You can name any area of the country and in terms of petroleum collectibles, argue who had the prettiest or neatest artifacts. Michigan had several very graphic collectibles. Texas/Oklahoma had many fantastic globes and signs. Many Pennsylvania companies used logos second to none. Yet, few states or regions can beat the West Coast Collectibles.
Signal Oil of California used the famous old traffic light to decorate their globes, signs, maps and more. Sunset Oil items are extremely rare, but that Sunset logo you'll never forget. Hancock with the rooster, Beacon with the lighthouse, Associated with the wings and oil can, Richfield with the bird, Mohawk with the indian, Gilmore and their lion logos, Rainbow with their rainbows, Clipper featuring the airplane and Polly with the parrot are only a few of the beautiful logos used by West Coast companies.
And are these companies hot items! Not only in the west, but everywhere. Anyone I know would love to own either a sign, globe, can or whatever from any of these companies. I often wondered why most California collectors I know only collect West Coast items. Well, that's simple when you look at a good collection of these companies. The graphics of west Coast collectibles are enough to satisfy anyone's appitite for great collectibles.
With good things though, come a good price. Most gasoline globes mentioned above would bring $2,500-$5,000, depending on which company. Signs of these companies bring a premium as well. Hancock pump plate signs can fetch $900-$1,500. Signal pump plates go from $500-$800.
Gilmore, Beacon, Polly, Rainbow, Clipper, Sunset and several other companies are known only to use decals for pump identification. Yet, each of the above companies used larger porcelain signs on their buildings, curb posts or sign posts. These can bring big bucks. Several thousand ($3,000-$6,000) and you might just own any of the above.
Cans are no exception. Many cans from these companies fetch the highest prices seen. Four hundred dollars to $1,000 is a fair range for many of these rare and graphic cans of the West Coast. Smaller collectibles, banners, oil bottles, and other items are extremly popular among the West Coast hunters too.
Anything picturesque or very graphic always brings a premium in our hobby, West Coast or not. This is why collectibles from these companies are typically expensive - because they are beautiful. Though most any collector in our hobby would love to own a globe, sign, can or whatever from one of these companies, few of these collectibles make it out of the West Coast. Their scarcity and demand keep most of the collectibles close to home.
And let's talk about scarcity. Many of these companies were not established until the late 1920s, whereas many oil companies elsewhere are much older. California and western states are newer and were settled later. Did you ever notice that in many early station photos of the western companies that globes weren't even used? And, there was little signage at these stations. This fact is confirmed by the sheer scarcity of these items today.
Having spent 10 years in California, I was able to experience some of the nicest collections I've seen to this day. If you ever have the opportunity to buy any West Coast collectibles, you'd better snatch them up quickly because they won't last as long as the California sun!
Photos and article copyright 1996 PCM. If you would like this type of info every month, subscribe to PCM. Check the Petroleum Collectibles Monthly page at this site. Support the publications that share content with this web site.
The gas station collectible supersite
Published to the Web 5/18/96 by Jim Potts, used with permission.