From kids’ pedal cars to Publix barber chairs, he collects the impossible. Now it’s up for sale.

A Land O’Lakes man will auction off his collection of more than 200 vintage Americana items Saturday, all from the 1920s through the 1980s. Then he’ll start collecting again.
Published March 4
Updated March 4

LAND O’LAKES — The first childhood present David Mallory remembers receiving was a 1960s pedal version of a speedway race car. He was 5 and rode the wheels off it.

Little David wore his hair in a flattop back then, cut close at an old Publix on Gandy Boulevard when the supermarkets featured a barbershop, too.

Years later, Mallory spotted an old pedal car like his. He bought it. Same with two barber chairs from the Gandy Publix.

They now form part of a collection of memorabilia that Mallory has been gathering for 30 years, more than 200 pieces that turned his Land O’ Lakes home into what he called a museum of vintage Americana — road signs, gas station pumps, pedal cars, chairs, all from the 1920s through the 1980s.

Last week, he dismantled the museum and had it hauled to Plant City to be auctioned off. The sale starts 10 a.m. Saturday at the former Crossroads restaurant site, 120 E U.S. 60. An auction preview is scheduled there 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

Mallory doesn’t have to dispose of the collection, he said. His wife of 20 years, Karen Mallory, argued against it. But he wants to sell.

"The thing about this stuff is that it never comes out until people die and it is auctioned by the family," said Mallory, 59, a retired truck driver with the former Tampa Tribune. "Most people hoard this stuff. I want to enjoy seeing it sell."

Auctioneer John Harris, who has been in the industry 15 years, said this is among his most unusual auctions and predicts it will draw bidders from around the country.

"Usually I will do an estate sale with one type of piece you'd find in David’s collection and everyone goes nuts for it and that alone draws people from all over the state," Harris said. "David has over 200 of those items."

There is a late-1940s Shell gas pump topped with a working light-up globe in the form of a seashell, a 6-by-3-foot Firestone Tire sign from 1974, and a 1932 movie theater marquee poster for the Our Gang film Birthday Blues.

Harris' favorite item is a pedal fire truck from 1958. He got one for his sixth bithday.

"I'd put on my little red fireman hat and pedal everywhere," said Harris, 60. "That is what makes this stuff great. It is part of our lives."

Another of Mallory’s most coveted pieces is a pedal car from 1941 made to look like a World War II fighter plane. He purchased it from an antique and collectible picker in Harrisburg.

"I have pickers everywhere who know what I like so tell me when they get something," Mallory said. "And I will make that drive or they mail it."

Pickers travel in search of collectibles they sell to antique shops or individuals like Mallory.

Mallory's 1940 Days Work chewing tobacco sign came from a picker in Mississippi and his 1920s Woodbine cigarettes sign was found in London.

"If it is old, I am into it," Mallory said. "I like those things that help us remember different times — our time or my parents’ or grandparents’ times.”

An avid drag racer, Mallory said many drag racers are into collectables. They typically focus on the car industry, gas stations and road art — highway and storefront signs.

When he started collecting in the mid-1980s, Mallory went for vintage Coca-Cola memorabilia because he was told the best of it already had been swooped up during a collectables craze five years earlier.

"My obsession is the thrill of the hunt," Mallory said. "This stuff isn’t easy to find, and if you tell me it is impossible to find, I bet I will find it."

His first purchase as a memorabilia collector was a 72-by-36-inch 1939 Coca-Cola sign. He later found a rare 1986 Coca-Cola beach cruiser bicycle.

"Huffy put this bike out without consent," Mallory said. "Coca-Cola found out and made them take it off the market. But they couldn't take back ones already sold."

As the years went on, he expanded his interest to vintage items of all types and all eras.

But as his home grew cluttered, Mallory decided it was time to sell it all. He won’t stop collecting, though. He’s just starting over with a clean slate.

"I love collecting. But I am not a hoarder."

Only two of his items are not for sale.

One is his 1934 Ford Deluxe Sedan, the same type of car outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were driving when they were killed in a shootout with authorities.

The other, Mallory said with a chuckle, is Dozer, his 10-year-old, 140-pound Bullmastiff.

"Dozer isn't going anywhere. Not for all the money in the world."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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