The firm hosts triannual classic cars sales in Wiltshire. Early enamel advertising signs were the major target of nationwide collectors at the 750-lot Petroliania and Automobilia sale on March 3. It was led by a rare Stepney Tyres sign depicting a bulldog which took a lower-estimate £4000.
The sign was in good original condition but, at 19in x 2ft 5in (48 x 74cm), was a considerably smaller example of the sign measuring 5ft x 4ft (1.52 x 1.22m) which made £9400 in October 2015.
The Stepney spare wheel was invented by Thomas Morris Davies in Llanelli in 1904 at a time when early motor cars were made without spares (the term ‘stepney’ is still common parlance in India). The firm became Stepney Tyres in 1922 when its operations moved from Llanelli to Walthamstow. This sign with its tyre and bulldog includes the legend Two British Grippers.
Other pictorial signs going at around estimate to a knowledgeable collecting base included a 3ft 4in x 5ft 1.01 x 1.52m) version of the well-known British Dominions Empire Motor Policy sign depicting a racing car at £2500 and a 3ft 6in (91cm) square Union flags-bedecked sign for North British Rapson – The World’s Longest Mileage Tyres at £3300.
More of a surprise was the success of a paper poster showing the start of a horse race and advertising Shell Oil & Shell Petrol The Quick Starting Pair.
“We knew it was rare but it had been folded quite small and so there were lots of creases, and condition is normally the most important governing factor in prices,” said auctioneer Richards Edmonds, explaining the cautious £200-300 estimate. However, it retained its bright colours and collectors went for the rarity value to take it to £2400.