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State fairgrounds hosts Indy Ad Show for last time

By Kelley Summers Jent

The Indy Antique Advertising show is known as one of the nation’s largest in vintage advertising. The Ad Show has been held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds for 45 years, but the March 17-18 show marked a changing of the guard.

Show owners Bruce and Donna Weir, who have owned the show since 2010, have sold the show to Mark and Nona Wilson of Park Falls, Wis. Beginning in September, the show will move to the Boone County Fairgrounds in Lebanon, Ind.

Mark and Nona both started with brick and mortar stores and then decided they wanted to do the show circuit. Nona said she has always wanted to do a mega show, and with the Indy Ad Show, they intend to do just that. This show has always been one of her favorites and their booth, as well as all the other vendors, lets you know that you are at a quality show.

Mark Karberg of Blue Mirror Vintage has been coming to the show since 1994. He said he has probably done 45 or more shows in Indy. He is excited that the show is growing and moving to the new venue.

His motorized Chesterfield Cigarette Girl was a showcase piece. She was made in 1939 by the Mechanical Man Corp. in New York City. She pre-dates the United States’ entrance to the war by two years, but she is already looking very patriotic.

This advertising campaign is based on a print ad of the famous Alexander Twins. Dorothy and Grace Alexander were Drum Majorettes for the American Legion Post 42, in Martinsville, Va. She still waves her flag and lifts her Chesterfield cigarettes. She is in excellent condition. It was marked $5,800. This ad campaign featured print ads as well as store displays. There are two versions of the motorized girl, one for each twin.

The next booth had a fine example of vitreous pigmented glass. The I.W. Harper Whiskey sign was manufactured by the Vitrolite Company in 1909. The generic name for it would become Vitrolite. Vitrolite is a high-strength colored glass. In the early 20th century it was used in Art Deco and more streamlined modern buildings. It was also used for signs and tables because it was durable and easy to clean. They used this process until 1935 when they were purchased by Libby Owens Ford, which continued using the process until the late 1940s.

The hunting scene with the cabin backdrop gives an excellent example of vitreous pigmented glass or structured glass. At the time, the only colors available were beige, black and white. To get this kind of detail by mixing only three colors is impressive. Since this was an advertisement for whiskey, once Prohibition started they would scratch off or paint over the I.W. Harper Whiskey. This painting could be bought for $1,950.

Jack Dixey from Canton, Ohio, loves political memorabilia and has been coming to the show since the 1980s. His love of all things political is evident when you see his display and his rare Steiff Theodore Roosevelt stuffed toy. The Steiff Co. made the piece in 1958 in commemoration of Theodore Roosevelt’s 100th birthday. There is debate on whether it was a toy or more of a display piece that would have been used in a department store to draw attention to their high-end stuffed animals. The detail on the piece is impressive. Teddy Roosevelt is in his Rough Rider uniform. He has Steiff original tags around his wrist and on his shirt pocket. The mohair horse has glass eyes and has the original tag on his ear. Down to his signature glasses, it is a great rendition of Theodore Roosevelt. The piece was marked $8,500.

There were many metal signs. One large, 36-inch-high by 79 1/2-inch-wide 1950s “Where your home begins” sign was an eye catcher. It had great colors and was in good condition and could be yours for $3,600.

There was a fully functional, working sales model of a double gang plow. This piece really was remarkable. It had various levers that could drop or raise the plows and shift the pitch of the wheels. The price of the plow had many at the show talking about it. The Pace Maker Gang Plow from the Peru Plow & Wheel was for sale for $18,000.

A 1930s Humphrey’s Homeopathic Medicine chest had all the ailments listed by number, and you just ordered what remedy you needed by number. To think people would go to their local drugstore and diagnose themselves with whatever ailment and get medicine for that ailment! No doctors, just you and the pharmacist. The medicine chest was for sale for $595, and it would be a great addition to any collection.

There were political badges and small toys such as Hot Wheels that could be purchased for $25 or less in some cases. One booth had nothing but old paper products with advertising on them like old boxes of macaroni, oats and paper cups from restaurants. It was amazing that some of those paper cups and boxes were 50 or more years old and had survived so well.

With things priced from $25 to $18,000 the Indy Ad Show does truly have something for every collector.

The end of an era has come, but it is easy to see why the Indy Antique Advertising Show is thought of as one of the best shows in the country. Everyone is looking forward to the show in its new venue in September.

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