Home » All Value Guides » Antique Sign Value Guide
We auction all types of collectible signs, including porcelain signs, tin signs, painted metal signs, and trade signs. Even among these types you often will see subtypes such as die-cuts, curb signs, pump plates, embossed, flanged, and more. The information below are guidelines for making broad assessments of the value of a sign you may never have seen sell before so you can hopefully judge if you have a $1,000 sign or a $100 sign. Keep in mind that the market for antique and vintage signs is very fluid and something that sold for $50,000 last year may only sell for $20,000 this year if several of them have flooded the market, or if the two folks willing to pay that much got their hands on one and aren’t bidding the price up any more. At the same time, an item that sold for $1,000 last month sometimes ends up in a bidding war and sells for $5,000 or $10,000. Even well versed experts can only give you their opinion based on the information we have available, the market for signs in particular is volatile and often surprising. Our buyers and collectors are most interested in rarer and high grade signs but even mid level signs see strong demand and prices. If you believe you have signs that we might be interested in, then please contact us via email, phone, or use our contact form. dfenton@ManifestAuctions.com
Factors that Determine the Value of a Collectible Sign:
- Rarity: The rarity of any collectible item will drastically affect its value. Signs with only a few known examples will naturally bring higher prices from collectors than those that you can buy at any show or that can be found on ebay frequently.
How can you know if your sign is rare or common? If you’re not sure or you don’t know the market well, then get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to give you our honest opinion of what your sign is worth in today’s market and you might be surprised by how much it is!
- Demand: Vintage and Antique Signs are seeing a lot of demand in today’s market as many folks are looking to spice up their garage for a vintage feel or to get their “man-cave” decked out to impress their friends. There is a weird effect I sometimes see from this where even with strong demand people will vastly overprice their items and then try to sell them, which only turns off buyers. The seller thinks that they can always lower the price so they aren’t losing anything by trying to offer it at a high price, which in reality is going to discourage many potential buyers that might have been interested and lowering the competition for the item. Offering a sign at the right price initially generates the highest demand and brings the best prices in the end.
- Design: The design of a sign also affects its value, collectors love to see signs with attractive designs and good colors. Other factors such as die-cut signs with interesting shapes also attract good attention. The most valuable signs you’ll see on the market almost always have beautiful designs such as the H.P. Hood, or Harbor Petroleum signs. There are valuable signs out there as well with rather simple designs but those are the exception rather than the rule.
- Brand: The brand a particular sign is advertising for is also an important component to value, many collectors will focus on one or two brands to build their collection around, so someone trying to get a sign for their brand that may seem otherwise unimportant can get increased value if there is a large group of collectors focused on that brand, this is part of the reason so many gas and oil signs sell for such high prices. Conversely, a brand that is not very well known or that doesn’t have much of a following will reduce the value of that sign since there just isn’t the same demand, all else being equal.
- Size: The size of porcelain signs is a big factor in value. The most valuable signs will be in the 30″-42″ range since that is a size that is fairly easy to display, but still has good eye appeal from distance. Larger signs tend to sell at a relative discount the bigger they get, since there is so much hassle in transporting and displaying them. Similarly, smaller signs also tend to sell at a discount simply because they don’t look as commanding on a wall. However, some niche areas such as porcelain door pushes or pump plates generate great value but still don’t have the high ceiling you see in the size “sweet spot”. This is just a general guideline of course, there are incredibly valuable signs at all sizes but this is a good guideline to pay attention to.
- Condition: As with all types of collectibles, condition is king. In some cases a sign in near-mint condition can bring ten times the value of the same sign as a grade 6 or 7. Additionally, condition increases the value at an almost exponential rate where the difference between a grade 8 and grade 9 is much larger than the difference between a grade 7 and grade 8.
Factors that Don’t Determine the Value of a Collectible Sign:
- Age: Many people I talk to get hung up on the age of the sign they have and how old it is exactly. While this might be nice to know, it really doesn’t affect the value in a significant way, if you have two of the exact same sign and one is 5 years or 10 years older than the other, they still have the same value to collectors. Collectors are after signs for the display factor and how they look. The date of a sign can be helpful in authenticating it, but usually it’s easier to authenticate a sign by looking at other features.
Entry Level Collectible Signs:
Entry Level Signs usually sell for less than $300 each and many can be found for less. Almost all entry level signs are common and easily available on ebay to anyone interested or may be less common but were made later in the 60’s or later. I also include in this category, lower condition signs of mid level rarity. Entry level signs also include generic signs like No Trespassing, Fire Exit, Stop Signs, and other similar items that wouldn’t have been used for advertising purposes.
Mid Level Collectible Signs:
Mid Level Signs usually sell for $300-1000 and include signs that are somewhat scarce, have moderate demand, or for whatever reason collectors are willing to pay elevated prices for. If your sign is at least 30″ and in good condition, it probably qualifies as a mid level sign, if it is from a good brand. Most of the signs we take on consignment are mid-level signs, though we do sell many high level signs as well. Signs in this range are especially condition dependent, small edge chips and chips around grommets won’t do too much damage to a sign’s value, but gun shots, rust, and other damage to the main field of the sign will have a dramatic impact on value since these signs aren’t terribly rare and collectors will often hold off for a top condition sign rather than paying for a lower condition version.
High End Collectible Signs:
High End Collectible Signs are those that advanced, experienced, and wealthy collectors are actively looking for. This usually means that these signs are fairly rare and don’t come up for sale often, but sometimes it just means that the sign is really cool and people are willing to spend a lot of money for one. This combination of rarity and demand drives prices up into the thousands of dollars for high level signs in today’s market with the rarest and best condition signs bringing prices as high as $50,000 in some cases. To bring top prices signs need to be in excellent condition without areas of damage or rust, without fading, bends or other defects and preferable with a nice shine or luster to the surface of the sign.
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