1906 Rock Island Railroad Sign Chugs Past Estimates

An 8-foot-long 1906 Rock Island Railroad reverse glass train sign brought $71,500 at an auction held Sept.30-Oct. 2 by Showtime Auction Services, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor. It was a new auction record for an 8-foot Rock Island sign, more than doubling the previous record of $30,000. It was also the top lot of the sale.

If a Rock Island Railroad sign rings a bell, it’s because another sign for the same railroad, also from around the turn of the century but of a different size and look, soared to $165,000 at Showtime’s last big auction, held April 1-3, also in Ann Arbor. It was the most ever paid for an advertising sign, a record that still stands today. Both signs were housed in original gilt frames.

The 8-foot sign (99 inches by 24 inches overall) was designed by the same maker of the Pullman Car chandeliers. It was given to the Western Sandblasting Company in Chicago, with a contract to produce 50 more. It is also quite possibly the only one with verbiage on the original frame and sign. It was considered highly desirable to collectors, with the train in the foreground.

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