Pennsylvania fire insurance sign

Sep 16, 2021. 20:17 UTC
Pennsylvania Fire Insurance sign
United States of America


Acquired from

For sale

Item was found in Grooket Brothers Hardware Store in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia when they closed in the mid 1970's. It has been in our family since that time. We had it professionally stabilized and cleaned by A Ludwig Klein and Sons of Harleysville PA who also has done work for the Philadelphia museum of art roughly 10 years ago and it has been in dry storage since. Sign is 20"x28" and I have been unable to find any like it in my searches. We did contact A Ludwig Klein and unfortunately their sign restorer and expert has since passed away. We were told this sign would be dated at early to mid 19th century.


Please see previous description.

Answered within about 18 hours
Sep 17, 14:03 UTC
By Delia

Fair Market Value

$5,000 - $7,000 USD

Suggested Asking Price

$7,000 USD
What does this mean?

Hi Robert,

Thank you for contacting Mearto with your appraisal inquiry.
This is one of the best American trade signs that I've seen in a very long time.
There was a great groundswell of interest following a trade sign exhibit at the Connecticut Historical Society in 2000 and the market responded, with large/good examples bringing strong prices. The market for trade signs has fallen but this is a very good example that may be unique. The imagery is based on Benjamin West's version of Penn's Treaty, which he painted in 1771-72; with the PA Fire Insurance Company being founded in 1825, it is certainly possibly (though hard to say for certain from photos) if this was done in the early 19th Century.
Based on the photos and information provided, and subject to examination, this is:

A Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Company parcel gilt and painted trade sign
19th Century
Reading "Pennsylvania / Fire / Insurance Company / Organized 1825 / Philadelphia Pa; centering a painted scene of William Penn's Treaty with the Indians, after Benjamin West, with foliate borders,
20 inches high by 28 inches wide
CONDITION: Stabilized and cleaned by A Ludwig Klein and Sons of Harleysville PA circa 2010 to stop any further decay. Minor restoration (inpainting) to one corner to replace minor areas of paint loss (approximately 1-2 square inches total); minor denting to both lower corners, otherwise, this appears to be all original.
PROVENANCE: found in Grooket Brothers Hardware Store in Philadelphia when they closed in the mid 1970s
*represents a fair-market value for auction purposes; retail or asking price may vary.

Please let us know if you have additional items to appraise, and thank you again for using Mearto.

Robert jackson Sep 17, 15:37 UTC

Thanks for your expertise Delia. Going back 10 years ago I believe they said "stabilized" to stop any further decay and cleaning.. If I remember there may have been one corner that did loose small sections of paint that they did restore. At a guess I would say total there may have only been 1-2 square inches of work that may have been restoration. I would say 98-99% of the piece is original. We went to them because of their reputation with the Philadelphia Museum of Art as well as being noted experts around this area. If there is a way for me to send you additional photos I can send you high resolution pictures of it in quadrants or even maybe six or eight so you can blow them up for review.

Delia Sep 17, 16:48 UTC

Thanks very much; yes, I'll happily see a few more detail photos. You should still be able to add additional photos to this appraisal inquiry, which I can enlarge as much as I needed.

Robert jackson Sep 17, 20:49 UTC

I just added 10 more photos of the item. I tried as best I could to eliminate the glare from the lights. The two bottom corners are damaged but when we took it to Klein's they felt that straightening them would cause more damage and recommended leaving them as is on the corners for the sake of value.

Delia Sep 18, 16:54 UTC

Thanks, Robert, you're all set. If you;re interested in selling this, I would highly recommend working with an auction house in the Philadelphia area as this has considerable local interest.

Robert jackson Sep 18, 16:57 UTC

Thank you very much for your appraisal. This actually meets exactly with what we were told in 2010. I hadn't wanted to let that information out in case it seemed like I was trying to influence the pricing. Gratified to hear Klein's was not stroking our ego although they are of a high reputation.

Delia Sep 18, 17:24 UTC

I appreciate that. This is a very nice thing; the value might be a bit on the conservative side but in the current market, it's better to be realistic than to give you an inflated impression of what you have. If you sell this at auction, I'd rather you be surprised at the result than disappointed.

Delia Oct 05, 13:35 UTC

Just noticed that an identical sign sold at HIndman for nearly $6,000

Robert jackson Oct 06, 22:29 UTC

I wanted to thank you for your diligence on this. That certainly helps vindicate me in already turning down several offers none of which was at even half that sale price.

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