Vintage Gas Pumps

Tim Morrison| December 8, 2020

vintage gas pump

The inspiration for this week's article came from the middle of nowhere...literally. I was recently on a family trip and while driving through the Mark Twain National Forest, I saw something that looked like it was plucked straight out of an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Sitting in the front yard of someone’s home was a full scale replica of an old service station. From an old soda machine to vintage advertisements (there’s an article on those coming soon), it was almost like time stood still in Iron Co. Missouri. While I barely had time to take everything in, one thing really stood out to me. There were a pair of antique gas pumps that were absolutely pristine. I wasn’t camera ready but we’re going back in a few weeks and I’ll make sure to post some pictures to our Facebook page. It looked a lot like the one pictured below.

Much like with most of the things I write these articles about, two questions came to mind when I saw those gas pumps. Do people actually collect these? What are they worth? It took a little digging but I found a few answers to both of those questions. Before we take a look at the potential value and collectibility of these old gas pumps, let’s see how far we’ve come in the simple task of fueling up our “horseless carriages.”

Technically, the first fuel distribution system came in the form of a general store worker scooping kerosene out of a bucket to be used for lamps and stoves, but that proved to be wasteful and extremely dangerous. Petroleum pioneer Sylvanus Freelove Bowser invented the first gas pump in his barn in Fort Wayne, Indiana and the way we pumped gas would be changed forever. Introducing the world to the Self-measuring Gasoline Storage Pump, Bowser would solve a few different issues with his new gas pump. Attendants would be able to control how much gas was distributed and the storage method was a lot safer. Just like with any new invention, improvements on the idea would soon follow.

Gas pumps would eventually evolve from archaic pieces of equipment to functioning works of art by the 1930s. Clockfaces, a device that was used to measure the amount of gas being dispensed, would be introduced a few years later but would still prove to be unreliable.The introduction of the visible pump would be the first accurate way to distribute fuel and gave gas companies a chance to start branding their pumps.

Over the next several decades, as more and more cars hit the road, innovations were constantly being made to gas pumps to make it more efficient for everyone to fuel up. From the early, primitive hand pumps of the late 1800’s to art-deco styled pumps of the 1930s to the ones we know and love today, things have evolved quite a bit. Source: American Oil And Gas

So, let’s address the first question I posed earlier. Do people really collect old gas pumps? The answer is most definitely, yes. While doing research for this article, I came across several collector groups and sites that are extremely passionate about preserving these pieces of automotive history. Check out the Old Gas Pump Guys to see some beautifully restored pumps. Don’t have the spare room in your garage for a few 10 foot tall gas pumps? The iconic globes that adorned these antique pumps are just as collectible and don’t take up much room.

As far as being able to put a price on a particular pump, that’s where things get a little tricky. The usual rules apply when trying to find a value on one of these antique pumps...condition, rarity, resale value and historical significance are a few things to keep in mind before you venture into the world of antique gas pump hunting. From the research I’ve done on pricing pumps, fully restored pumps with the globes are going for between $3-5,000.00, but the values for these old pumps are all over the place so I highly recommend checking with an expert to get an accurate evaluation of your pump.

What started out as a family trip to the river ended up sparking a new obsession of these old pumps for me. The next time you find yourself driving in the middle of nowhere, slow down and take a look around. You’d be surprised at what pieces of history you can find on the side of the road.

Adding gas pump****to your EstateSales.NET Treasure Tracker and searching the Marketplace is the best way to know when one of these beautiful pieces show up on our site. Happy Hunting!

Love all things estate sales? Us, too! Head over to our blog to learn about all things vintage, DIY, and more!

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