Vintage, Old, & Collectible
We Buy Vintage Signs
If you’re thinking about selling a porcelain sign, then you most likely have a pile of questions in your mind like whether or not your sign is authentic or truly porcelain, where to sell it, and what it might be worth. We’re going to use our experience in this industry to help you answer the queries that have been floating around your head through this guide.
Those outside the circle of collectors tend to erroneously refer to any vintage or old sign as a porcelain sign. That’s inaccurate as porcelain is a specific material rather than a generic adjective for something with age and/or value. As a matter of fact, it’s not even the material most commonly used for vintage signs.
That being said, it’s usually more attractive and overall valuable to collectors compared to signs of equal age and rarity that are made out of different materials. There are still lots of vintage wood signs on the market, but they, on average, go for much less than their porcelain counterparts.
Many non-collectors confuse porcelain signs with those made out of painted steel or embossed tin. There are quite a few key differences between porcelain and other materials. For instance, painted and tin signs can be more vulnerable to wear and tear compared to the hard porcelain ones. In most cases, signs made out of porcelain can be wiped clean even after taking a beating without too much permanent damage.
Of course, no material is perfect. The fact that porcelain is very hard means that it’s particularly susceptible to chipping. Once the enamel chips, rust, and other forms of deterioration can start becoming a bigger problem. Still, with proper care, the hard material tends to be worth the tradeoff.
Another thing that makes porcelain signs distinct is the fact that they’re heavier than other materials due to the hard nature of their construction. Porcelain signs are often countered on either side and have the letters raised slightly above the field of the sign itself.
You could even differentiate between porcelain and tin by checking the back as tin signs are one-sided in most cases. Painted steel is a bit harder to spot in a sea of porcelain signs, but you can notice that the surface and paint are both flat if you look closer.
Reproductions of Vintage Signs
Most new collectors are very worried about the chances of getting ripped off by paying for a genuine sign and ending up with a reproduction unit or fake. The unfortunate truth in the industry is that there are tons of fakes out in the market.
That makes it utterly impossible to avoid in some cases. The best advice that we can give you is to do business with a seasoned dealer or veteran collector who’ll be able to spot the difference between a China-made sign and a genuine vintage one.
Thanks to our experience with porcelain signs, we can confidently say that 99.9% of all the signs on our site are both authentic and old. We would even go so far as to say that 100% are real, but you never know when there’ll be one sign that shows up that’s completely indistinguishable from a genuine unit thanks to a forger that put great effort into it.
Value of Vintage Signs
Back in the older days of sign collecting, a couple of hundred backs could take you a long way in terms of purchasing particular pieces that you want. That being said, the hobby has since moved past the era where a pickup truck and $20 in your wallet was all you needed to pursue your love for porcelain signs.
If you’re looking to collect now, then you better have the means to do so as currently, old porcelain signs are often worth a big chunk of change. One thing that repeatedly trips up newbies is trying to scrounge up enough info to figure out why two signs that look pretty similar can sell for $300 and $3,000, respectively. A big part of it is the condition.
If you’re new to the industry, then you should only negotiate with trusted dealers so that you don’t get someone who’ll lowball a sign that’s, unbeknownst to you, very valuable. Of course, the condition isn’t everything. There comes a point where something could be in a condition too good to sell easily. Take Magnolia signs as an example.
There are hundreds of these still in existence, and you would never have too much trouble trying to pick one up in today’s market. If one is in perfect mint condition and the other one is lightly used, then you’ll likely be able to sell the lightly used one way faster.
This is because collectors would still be able to admire and show off the design without having to pay the extremely premium price of an unused unit. Collectors who like things that actually look their age or are trying to work on their hobby on a tight budget can go for signs that are riddled with chipping and rust.
You should also consider the appeal of the sign itself beyond the condition alone. What would make a collector want to purchase that specific sign? Are the graphics and colors interesting? Is the brand it represents something popular like Ford or Coke?
Is the sign convenient to transport around? Does it make for an impressive or eye-catching display? Ultimately, there aren’t any quick tricks that will help you value a vintage porcelain sign at first glance. Experience and good observation skills will be the two things that carry you furthest in this hobby.
Besides condition, you need to consider the overall appeal of the sign. Why would a collector want to buy this sign? Are the color and graphics especially interesting? Is the sign for a popular brand (think Coke, Ford, etc)? Does the sign make an impressive display or is it especially easy to transport? There are no tricks to know what a vintage porcelain sign should be worth. You just need a little bit of experience and a good eye.
Mint – Worth $5,000
Used – Worth $750
Beat Up – Worth $300
Reproduction – Worth about $50
Places to Buy & Sell Vintage Signs
Think about it; if you’re trying to sell a vintage coin, then you would go to a shop that trades old coins. If you’re trying to collect art, then you head to a gallery. But where does one go if they’re trying to collect vintage signs?
What it really comes down to is making connections by meeting new people every chance you get. The most amazing signs you’ll see aren’t listed online or found at antique malls but traded between people with a mutual love for the hobby. Feel free to send us an email with pictures of your sign if you want a second opinion on your unit or would like to learn more about its history.
I provide free opinions and would be happy to let you know more about your sign. Just send me an email with pictures of the sign and I will respond back quickly.