A good sign: Old ag collection sparks interest

By Susan Mellish
MILLERSBURG, Ohio — Farmers have a tendency to hang onto things. You never know when something might come in handy.

Collector Rob Pennell appreciated such frugality because it helped supply his interest in vintage agriculture related signs, tools and salesman samples.

This past March, Kaufman Realty & Auctions offered up Pennell’s extensive holdings and found other collectors also appreciated what this consignor had acquired over the years. Salesman samples are always a fun collecting area and ag-based examples are no different.

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Top lot

Salesmen used to call on farms and since it wasn’t easy hauling around full-size hay-balers or tools, they used identical replicas in miniature to make the sale.

The top lot at this March event was a salesman sample of a True Temper three-tined pitch fork.

Measuring about 30 inches long and selling with a type of metal guard for the tines, this interesting find made $725.

Yes, you read that right.

A quick Google search on the subject turned up another True Temper three-tined pitch fork sans the tine-guard selling for $200 on http://www.icollect.com.

Who knew one such salesman’s sample would come on the market, let alone two, in less than a month’s time.

Hay day

Another salesman sample bid up this day was a hay carrier which brought $375.

“This salesman sample was about two feet long and was a mini-replica of one used to pick up big square hay bales, Henry Hershberger, Kaufman’s auction house manager, said. “The salesman could never have brought a full-size example on his rounds, so he’d pull out this miniature. Then farmers could see and hopefully place an order for the product he was selling.”

Signs

Salesman samples aside, colorful ag-related signs were also popular with those in attendance. A Yoder Hybrid Seed sign for the Yoder Hybrid Corn Company, Berlin, Ohio, brought $400.

It measured approximately 3 feet long and 28 inches high and featured ears of corn, which were used to make a “Y.”

A Funks Hybrid Seed dealer sign showing an ear of corn over a large letter “G” was newer, less graphic and more affordable at $75.

Two New Idea display racks sold strong. One featured graphics of machinery as well as an area to display product brochures. This standing model sold for $250, while a wooden counter display, which also held brochures, was won with a $110 bid.

Like any advertising items, the better the artwork the more desirable it is.

More signs. A United Hagie Seed/Twine sign was a pleasing shield shape and sported a bucking mule. It went to $300, as did a calf-shaped Kraft Kaff-A sign that was only 16 inches high and 18 inches long.

Another sign commanding $300 was the Elsie the Cow Bordens Ice Cream sign which measured 14 inches wide and was about 2 feet long. It sold with an accompanying sign reminding those who put the product on display to be sure not to drop the cases when stocking the shelves.

Graphical

Other graphic items bringing strong bids, which were not ag related, included a Miami Beach license plate topper showing a marlin and a palm tree. This sold for $90.

A Pittsburgh Paint glass coin bank in the shape of a house (about 3 inches by 4 inches) brought $35 and a Sunbeam Bread “Slow Down Children Playing” sign measuring about 24 inches long and 20 inches wide topped out at $425.

Collector Rob Pennell stated many of the items offered were New Old Stock, meaning they had never been used; and was very appealing to collectors.

“Many of the signs were in fantastic condition, which added greatly to their selling prices,” Hershberger said. “And the salesman samples just do not come on the market often, so they brought great prices too.”

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