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Posted on Tue, May 3, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

And the winner is: Ypsi Arbor Bowl sign sold to highest bidder after online auction

By Angela Smith

The Ypsi-Arbor Bowl sign has been an iconic feature of Washtenaw Avenue for decades, but by the end of the month, it will be gone.

The sign, and many other assets of Ypsi Arbor Lanes, have been auctioned off individually by a website called

Glenn Hartshorn, who oversees the auction site, says that there are 45 individual highest bidders who will make their way to the alley to collect lanes, pins, memorabilia, and that classic sign.


ypsi arbor bowl

The auction site lists the sign’s highest bid as $4,845.00, but Hartshorn told that the bid was placed by a minor, and they did not pursue collection of the offer.

The second highest bid, reportedly made by an Ann Arbor man, resulted in unreturned emails and phone calls.

The winning bid - the third down the line - belongs to a sign museum in South Dakota, according to Hartshorn.

The unnamed museum was willing to invest $5,000 into obtaining the historical Vegas-style sign, but asserted that it would cost $1,750 to move it, thus arriving at a maximum bid of $3,250.

“I think it was a fair price,” said Hartshorn, stating that the buyers paid what they wanted, “everyone comes out a winner.”

Bowling Alley manager Ray Bonkowski agreed. He was pleased to find out that the new owner plans to display the sign, and “keep it going.”

When the bowling alley first announced its plan to close, there was a rise of initial interest in the sign. Many locals wanted to see the sign stay where it was, or donated to a local museum like the Henry Ford.

Within weeks, the History Channel’s popular TV show, American Pickers had made contact and expressed interest in purchasing it.

But that interest fizzled out. The starting bid was placed at $3,000, and the show never made any official offer higher than that, according to Hartshorn.

Ypsi Arbor Bowl closed for business after its final frame on Saturday. Ypsi Arbor Lanes was Ypsilanti’s last standing bowling alley, with a number of league bowlers who played there regularly. Bonkowski said that the alleys were busy on its last Saturday night, and that many regulars made their way out to say goodbye.



Mon, May 16, 2011 : 3:43 a.m.

I will miss that sign. More even than I miss the old whale from Arborland. Where IS that whale sculpture now?

Tom Teague

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

Picking up on @mojo's comment - I wonder if the notion that the sign would sell for a small fortune actually discouraged a local group from organizing and raising money. In retrospect, local sign coveters could have raised $3,251 with a few bake sales and some targeted fundraising requests, and possibly could have found local resources to volunteer for moving and repair. Might be a lesson learned about taking action to keep local memorabilia local.


Mon, May 16, 2011 : 3:37 a.m.

I would have pitched in to keep it in the area.

Angela Smith

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

I too did an internet search and tried to contact the owner to be, but neither of the museum managers I spoke with laid claim to ownership of the sign. Hartshorn told Ann that pick up and removal were still being worked out, but that the money has been paid.

John B.

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

Yeah, probably a huge conspiracy there. Not.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 6:42 p.m.

The "museum" is probably a fallacy. It's probably an auction house or re-seller.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:49 p.m.

American Pickers are rip-off artists. They continually cheat and low-ball people out of valuable stuff on that show.

John B.

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

Um, Goofus, if you don't like the show you don't have to watch it....


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 6:40 p.m.

I actually think most of what American Pickers does is staged. They probably pay the people who appear on the show more for the appearance than the actual merchandise. That said, they continually trumpet that the bought something for less than they sold it for. They buy cutrate, and then fix it up and sell it for more. It's staged though...not actual's entertainment.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 6:12 p.m.

I've never seen them force anyone to sell.They aren't in business to break even

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:52 p.m.

seller beware i suppose. I've never watched the show. But its in ones best interest to have a sense of the potential value of anything one buys or sells.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

My son went there for a hot dog & bowl when he was 6 yrs. Another go back in time remeber gone.

Ron Granger

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

I really wanted to put that sign above my bed. Glenn did a good job running the auction. I got my trinkets. Hope you got yours.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 12:31 p.m.

Could the sign end up in or near the other Ypsilanti? Ypsilanti, North Dakota is a community of less than 200 people located south of I-94 in the Jamestown "metro" area of Stutsman County. A google search shows one bowling alley in south Jamestown, just north of I-94. It's about 15 miles from that bowling alley to Ypsilanti (via US 281 and CR 38 - not very many traffic lights). Googling "sign museum" for South Dakota reveals only two museums (both in southern South Dakota) that give any indication of an interest in a "historical" sign. One is primarily an auto museum. The other has a section dealing with items showing how the world evolved during the 20th century. In a museum, or identifying a business, it looks like the Ypsi Arbor Bowl sign will live on.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 12:36 p.m.

I too googled "South Dakota sign museum"....ain't the Internet grand? Thank you Al Gore ;)

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 12:27 p.m.

"The unnamed ....sign museum in South Dakota" So if I want to make an annual pilgrimage to lay a wreath on the anniversary of my 138 game (everything was clicking that day) where would I go?


Mon, May 16, 2011 : 3:38 a.m.

I know, I need to know where to go for that pilgrimage also.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 4:44 p.m.

Finding that information for you would have required actual work on the part of's "reporters". Like a 10-second Google search.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 11:51 a.m.

Sweet, it goes to a museum. Perfect.

Mike D.

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 10:39 a.m.

Oversees is one word. At my rate for copy editing, you owe me $62.

Mike D.

Sun, May 15, 2011 : 3:43 p.m.

@Patti I pay you $0.10 a word and charge $31.00. ;)

Angela Smith

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

Thanks for catching that, its been fixed now.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

You get $62 a minute for copy editing???

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 12:15 p.m.

the checkis inthe mail.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 1:34 a.m.

Sad to see another long time local business close. That corner will never be the same.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 2:43 a.m.

that corner hasn't been the same for a decade or two.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 12:26 a.m.

The way people were talking about it you would think the sign would sell for $100,000k.