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A Question For Porcelain Sign Collectors


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I'm not specifically a porcelain sign collector but consider myself a "sign gatherer."  My collection is very eclectic with a variety of tin, card, porcelain, even some early hand painted stuff on wood.  I've gathered them over the years, most from the original source-hanging on old garage walls, plugging holes in ceilings, floors, fences, etc.  I love telling stories about how and where they came from, especially those I found while living in Scotland.  The Brits produced some wonderful early advertising.  I'm short of dealer specific signs but have them for oil and gasoline, tires, and many other auto products, all decorating my garage and especially my recreated circa 1915 auto parts store.  

Not to be outdone, my wife has collected many interesting early tea advertising signs too.  Lots of fun, but I too miss the good old days when you could still find them nailed to the walls of an old garage. 

 

I do follow signs at auction, on evil-bay and for sale at the swap meets, and try to keep up with prices.  I'd personally have passed on the sign in question as it's just to rough for me, and I'm not into restoring them.  Based on what I've seen though, there is a market for them and the price seems somewhat "normal" these days.

 

The first sign I ever acquired was in Scotland while on an old car tour with the local vintage car club we belonged to.  We were driving our 1935 Morris when I stopped in front of a long-closed old garage to take a photo of our car parked in front of the wonderful Wakefield Castrol sign pictured here.  The guy who owned the place was inside, repairing a bicycle and came out to look at the car.  Of course as soon as I opened my mouth and asked if we could take the photo he realized I wasn't a local.  After taking the photo, he proceeded to pull the sign off the wall and gave it to us as a souvenir of our visit.  We tried to say no thanks, then tried to pay for it - but he expressed his gratitude for what the American's did during WWII  and insisted we take it.  I couldn't refuse it and we proceeded to tie it on the roof of our car.  When we pulled into the garage at home, our landlord and family,  who we rented our cottage from,  came running up to see why we were late coming home - they were also antique car club members and had been on the tour with their Austin 7s.  When they saw the sign, they said everybody in the club had tried to buy it at one time and all offers had been rejected!  An amazing experience and one of my favorite stories. 

 

They are all my favorites but one of the more interesting is the "No Autos Filled" sign pictured.  Very early as it makes reference to "gas lights." 

 

My simple recommendation -  enjoy collecting,  however you can.

Terry

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58 minutes ago, Paul Dobbin said:

Auburnseeker,

Try https://www.americantinceilings.com/?msclkid=3b44d2a961f913c1875e8ca722549824&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=(Corey) Branden   Stay away from the painted ones, get new tin for a cheap price.

 

From what I was looking at in a prefinished "plastic" copper colored tile the price difference is about 3300 to 7228 for the real tin plus tax and shipping on the tin.  With the real tin I have to add nailers to the whole ceiling over the 1 inch foam and might have some clearance issues with my garage doors. Even after changing the rails the one with the opener actually hits the foam so I was going to run a smooth piece of thin copper flashing down the ceiling where it runs and just fit the tiles accordingly.   The Plastic ones can be glued up to the foam.  Haven't pulled the trigger on either yet as there are many other things that I should buy other than a tin ceiling. 

 

Day Dreaming is alot cheaper and less work than actually getting the job done. 

 

 

That's a beauty of a Packard sign by the way. 

 

I would bet out of all of us with signs,  some of the best ones,  ended up being the cheapest or even free.  I think the most I ever spent on a single sign was $600 and that was my 40 foot Neon Coach House sign because I bought it from a scrap yard and agreed to give them back all the steel the letters were mounted to. They delivered it and I even threw on a bunch of scrap steel and Iron I had laying around when they came back to pick up the frame. Ironically I had seen that sign as a kid every time my family came down to Gens falls as it was prominently placed on the roof of a restaurant  that you could see from the interstate and it was always lit up at night.  hard to not notice a 40 foot neon sign with nothing but woods around it. 

I've bought a few since for just a tad less, but as mentioned many came from people I know so I have the history behind them. 

You can just see a little of it in this photo at my old shop which I sold.  I have it in storage in the attic of my little garage.  When I get the new one finished along enough,  I'll mount it inside the new one.  Though it would fit nicely on the outside end of the new one.  If I put it on the far end of the new one,  people would once again see it from the interstate,  but I'm sure zoning would have a real issue with me lighting it up. 

 

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Edited by auburnseeker (see edit history)
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5 hours ago, Robert G. Smits said:

Three on eBay right now.  A rusted POS for $250,  a moderately rusted one for $750 and a nice original for $1450.  If you have not kept up with advertising prices you will be astonished. 

Of course, one can ask whatever one wants. ;)
I'm sure prices overall have gone up, but asking prices have far outstripped selling prices.

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I should post pictures of my eclectic sign collection but most of your collections put mine to shame. I split mine into two locations one has farm/forestry/parks/etc the other is auto/petro. I prefer originals but will not break the bank. The other problem is once friends and family know you collect signs they give you signs and some of them are repros, I hang the repros if I like them and store the once I don't (after a few years I add them to my Hershey pile). I still have some room for additional signs, but not a lot, so I'm selective on what I buy both in content and price. I figure if I stop now it is still a nice collection that I like to look at.

 

I sold some nice signs back in the late 70s that I got cheap and didn't fit my interests, when I see how the price have went up I wonder if I should have hung on to them but I made a good a nice profit on them considering all but one I only had a couple of years. The last of that batch was a large Sunco diamond shaped sign that after hauling to Hershey a few times I found a spot on my wall where it hung for 30+ years. When we moved my new shop wall space would have been crowded with such a large sign, but was going to move it. I had a fellow deliver stone for the driveway at the old place to make it more marketable and the fellow walked into my shop where I was packing things to give me the bill and asked what I was going to do with the big sign. Said I guess move it, he asked how much I would take. I had not kept up on prices but threw price at him I would be happy with knowing I didn't really want to move it and he reached in his pocket and pulled out a roll bills and started pulling hundreds off the roll. I figured I probably asked to little but I was happy not to move it.

 

I bought these signs out of the basement of a closed Chevy dealership and had almost nothing in them. When I went to look at the stuff the fellow wanted to sell he had several crates of dealer manuals with paint and upholstery samples and other manuals and all kinds of iron parts not in boxes but new. When he saw I was mostly interested in the paper he admitted to having hauled several pickup loads to the dump, I almost cried. When I got all parts and such off the benches and shelves the signs were being used as part of the shelving, I wondered how many of those went to the dump. I worked out a deal to haul a load to Hershey and split the profits 50:50, he agreed, I came back with 90% of the parts but he was happy with the cash I gave him. Ask him if he wanted to sell me the leftover parts for my half of the profits and he jumped on it. Still have some of the paper, sold out of that stash at Hershey for many years. So you can see the signs didn't owe me anything.

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I was invited to bring my 1940 sprint car to a private Race Car reunion held every December at a farm in rural Texas. The owner invited me in to his one bedroom farm house to see his advertising. Every square inch of this house is covered with pristine porcelain signage  This is the dining room. 

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Around 1985, my buddy & I stumbled upon an abandoned junkyard in eastern PA somewhere. I say 'abandoned' because there was no fence, no gate, no border, no buildings, no signage, no evidence of scrapping or moving them around & it was all overgrown. Looked like occasionally they'd tow a car in there and just leave it in the patch of trees. We wandered thru it, and there was a double-sided porcelain dealership sign there; DeSoto-Plymouth, about 4 feet in diameter and 8 or 10 inches thick, circular, and some of the neon lettering was still on it. I suppose if one of us had access to a truck, it would've followed us home. At some point in the '90s the whole area was cleaned out & I have to believe it was all crushed/scrapped. Man, I wanted that sign.

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I have a few (very few) cheap repros, and two real originals in fair condition. One rectangular Studebaker sign, probably from the mid '10s or very early ''20s. And one Paige and Jewett sales and service sign (mid '20s). The Paige sign I bought for $40 about fifty years ago, and my wife gave me the Studebaker sign over twenty years ago. I know she paid too much for the Studebaker sign at the time, but I imagine it is worth a bit more now? (Kidding!) Actually, I would almost be afraid to find out what they might be worth. I really do not want to sell either of them, and do have a friend I would consider giving the Studebaker sign to if I did need to re-home it. (And for that matter, I do know a Paige owner, don't know if he collects signs or not?) On the other hand, if I could get enough for them that I could buy a decent car I could enjoy? 

I am not sure right now that I would want to know?

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So far, I see lots of wonderfully preserved signs in all kinds of condition.    Besides overhead, and wall signs, and thermometers, does anyone have any porcelain door pushbars in their collection?

 

Craig

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Okay everyone. I have a confession to make. I’m the one who actually won the sign from eBay. I was doing a little fishing for information to see if I was a fool for agreeing to such a price. It should be here in one week. I plan on cleaning it up and letting it be. It’s going to hang in the garage as is. 

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DB26- if your happy with your purchase.........then all is fine. Having something at 600 or nothing at 3k. Only you need to be satisfied. Enjoy it.👍

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My 6' diameter porcelain BA sign.  Very rare in the blue/orange combination as it was quickly replaced with Gulf signs.

 

And my Coca-Cola porcelain finish door push.

 

Craig

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I didn't have it handy for the soap box derby banner post,  but let me show off my champ car.   Complete with sponsorship by Billing's Classic Car,  noted for building the 10 Duesenberg Toursters in the 70s.

 

Been sitting for 45 years in my dad's garage attic waiting for me to build a barn I've been planning since 1988.

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This is the only original I have.  It is not porcelain. Thick tin. I have not seen any like it. I purchased on eBay when searching old signage. Sometimes different worded searches on eBay yield results. The final price for the sign was $20.

 

I did a quick look. Mecum had two for auction.  Not as nice as mine in my opinion.  Sold for $354.  I feel good about my purchase!  https://www.mecum.com/lots/LN1019-390325/check-oil-now-oil-rack-tin-signs-lot-of-2/

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Edited by avgwarhawk (see edit history)
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13 minutes ago, avgwarhawk said:

This is the only original I have.  It is not porcelain. 12 guage steel. I have not seen any like it. I purchased on eBay when searching old signage. Sometimes different worded searches on eBay yield results. The final price for the sign was $20.

 

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Or incorrectly spelled.  I was looking for a vintage game system for my son for Christmas and found a great deal spelled “Nintindo” instead of “Nintendo.”  eBay will often auto-correct spelling, forcing you to intentionally try to choose the incorrect spelling.

 

There are tons of “Biuck” items on there right now that a person would never find if they didn’t force the incorrectly spelled search.

Edited by 39BuickEight (see edit history)
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On 1/3/2020 at 1:51 PM, Robert G. Smits said:

I have been into advertising as long as cars. They don’t require maintenance 

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Robert your sign collection looks awesome and love those cars.   It appears you have them roped off - do you drive them much or more for admiration?  

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On 1/3/2020 at 1:04 AM, WQ59B said:

Around 1985, my buddy & I stumbled upon an abandoned junkyard in eastern PA somewhere. I say 'abandoned' because there was no fence, no gate, no border, no buildings, no signage, no evidence of scrapping or moving them around & it was all overgrown. Looked like occasionally they'd tow a car in there and just leave it in the patch of trees. We wandered thru it, and there was a double-sided porcelain dealership sign there; DeSoto-Plymouth, about 4 feet in diameter and 8 or 10 inches thick, circular, and some of the neon lettering was still on it. I suppose if one of us had access to a truck, it would've followed us home. At some point in the '90s the whole area was cleaned out & I have to believe it was all crushed/scrapped. Man, I wanted that sign.

This Cadillac sign came from a Junkyard they were getting ready to do the final clean up on.  There were a few van bodies and buses with some NOS parts that all junkyards seem to get, that I was called in by a friend to buy from the family as the owner had passed.  This was tucked down in between a bunch of stuff in one of the bodies.  Alot of the cars had already been crushed and I'm pretty sure everything would have just been picked up with a claw and stuffed into dump bodies that was with this.  I laid everything out for the guy to see and made him and offer and he took it for the whole lot,  happily.  It was only a few hundred for everything.  I haven't been able to figure out what it was made for other than obviously Cadillac and from maybe around 1953. It's not real big and has a ton of factory rivet holes.  Fortunately the busy design takes away from the big wangers.  Odd part is they actually wrote on the back before firing the colors used.  Maybe it was a sample or test piece? I have also wondered if it was for something like the motorama as with all the holes it would make mounting it very easy at different venues.   It's maybe 20 by 24 inches. 

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Any idea what something like this would be worth? My neighbor offered me $350 for it but I passed. I've had it in my garage for about 15 years. I was too lazy to move the 28' extension ladder for the pic so sorry about that. It measures 3' x 7' 10". The pics are with and without the flash. There is a bullet hole in the big Q....

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while on this topic, I was thinking, is there any form of advertising that didnt go through the roof in the last 20 years and I came up with 5 gallon petrol cans. Some have great colors and many can be picked up for under 50 bucks.

 

that's what Im talking about.............!

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3 hours ago, avgwarhawk said:

This is the only original I have.  It is not porcelain. Thick tin. I have not seen any like it. I purchased on eBay when searching old signage. Sometimes different worded searches on eBay yield results. The final price for the sign was $20.

 

I did a quick look. Mecum had two for auction.  Not as nice as mine in my opinion.  Sold for $354.  I feel good about my purchase!  https://www.mecum.com/lots/LN1019-390325/check-oil-now-oil-rack-tin-signs-lot-of-2/

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Chris, your sign was used on a Seloil oil cabinet, which were usually on the pump island to display quart oil cans.

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2 hours ago, Lebowski said:

Any idea what something like this would be worth? My neighbor offered me $350 for it but I passed. I've had it in my garage for about 15 years. I was too lazy to move the 28' extension ladder for the pic so sorry about that. It measures 3' x 7' 10". The pics are with and without the flash. There is a bullet hole in the big Q....

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Try to squeeze a little more out of your neighbor, but 350 is good for that sign in that condition.

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2 hours ago, MetroPetro said:

Chris, your sign was used on a Seloil oil cabinet, which were usually on the pump island to display quart oil cans.

Thanks for letting me know.  I had wondered if the sign was on a shop wall or inside the gas station. 

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On 1/4/2020 at 2:17 PM, VintageJunkie said:

Robert your sign collection looks awesome and love those cars.   It appears you have them roped off - do you drive them much or more for admiration?  

I keep 5 or 6 running at all times and try to rotate them although my 41 Cad is always on call.

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I bought a 1940s MoPar Batteries sign, 4 ft. tall, about 20" wide.  in the 80s for about $25.  At least I assume it was from the 40s.  I dated it from the fact that the battery pictured had a 6 volt battery,  I guess it could have been made anywhere from the 40s through 1955.  It was brand new still in wraps when I bought it.  I bought it from a guy who was parting out an old Chrysler dealership.  About 15 years ago, I thought maybe I could make about two or three hundred dollars on this.  It was a metal sign, one-sided.  I put it on Ebay, and I was shocked to see it sell for about $1300.  I've never seen another sign with that subject matter on it.  Maybe the fact that it was rare determined the high price.  

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On 1/4/2020 at 5:13 PM, MetroPetro said:

Any idea what something like this would be worth?

I think you might be surprised at what you would get on eBay.  List it with a $500 reserve. I recently sold a 72 inch and 36 inch Sinclair signs that were far worse than yours for $750 each on Craigslist. The purchaser drove 500 miles to pick them up. I see increased interest in signs with "patina",  This may be because the good stuff is hard to find and expensive.  I purchased a group of five 42 inch DSP dealer service signs for $200 each in the early 90's.  Today they would bring 3 to 6K each at auction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dsp

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Then again it all depends on what day of the week it ends,  if people forget to bid.  I sell old car literature on ebay all at auction with stupid cheap opening bids and no reserve and it's all over the place with no rhyme or reason.   I also bought a 50's Chevy dealer sign 2 days ago in Porcelain,  rather small but definitely original with the old garage name and phone number in very nice shape for under $50 shipped to the door and that was with bidding not a buy it now.   Some of my signs come from ebay though I don't actively buy them,  they are just ones I stumble upon, but I throw a bid in figuring,  no way it's going that cheap and I end up winning it.  As I said seems the only explanation is the one I gave above.  

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On 1/1/2020 at 2:26 PM, dodgebrother said:

Any signs relating to Automobile Dealers and Gas Stations are fair game.

The market for good vintage porcelain signs and neon porcelain and gas station advertising is healthy and alive.

I am only interested in "real" signs with an identifiable mark of where and when they were made.

The Dodge Desoto Dodge Truck sign for instance was made by several different companies back in the day. 

I have been collecting signs for a long time and try to collect signs that relate to some of my vehicle or old gas station memories.

I also have a passion for "marine" related oil and gas items like square oil cans and porcelain signs and some o/b motors. 

This room is what I call the "overflow" room and is a small part of the inventory.

One day when I shift down to a lower gear I will hang them in the shop / show room / old gas station setting that is on the drawing board.

This same sort of semi controlled addiction has applied to cars and trucks and all the related accessories for them.

But I have been purging a few vehicles lately.

Such as a 42 Dodge pickup just sent to France, 46 Dodge 1 ton locally , 35 Dodge coupe locally, 35 Dodge slant back locally, 70 El Camino SS 454 LS6 M22 #'s match CDN GM Docs locally and I have a few others looking for a home....  

Currently doing a full frame off restoration of a very rare civilian model 1942 Dodge Suburban with barn doors and also doing a frame on restoration of a 1935 DB KC 2nd series pickup that was special  ordered by the IRS in Fargo ND in October 1935 with a few "extra options".

 

Happy New Year to everyone...! 

 

Onward and upward and pedal to the metal throughout 2020.

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With that Eaton's sign you must be in Canada

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I’ve done some googling and a lot of people reccomend “Bar Keepers Friend” cleanser for cleaning up rust stained and dirty porcelain signs. Anyone have any experience? 

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