What are the balls in old gas pumps?

Gas globes were once a common feature on the top of old service station gas pumps. Now they are highly sought after by collectors who consider them to be folk art and will pay significant amounts for a rare example. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just getting started collecting these old glass pieces, there are some things that you should know before making your first purchase.

When collecting these old glass items these old gas pump globes you want to be sure that you’re purchasing an authentic, genuine vintage piece. It’s best to work with a knowledgeable dealer or auction house if you are new to the hobby to avoid being taken advantage of or ending up with a piece that isn’t worth what you paid for it. It’s also important to take a close look at the condition of the piece to be sure there are no cracks or chips in the glass and that the graphics are still intact and free from fading.

The first thing to look for is the age of the globe. The older they are, the more value they will have. The oldest and most valuable are glass globes from the 1920’s, such as this spherical Tydol globe with a Shell clamshell design. These early lighted globes were very popular and helped to advertise the brand of gas being sold at the service station to travelling auto tourists.

As the century progressed and motoring became more popular, service stations began to rely less on curbside signs, banners and billboards and more on internal signage and branding to attract the traveling motorist. The lighted gas globes were a very effective and eye-catching way to do this. They sat on the top of the gas pump, pole or air meter and were internally lit so they were very visible from the road during the day or night when most service stations weren’t well lit. These lighted gas globes were produced by many of the major oil and gasoline companies including Shell, Texaco and others.

Some of the later lighted globes were made of metal and featured a number of different graphic lenses. These are the most desirable by many collectors as they are more durable and can still be used today. These can be found at a good price if you are willing to spend the time looking for them.

In the 1940’s we see the gradual shift from curvy aesthetic to a more squared off appearance. At this time a lot of the bells and whistles were being stripped off service stations and by the 50’s the globes were becoming a rarity at service stations.

When it comes to purchasing a globe you should make sure that you’re buying an authentic, genuine vintage piece. There are a lot of scam artists out there that will try to sell fantasy, reproduction or even fake globes as the real deal. You can spot a fake by examining the mounting hardware and checking for scratches and wear that will be absent on a newer reproduction globe.