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Purchase Story

Antique Sporting and Advertising Show

Don Johnson | February 4th, 2017

Oshkosh, Wisconsin

A poster for Blue Jeans, a 1917 silent movie, likely went unnoticed by many shoppers at the 15th annual Antique Sporting and Advertising Show, held February 3 and 4 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The one-sheet depicts a loose interpretation of “The Great Saw Mill Scene,” in which the movie’s villain places his unconscious rival on a log carriage that inches toward the saw’s spinning blade. An instant before certain doom, the victim’s wife breaks out a window, rushes onto the mill floor, and rolls her husband off the moving platform, saving his life.

The scene offers an interesting reversal of the usual theme of a hero coming to the aid of a damsel in distress. In this case, it was a woman who took control and saved the day. The same can be said of the Oshkosh show, which was purchased in 2016 by Nona Wilson of Northstar Collective, Park Falls, Wisconsin. The show, which took a one-year hiatus following the illness (and eventual death) of its former owner, faced an uncertain future before Wilson’s involvement.

With her husband, Mark, Wilson revamped the show, which had previously focused on sporting antiques and collectibles. The couple introduced antique advertising to the mix and tweaked the name to reflect the change.

This year’s edition was the second go-round under the duo’s leadership, and the show featured 80 to 90 dealers, according to Wilson. Although a focus on antique advertising is relatively new, the event has quickly made strides, resulting in more advertising dealers coming to east-central Wisconsin.

Among those merchants was 75-year-old Terry Dobratz of The Rusty Nail, Beloit, Wisconsin. Dobratz has sold antiques for 57 years. “I’ve kind of been around the teacup,” he said.

His booth featured the Blue Jeans poster, which was priced at $275 and propped at the foot of a table in the back of his display. His specialties, however, are country-store items and primitives. For the Oshkosh show, he brought a mix of advertising that included a large painted wood sign for “Mrs. G.M. Baker Ice Cream Parlors,” having a blue ground with white letters, priced at $3000. Display cabinets included one for “Humphreys’ Specific Remedies,” a wooden case with a lithographed tin panel picturing farm animals and listing veterinary cures, offered at $5500.

Blue Jeans poster, depicting “The Great Saw Mill Scene,” rough edges, framed, $275 from Terry Dobratz of The Rusty Nail, Beloit, Wisconsin.

Dobratz also offered sporting-related items. Carved duck decoys were priced up to $1000, while a 1918 mounted photograph of four gun-toting men posing with an equal number of dead deer draped on a horizontal pole in front of a house, with a blind stamp from a photography studio in Neenah, Wisconsin, was $100.

That mix-and-match philosophy could also be seen in the booth across the aisle, where Thomas Pearson of Pearmont Antiques, De Pere, Wisconsin, offered items as varied as a .44-caliber Winchester model 1866 lever-action rifle, priced at $3700; a 1950s Champion #98 racecar toy, lithographed metal, $1495; a 1932 Arcade cast-iron toy, a White moving van, painted green, white, and red, lettered for “Pennico Lubricated Gasoline,” $4200; and a double-sided metal sign picturing a Holstein cow, lettered “Producer for Pabst Farms / Jim Griesmer & Family,” tagged $1375.

Quality advertising was plentiful and varied. Lavon Yoder of Shipshewana, Indiana, had two large single-sided advertising signs in painted wood. One for “Case 77 Modern Machines for Profitable Farming,” primarily in red and green and picturing the Case eagle on a globe, 24½" x 5', was $3600. One for “McCormick Farm Machines & Implements,” white letters on a black ground, 3' x 6', was $2200. Also offered by Yoder was a salesman’s sample Adams leaning wheel grader, cast metal, 22" long, tagged $4500.

Farm advertising was abundant. Kit Kramer of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, offered a “Massey-Harris / Farming Equipment / Sales Service” sign, yellow with green letters, picturing an upraised hand holding a plow blade. The single-sided porcelain over steel sign, 18" x 60", was priced at $4200. He also had a 1920s Wrigley’s gum sign, single-sided porcelain over steel, picturing two packs of gum, 14" x 36", tagged $3200.

World War I wall pocket, “Our Honor Roll,” scroll-cut wood having patriotic motifs, $160 from John Turney of Chicago.

A salesman’s sample barber chair made by the Theo. A. Kochs Company of Chicago, in white porcelain over steel, fully operational, 17" high, was among the show’s top-dollar items, priced at $24,500 by Bill Prock of Prock’s Crocks and Antiques, Springbrook, Wisconsin.

Theo. A. Kochs salesman’s sample barber chair, porcelain over steel, 17" high, $24,500 from Bill Prock of Prock’s Crocks and Antiques, Springbrook, Wisconsin.

Advertising items in his booth included a line of ten soda-fountain syrup dispensers, including ones for Fowler’s Cherry Smash, $2450; Liberty Root Beer, $3950; and Crawford’s Cherry-Fizz, $9500. A window display promoting Winchester roller skates, having five hinged panels in the form of a room divider, was $2750. The piece pictured a dog chasing three smiling boys as they skated down a street.

Other advertising crossed into the realm of sporting collectibles. Among the best examples was a hanging sign for Kingfisher fishing lines, lithographed paper with metal strips at the top and bottom, late 1910s, 27½" x 17½", priced at $7200 by Rocky Rayeske of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Rayeske also had a selection of fishing lures, but he said buyers at Oshkosh tend to concentrate on lower-priced items, seldom spending more than $50 on a lure.

Mercury Outboard Motors light-up advertising clock, $525 from Rick Davis of Ugly Rick’s, Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Old Town canoe in dark green paint, the bow lettered “Peja,” circa 1927, 16' long, with original paddles by the same company, $2850 from Rod Bartha of Riverwoods, Illinois. For those wanting to find themselves up the creek without a paddle, the canoe alone could be purchased for $2500.

The variety of sporting goods included an Old Town canoe in original dark green paint, circa 1927, 16' long, with its original Old Town paddles, priced at $2850 by Rod Bartha of Riverwoods, Illinois. “I was able to use it a couple of times last year,” he said. “It was sweet in the water.”

Having 45 years of experience in the antiques business, Bartha was pleased with the way the Wilsons have promoted the show. “They do it smart because they advertise everything—sporting, advertising, things for the house. It’s the whole ball of wax.”

Becky Sharpe with a copper cross from the roof of a church in southwestern Wisconsin, nearly 12' high, $1500 from Becky Sharpe and Mark Buttes of 1st Pick Antiques & Vintage, Neenah, Wisconsin.

The largest piece displayed at the show was a copper cross nearly 12' tall that had been removed from the roof of a church in southwestern Wisconsin. It was priced at $1500 from Becky Sharpe and Mark Buttes of Neenah, Wisconsin. Americana included a scroll-cut wall pocket from World War I, lettered “Our Honor Roll” and having a photograph of a doughboy in an oval frame. The design featured American flags, a spread-wing eagle, and a Federal shield. It was marked $160 by John Turney of Chicago.

The event’s popularity might have been best revealed at the start of the first day when a line stretched across the lobby, out the front door, into the single-digit cold of the upper Midwest in the middle of winter. It was testimony to the show and its customers.

For more information, phone Nona Wilson at (906) 250-1618 or visit (

Southwestern paint-decorated stepback cupboard, 1950s, illegibly signed, $2975 from Rod Bartha. The cupboard was purchased in Santa Fe.

Kodak Film advertising sign, single-sided porcelain over steel, 14" x 20", minor roughness to front and back, $950 from Carey Behm of Kountry Koop, Johnson Creek, Wisconsin.

Originally published in the May 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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