann & Strauss Co., Lithographers, of New York, sold for $60,500 at the sale of The George Cross Collection held April 11-13 at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor. The auction was staged by Showtime Auction Services, of Woodhaven, Mich.

“This was one of the finest collections of its kind in the United States,” said Mike Eckles of Showtime Auction Services. “Nearly everything Mr. Cross owned was in mint or near-mint condition. It was a treasure trove for serious collectors who were attracted to the high quality merchandise and the fact that every lot was sold without minimums or reserves. Everything went, regardless of price.”

In a sad footnote to what was otherwise a high-spirited and well-attended auction, Mr. Cross passed away just weeks before his collection crossed the block. His collection was huge, and included advertising and country store collectibles; Old West memorabilia; petroliana; coin-op; coffee grinders; gambling; Coca-Cola; occupational mugs; bronzes; barber shop items; automotive; and more.

By the end of the weekend, about 1,880 lots had changed hands. The El-Bart Dry Gin sign, still housed in its original gesso frame, was the sale’s top lot. About 500 people made it to the event, in addition to the nearly 2,000 registered online bidders (through eBay Live and Also, over 1,000 phone bids and about 1,500 absentee were recorded. The sale grossed about $2.7 million.

“The results were just incredible,” Mr. Eckles said. “This auction will change the entire complexion of the advertising sign category. It had been strong, back in the ’80s, then it went soft, but now it’s back in a big way and this sale proved it. Signs were sailing past their high estimates to fetch unbelievably strong prices. People are hanging signs on their walls as fine art — and at fine art prices.”

Other highlights from the sale follow. All prices quoted include a buyer’s premium (10% for on-site bidders; 13% for credit card purchases; and 20% for phone, absentee and Internet bidders).
– A Buffalo Brewing Company tin charger: $57,750.
– A rare Buffalo Brewing Company reverse glass sign: $50,850.
– An H. Guggenheimer & Co., reverse glass sign: $38,500.
– A rare Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad reverse glass sign: $36,000.
– A rare Henry Hunter Fine Old Rye Whiskey tin sign: $38,500
– A Days of 49 Whiskey paper sign: $33,000.
– A Cyrus Noble Whiskey paper gambling scene sign: $27,600
– A rare Wells Fargo & Co. Express two-sided sand sign: $27,500.
– A Winchester paper sign: $25,300
– A P.T. Barnum & Co. Greatest Show on Earth paper sign: $25,800
– A Tackle Trade Symbol, tin with gold wash: $25,200.
– A Gordon Motor Car Supplies paper sign: $24,200
– A Pulvers Chocolate & Cocoa Gum one-cent coin-operated embossed tin dispenser (1899): $22,550
– A Dr. Leisures Veterinary Cabinet with embossed tin front: $22,000.
– A Schells Carbonated Mead Paper sign from 1908: $19,250
– A Cooks Water embossed paper sign: $16,500
– A nickel-activated bicycle trade stimulator: $16,200
– A rare Wells Fargo & Co. Wooden Express treasure box: $14,300.
– An Atlantic White Lead Dutch Boy Paint die cut tin string holder: $15,400
– A Marlin Repeating Rifles & Shotguns paper sign: $13,750
– A Teddy & the Lion mechanical bank: $13,750.
– A Wells Fargo & Co. Express Saf: $13,560
– A Grape Nuts self-framed tin sign: $13,200
– A Hires Root Beer embossed die-cut tin chain hanging sign: $12,100.
– A Hopkins & Allen Arms Co. firearms poster: $11,000
– A porcelain Murad Turkish Cigarettes two-sided flange sign: $10,450
– A Y.B. Cigars cast-iron cigar lighter in the shape of a steer: $9,350.
– A Falstaff self-framed tin sign: $9,350
– A bicycle discount wheel cigar trade stimulator: $8,800
– An Enterprise coffee grinder, No. 9 (Philadelphia): $8,250
– A Wave Crest tobacco jar with lid: $7,200.

Showtime Auction Services’ next big sale will be held the weekend of October 10-12, also at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor, Mich. The auction will feature The Sandy Rosnick Collection, as well as other selected estate items. Sold will be tobacciana; country store; soda fountain; general store; saloon; gambling; arcade; coin-op; advertising; showcases; fixtures; furniture; barber shop memorabilia; vintage toys; banks; salesman samples; Western Americana; glass; and more.

To learn more about Showtime Auction Services, click on

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