DENVER, Pa. – Just as nightclubs are today’s social hubs, there was a time, more than a century ago, when the local soda fountain or soda shop was where people went for a light meal or wholesome refreshment in a cordial environment. Sometimes a soda fountain – named for the actual device that dispensed carbonated beverages – was found within a larger establishment, such as a drugstore or candy store.
Soda fountain memorabilia is pure American nostalgia, and collectors revel in the opportunity to purchase such treasures from a source as esteemed as the Sharyn and Terry Brown collection, which highlights Morphy’s August 23-25 auction series.
The Brown collection will be offered during the August 23-24 Soda Pop & Soda Fountain Advertising session, which is followed by General Advertising on August 25. The auction will begin each day at 9 a.m., with all forms of bidding available, including live via the Internet through Morphy Live.
The star of the show, and a prize that any collector would covet for their own home soda shop, is a stunning 19th-century soda fountain front and backbar with a lighted, stained-glass front fountain and a Charles Lippincott 10-position marble soda dispenser. Its origins can be traced to a Helena, Arkansas, café that opened in 1888. It comes to auction with six bent-wire stools, as well as historical photos and a newspaper clipping as provenance. The pre-sale estimate for this grand soda fountain suite is $60,000-$100,000.
If any trade sign could be described as “eye candy,” it’s the Illuminating cast-aluminum and glass example designed as an ice cream soda, complete with “foam” and a long-handled spoon. Made by Beacon Mfg & Sales Co., New York, NY, it measures 33 by 24 by 8 inches and is emblazoned “SODA.” In beautiful original condition, graded 8.5, this advertising gem could hit the sweet spot at $15,000-$30,000.
The auction includes signage for scores of soft drink brands, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, 7-Up, Hires and other root beers; and ginger ales, which enjoy their own following amongst collectors. The oldest surviving ginger ale brand in the United States and one of the oldest sodas overall, Vernor’s Ginger Ale was accidentally invented in the 1860s by Detroit pharmacist James Vernor. It is said that Vernor was working on a medicinal tonic and added ginger to calm the stomach. When he returned from his military service during the Civil War, the flavor of his concoction, which had been left undisturbed in an oak barrel for four years, had pleasantly improved over time. A self-framed embossed tin Vernor’s Ginger Ale sign with an image of the company’s Mountie mascot, condition 8.9, is estimated at $3,500-$7,000.
Eclipsing the Vernor’s sign in rarity is a Was-Cott Brand Ginger Ale celluloid-over-cardboard advertisement boasting the drink is “made from mineral spring water 2600 feet above sea level.” In excellent condition with beautiful graphics and color, this rare advert for a North Tazewell, Virginia company is expected to reach $8,000-$12,000.
More than 325 lots in the Tuesday/Wednesday sessions are devoted to the world’s most loved soda brand: Coca-Cola. There are signs and advertisements; china and Vienna plates; a broad selection of clocks and calendars; syrup bottles, window displays, festoons, scores of serving and tip trays; coolers, radios, and much more.
The variety of Coke signs is immense. A double-sided button flange sign with the message “Drink Coca-Cola” and “DRUGS” is bright and outstanding, rated a condition 9.5. Morphy Auctions’ experts noted in the catalog description that it is “spectacular” and “the nicest example” they have seen. Measuring 23¼ by 17¾ inches, it is estimated at $4,000-$8,000.
A tremendous display piece, a double-sided die-cut porcelain “Fountain Service Coca-Cola” hanging sign is supported by a cast-iron floor stand with built-in spotlights aimed at the message. It is marked “Tenn. Enamel Mfg. Co. Nashville” and “Made in U.S.A. 1933” and stands 94 inches tall. No apologies are required for the fine condition of this glossy, colorful sign, which is estimated at $2,000-$3,000.
Variety, rarity and condition are the words best describing the August 25 General Advertising session. By and large, the most appealing antique signs of the 19th and early 20th centuries were those that advertised alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and firearms/ammunition. Morphy’s selection is led by a reverse-on-glass Owl Cigar Store sign that is possibly one of a kind. This very early and important piece is centered with the image of a stern, beady-eyed owl perched on a branch. Its bronze and gold hues stand out vividly against a jet-black background. Sizable at 80 by 30¼ inches, this investment-grade sign could fly off to a new owner for $30,000-$60,000.
A framed Tiger Chewing Tobacco sign is mesmerizing with its 3D-like image of a tiger peering through the original wavy glass. Stamped “COPYRIGHT 1908 BY THE AMERICAN TOBACCO COMPANY” at the lower left-hand corner, it measures 32 by 26 inches and is in near-mint condition. This big cat could leap to a winning bid of $4,000-$8,000.
One of the finest beer signs in the sale is an elegantly framed, rounded glass example advertising “AMERICAN BEER POCATELLO, IDA.” Its central image powerfully depicts Lady Liberty holding a torch and standing on top of the world, and it is stamped “DAWES MFG. CO PITTSBURG PA.” In excellent condition, it measures 26½ inches in diameter and comes to auction with a $5,000-$10,000 estimate.
The lineup of whiskey advertising includes signs, chargers, display pieces and trays. Leading the group is a classic J.W. Harper Whiskey framed sign with the image of a kindly grandfather surrounded by children, and the slogan “THE KIND YOUR GRANDFATHER USED.” Including its period golden oak frame, it measures 52¾ by 40¾ inches. Another iInvestment-grade piece, it is estimated at $5,000-$15,000.
Very rarely encountered in comparable condition, a string holder graded Good+ advertises Lowney’s Breakfast Cocoa and shows a patent date of March 8, 1908. It is both attractive and amusing. When a length of string is pulled, an attached cocoa cup rises upward in the vertical slot at the left side of the sign. Designed as an eye-catching point-of-sale items, it could land in the $4,000-$7,000 range.
Morphy’s Aug. 23-24 Soda Pop & Soda Fountain Advertising Auction and Aug. 25 General Advertising Auction will be held live at Morphy’s gallery, 2000 N. Reading Rd., Denver, PA 17517, starting each day at 9 a.m. Eastern Time. All forms of bidding will be available, including absentee, phone and live via the Internet through Morphy Live. Enquiries: call 877-968-8880, email email@example.com. Visit Morphy’s online at www.morphyauctions.com.