In the world of petroliana and automobilia, Kyle D. Moore’s name carries a kind of mystique. His vast collection of vintage gasoline signs, petrol pumps, petroleum ads and other artifacts was amassed over 40 years and is widely regarded as the best of its kind.
It’s coming up for auction this week in Pennsylvania, generating predictions of a possible feeding frenzy as deep-pocketed collectors vie for the rarest, most highly sought-after items.
“It’s the most significant event our hobby has probably ever seen,” said Wayne Henderson of Kernersville, North Carolina, a historian and publisher of Petroleum Collectibles Monthly.
Moore, a wealthy cable TV entrepreneur from Oklahoma who died last year, was known for picking only the best of the best for his collection. Its current owner, who bought it from Moore in 2006, is selling the entire trove of 2000 petroleum-related advertising signs, 900 gas globes, 150 pumps and other treasures at a series of four auctions, the first to be held tonight NZ time.
Collectors are flying in from around the US and as far away as Germany and the Netherlands.
“Anybody that collects cars, they all want something for their garage wall. And these guys that are spending $1 million, $2 million, $3 million on early Ferraris or Bugattis or whatever, for them to spend $50,000 or $100,000 on a sign ... to put on that wall, it’s nothing to those guys,” said Dan Morphy, who is handling the sale.
Morphy predicted a sign valued at $US20,000 ($31,200) might wind up selling for twice that. The whole collection could bring a total of $US20 million ($31.2 million).
At the auction house, shiny antique gas pumps stand cheek by jowl. Colourful, intricately detailed globes and signs occupied every inch of wall and shelf, and early versions of the Michelin Man stood sentinel — all of it tracing America’s early infatuation with the automobile.
Interest in petroleum and auto industry memorabilia has risen steadily along with values, according to Henderson.