Collecting The Right Petroliana: H.J. Nick’s Historic Journal

Yesterday, I was reminded of how simple finding the right petroliana to collect really is. A man called in and said he was walking down the rail road tracks in his little town, and saw something sticking out of the ground about a half inch. He stopped, dug it up, and it was a properly curved, 80-year-old, Texaco gas pump belly plate sign, with the collector coveted, green “T” logo. To top it all off, the porcelain on the front was in near perfect condition, the rust on the back was pitted exactly how you would expect it to look, if it spent half its life in the dirt, in a part of the U.S. that experiences all four seasons of weather. There was absolutely no doubt that it was “The Real Mccoy”.

How did we determine this so quickly? It was the way the man spoke about his find, and his trust in us. He sent the sign to us before he received any payment, on a promise of an agreed upon amount. This morning we received this sign, and it turned out be exactly as it was explained and described to us by the man. The appearance had not been attempted to have been “made better” by anyone. The back was pitted and rusted as expected and described. The man trusted us on our word and reputation, and that also speaks volumes because it has been my experience that people that trust you first are trustworthy themselves. In this case he was, and so were we.

This is a good example, of how sometimes we can officially H.J. Nick certify a, American Icon like this sign for example, with little more that the right circumstances, and the item reads right in the photos as well. Weight was right, shelving was right, looked and felt right, and the rust was correct on the back, and consistent with the origin story. Also, the manufacturer marking was correct, and color was also correct. Plus, it was factory bent, and done properly to a curvature that would have fit a visible gas pump that was manufactured from between 1898 to 1927. This was also, in my mind, a what goes around, comes around moment.

After the dealing was done ,the picker customer said we were part of a God send to him, and just in time for his family to avert a small financial crises, and that it all meant a lot to him. This Texaco belly plate will now become a tangible part of a Route 66 museum that teaches folks young and old about the importance of the American Industrial Revolution, and the roll it played in changing our lives for the better.

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