New Brunswick

He spent years collecting vintage gas station memorabilia. It all sold for over $700K

Hanwell's Mike Greer built himself a personal museum of gas station memorabilia, known as petroliana, and vintage autos. After nearly two decades of collecting, he decided to sell it.

Hanwell collector's tin signs, gas pumps and oil cans

Mike Greer said he began collecting petroliana about 18 years ago (Mike Heenan/CBC)

Mike Greer has to find a new Sunday routine. 

For years, he's spent those quiet mornings with his collection of memorabilia, surrounded by thousands of items from gas stations of a bygone era, along with the vintage autos that would have patronized those places. 

The unassuming garage at the end of a dead-end road in Hanwell was more like Greer's own private museum. 

One corner was dedicated to White Rose, a brand of gasoline sold across Canada until the early 1960s. Another section displayed Irving Oil signs, actual gas pumps and a near mint-condition storage rack from the early days of K.C. Irving's company. That rack sold for more than $23,000. 

Mike Greer's garage held an incredible collection of vintage Irving gas station items, from metal signs to gas pumps. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

The memorabilia created the perfect setting for Greer's collection of vintage autos, which ranged from a 1949 Ford pickup truck to a 2004 Chevy Corvette. 

 But now his Sunday morning routine has come to an end. 

Earlier this week, 19 of his autos and the gas station memorabilia that surrounded them, known in the collecting world as petroliana, was auctioned off. 

WATCH |  Step inside Mike Greer's petroliana paradise: 

Trash to treasure: N.B. man’s collection nets six figures at auction

2 months ago
Duration 3:31
It took nearly two decades for Mike Greer to build his collection of classic cars and gas station memorabilia. Now he's ready for someone else to enjoy it.

The memorabilia sold for around $700,000, while the vehicles fetched about $600,000 in total.

The collection was technically no longer Greer's at auction. He said he sold it all to a partnership of other collectors who organized the sale with Shackelton Auctions. The vintage autos were added to the auction later, their profits will go to Greer.

For Greer, selling the hundreds of items all at once was the only way. 

"Don't want to be aggravated," he said. "People will drive you crazy." 

The world of petroliana 

 As a kid, Greer said he spent a lot of time hanging around gas stations. 

As an adult, his drive to collect was fuelled by a simple thing, Greer said. "I just got in the mood that I wanted to, I guess is the best way to say it," he said. 

A large room filled with antique cars and gas station memorabilia. The cars sit in the middle of the room while memorabilia lines the walls.
Greer said he likes the brand White Rose because it was available in the province before it was discontinued. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

"I can't describe it any other way. I like building old cars and I like collecting memorabilia." 

The collection began almost two decades ago. Greer had two classic cars and told his wife he'd sell one to pay for the other. 

"And they both stayed here and a whole bunch went in between them," he said. 

Vintage oil cans and cleaning kits on display in Greer's garage. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

Many of the cars and trucks he collected and rebuilt were models he had as a young man. 

Mike Shackelton, the third-generation owner and operator of Shackelton Auctions, said many people get into petroliana because of the powerful memories it evokes.

A row of antique cars is visible, behind them is gas station memorabilia in the form of gas pumps and signs on the wall.
Some of Greer's collection came from his scrap yard, Greer's Mountain Salvage in Hanwell. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

"Guys in their 50s and 60s remember those things from when they were a kid," he said. 

"They've got some disposable income now. They want to collect and, you know, make their man cave and remember their childhood, the good years," Shackleton said. 

Shackleton has seen more than a few collections but said Greer's is among the top three largest he's encountered. 

Rare items, high prices

When it comes to petroliana, prices vary depending on the rarity and condition of the pieces, Shackleton said. 

A big while car from the 1950s.
Among Greer's vintage autos was this beauty: a white and gold 1958 Ford Fairlane Skyliner. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

One rare brand in Greer's collection is New Brunswick's own Irving Oil, he said. 

Greer said Irving petroliana is hard to find in the company's home province. Much of his collection was sourced from Ontario. 

A man wipes the hood of a car, seen from a low angle behind the hood.
Mike Shackelton has seen a lot of petroliana collections, but said Greer's is among the largest he's encountered. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

"They're just not around. I don't know what the deal is, Irving's collecting them himself, I think," he said. 

Some of his Irving items included the storage rack that fetched five figures and Irving gas pumps with clear glass cylinders that sold for more than $10,000 each. 

Now those treasures will become part of another person's collection.

When Greer visited his garage on Sundays, it would fill him with satisfaction.

Some of the vintage autos Greer collected and rebuilt over the years. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

"I felt real good. Enjoyed it. It's time for somebody else to enjoy it." 

But behind the display room, there's a garage ready to take on more projects.

"I'm not stopping," he said. "I'm still building cars."

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lane Harrison is a reporter for CBC New Brunswick based in Saint John. You can reach him at lane.harrison@cbc.ca

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