A Hidden Gem in Auburn This Weekend

By Max Resnik

May 14, 2011 Updated May 14, 2011 at 6:24 PM EDT

AUBURN, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – There is plenty to do this weekend in Auburn if you love classic cars. If you look close enough there is also a hidden gem or two.

Tom Petty and his unique collection of signage is just one of the gems. Once you pass the food vendors and the auction block, you can find Petty and his sign collection next to the car corral. From oil and gas signs to Cadillac and Las Vegas neon signs, Petty has it all.
He says they represent the history of American business.

He says, “Every business in the country had some sort of signage. If it wasn't nail polish written on the side of a barn, it was stamped on the front of the gas station: Buy My Tires. Everybody had signs."

Petty started collecting cars and signs more than 30 years ago. They are highly valuable and highly collectible. Some of the signs, the size of dinner plates, were selling for more than $100. Petty remembers the days when signage was about more than attracting a customer. Petty says every traveler needed to read each sign in the days before television and radio. They supplied drivers with pertinent information.

He says, “When they drove down the road, if it wasn't for a sign "Motel Ahead" or "Gas 10 miles Down the Road," you were out of luck because that's where you got all your information-- from a signage that was on everybody's building when you drove past."

Petty is just one vendor in a slew of salesmen in Auburn. Vendors are selling everything from car parts and license plates to food and automobile memorabilia.

Auctions America by RM, the company hosting this weekend’s auction, could not be happier with the support they are receiving from the Auburn community. Auctions America CFO Ed Cepuran says, “The reception from the community has been so positive that that in itself has been a momentum for the staff and for us to continue to grow it. We couldn't have asked anymore from the community."

In addition to meeting Petty and getting to see some of his signs, patrons and collectors got the chance to mingle with the likes of Hall of Fame baseball player Mr. October, Reggie Jackson. Mr. October put his 1965 Shelby GT350 Mustang on the block. It went to the highest bidder for $247,500.

At the end of the day Petty says getting the chance to be in Auburn with so many other car enthusiasts is what the weekend is all about. He says, "I'm with car people and car people are probably some of the nicest, warmest-hearted people that you're ever going to meet in your life."

If you have not had the chance to make it out to Auburn to check out some of the classic cruisers or if you are interested in some signage, tomorrow is last day of the spring auction.

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