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J. Garland Warren's Country Store Collection

Don Johnson | October 5th, 2013


This 35" x 47" sign for Armour’s pork and beans, embossed tin in a wooden frame, late 19th or early 20th century, brought $2585 (est. $600/1200).


This 58" high Royal Crown Cola sign of enameled tin, early 20th century, sold for $1058 (est. $250/500).


This 7½" x 59" wooden sign with “Oliver Plows” on a sanded surface, from the second half of the 19th century, brought $1880 (est. $300/600).


Store seed bin in oak with 15 drawers on the back, each having a cast-iron handle embossed “Sherer,” 15 glass panels in the front, late 19th or early 20th century, 34" x 74" x 29", missing two pieces of glass, $1410 (est. $300/600).


This 34" high x 72" wide wooden children’s bench with advertising for Weatherbird shoes and with animal-head dividers sold for $2350 (est. $100/300).


This 44" high x 45" wide jelly cupboard of pine with old light brown paint, mid-19th century, had some wear and sold for $1645 (est. $200/400).


This 15" high composition sheep advertising Lamb Knit with original paint and label, “Ole King Cole, Canton, Ohio,” early 20th century, sold for $1175 (est. $75/100).


This 22½" tall Campbell’s tomato soup curved sign is porcelain over steel. From the first half of the 20th century and with minimal edge wear, it may have had metal grommets at one time. It sold for $3643 (est. $100/300).


This halter display in the form of a horse head, labeled “Johnson,” is papier-mâché in original black paint, late 19th century, and 22" long. It brought $881 (est. $100/200).


This 41" x 30" De Laval Separator Company sign in lithographed tin, late 19th or early 20th century, has a gold-painted frame and brought $3133 (est. $800/1600).

Garth’s Auctions, Delaware, Ohio

Photos courtesy Garth’s Auctions

Although Garth’s Auctions has sold its fair share of advertising and country store items over the years, the company’s October 5, 2013, sale at Delaware, Ohio, was a bit different. Offering items from the collection of J. Garland Warren (1935-2010) of San Marcos, Texas, this auction sparked something.

Warren was a successful businessman who had a passion for horses and antiques, not necessarily in that order. He built a business empire on the back of Sac-n-Pac, a convenience store chain that he founded in 1966. Other commercial ventures ranged from donuts to cattle. The showpiece of his endeavors, however, was Centerpoint Station in San Marcos, which claims to have the best burgers in Texas, the best shakes and malts on Interstate 35, and the best shopping in town. Centerpoint Station became a platform for selling Warren’s finds. Run by his daughter, the shop continues to offer more than 3000 advertising signs, general store items, country furniture, and other antiques.

Over the years, some of the antiques acquired by Warren were channeled through auctions. He bought what he liked. Dry sinks were a favorite form, and numerous examples from Warren’s estate were among the items in Garth’s Americana auction on September 6 and 7. A number of dry sinks were also included in the October 5 sale, but the emphasis was on advertising.

The auction worked, even if it wasn’t a typical Garth’s affair. That wasn’t a bad thing. After all, this was a sale Jeff Jeffers, chief executive officer of the auction house, wanted to have.

“It was Jeff’s idea, and I love it,” said Amelia Jeffers, wife of Jeff and president of Garth’s. “From his first visit down there, Jeff started thinking about this concept because of the country store look Garland had.”

Since the sale included a variety of country furniture in old paint, Garth’s had a ready market. The auction house also had something else—the historic barn it uses as the venue for its better sales. From an aesthetic standpoint, the location clicked. The advertising and country store items fit in perfectly.

“We tried to reposition it in a fun way because of the barn,” said Jeffers. “It was one of the best-looking auctions in that historic barn that I’ve ever seen. It was very cool.”

While the look was right, the timing was a bit of a question. The event fell on a weekend when a number of similar auctions were held, including a cataloged sale of advertising and coin-ops conducted by Morphy Auctions.

“We went up against two or three pretty significant advertising auctions that day,” Jeffers said. Garth’s still drew a strong crowd. “We had huge attendance. I would say fifty to seventy percent of the people in the room were new to us. It was a big number in the room, two hundred in the room, maybe two hundred and fifty.”

The top lot of the day was a curved sign in the shape of a can of Campbell’s tomato soup. Porcelain over steel and from the first half of the 20th century, it sold for $3643 (includes buyer’s premium).

”The Campbell’s soup stuff speaks to the Pop Art, 1950’s midcentury stuff that’s so hot right now,” said Jeffers.

There was similar interest in a lithographed-tin De Laval sign from the late 19th or early 20th century and in a gold-painted frame that brought $3133. A sign for “Armour’s Pork and Beans,” embossed tin in a wooden frame, late 19th or early 20th century, was strong to $2585.

Store fixtures and furniture also did well. From the late 19th century, a large bin advertising Owl coffee, in pine with original dark red paint, sold for $2468. Its slant lid was lettered with the company’s name and the front with similar lettering and an owl label. A children’s bench with an ad for Weatherbird shoes, the seat having wooden dividers in the form of scroll-cut heads depicting a zebra, lion, and monkey, realized $2350.

A long worktable on turned legs in pine with old blue-gray paint and a two-board scrub top, mid-19th century, sold for $2049. In a similar form, a table in mixed woods that included walnut, in an old reddish brown varnish, also having turned legs and a two-board top, from the second half of the 19th century, brought $1880.

A store counter in pine with old white paint, having a paneled base and dating to the second half of the 19th century, made $1293. “Store counters are always popular,” said Jeffers. “It’s a great form. I don’t have one in my house. I would have lived with that white one all day long.”

A floor-model display case in oak with a glass top, front, and sides, the open back giving access to 55 pullout compartments in five tiered rows, sold for $1446.

Items more typical of Garth’s Americana offerings included a tall set of shelves made of pine in old red paint, possibly a tall-back bucket bench, mid-19th century, which realized $1880. A jelly cupboard of pine with old brown paint and having two deep drawers over two paneled doors, all on ball feet, mid-19th century, realized $1645. The best of the dry sinks was a lift-lid example in pine with old red paint, having a small utensil drawer over two paneled doors, on heavy turned legs, second half of the 19th century. It brought $1410.

Jeffers noted the quality of the merchandise offered, regardless of the type of item being sold. “Garland Warren was someone who was buying in volume, but he never overlooked the detail of collecting,” she said.

The auction sparked something at Garth’s—the possibility of similar sales in the future. “I would love nothing more than to have an annual country store auction,” said Jeffers. The advertising auction wasn’t the only unusual venture for Garth’s in the fall. A “Gentleman’s Auction” held on November 1, which included vintage items as varied as watches and whiskey, also created a stir.

“We hope to have the gentleman’s auction and country store auction become annual events,” said Jeffers.

For more information, phone Garth’s at (740) 362-4771 or visit (www.garths.com).


Originally published in the January 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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