The heyday of attractive, if not artsy, gasoline pumps lasted from the late 1920s through the 1950s. The majority of company names decorating vintage gas pumps would be unrecognizable by most consumers today, with some exceptions like Texaco and Mobil. Manufacturers of gas pumps from this classic American era include Tokheim, Gilbarco, and Bennett, among others.
While many makes/models are stylistically similar, they all have the unique charm of a bygone era, including beautiful bright and glossy paint, gleaming chrome, and in some cases, old-fashioned clock faces. Different style nozzles are also available for the gas pumps, usually treated, shined, and otherwise restored.
Some sources estimate that fewer than 50,000 vintage gas pumps still exist, making them rare and sought after items that are increasing in their value as collector's items and investments in a unique form of Americana. As the number available for purchase decreases, over time these pumps will continue to increase in value.
The types of pumps listed above are among the most widely restored and available to collectors and other interested individuals. Reproductions are also on the market for sale and resale and are often more affordable than restored originals, but lack the authenticity and history of original pieces, although reproductions are suitable for purely decorative purposes.
Vintage gas pumps may or may not work. People do not buy them because of their fuel pumping abilities. The newer models pump fuel more quickly and more efficiently. The digital technology in use today lets the gas station attendant turn off the machine after the customer meets a predetermined amount. Most people buy the pumps for decorative persons. A business owner who wants to open a retro themed ice cream store or a retro themed drug store can use the pump to add décor.
Vintage gas pumps are expensive. They often cost more than they did originally, but still less than a new gas pump. As long as the units have been cleaned out properly, the new owner of the pump does not need to worry about regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency. He also does not need to worry about placing the wells in the Earth. No energy company will ever need to come fill the tank.
When you buy a vintage fuel pump, you need to worry about how to transport the item. You should also keep the unit outdoors or in a well-ventilated area of the shop. You can make your own decision about whether or not to paint the pump red.