A few days ago someone posted about finding a nice old "FORD" sign. It was very distressed but still a nice display piece. So I started surfing e-bay looking for something similar. What I seem to have discovered is that there is a very large "faking market" going on in India. ... There are lots of dealers from the Mumbai Maharashtra India area selling porcelain signs. Some are obvious as to being "fake aged" but others appear to be very well done as to aging. I have been doing this for a long time as a collector and also a picker. And I have always been pretty good at detecting fakes, but their stuff is almost too good to tell from original. The prices they are getting and the amount of different bidders is amazing. The feed back ratings are almost all positive with the very rare case of someone saying they are fake. I have noticed that their feedback ratings are not high numbers, most are in the less than 100 positive feed back rating. That makes me think it may just be a few different sellers and using a lot of different user IDs to not have it look like they have too many signs and keep suspisions down. But one thing seem curious to me. There also seems to be a lot of old porcelain signs with India writing or other foreign writing. Some are clearly from India as to subject matter. So what is the chances that there are a lot of old signs over there that they are now selling .???? A lot of the nice signs are also pretty large signs and not the little 12 inch signs that are normally re-produced in porcelain. lots are 24 inch to 30 inch signs, and some are double sided. It just seems strange so many signs are coming from over there ... Ill attach a few e-bay auctions to look at, but you can do a search of "vintage porcelain sign", or "Ford porcelain sign" ect. Anyone else notice this before. If you figure they may be faking 100 signs a week for sale on e-bay. (not a unrealistic number) that would be 5,200 signs a year and over a 10 year period could be 52,0000 sign. all fakes.... Since a lot of us also collect things car related like signs and other oil company stuff, I thought I would bring it up ....
Every one of those is a fake. They are made and sold from India. I almost found out the hard way. It's funny, when I asked the seller last year(they have many ebay handles but are all the same I believe) about the authenticity as well did he have anymore that were not purposefully weathered and beaten, he says they are real. And then the kicker, "we have many, how many do you need?" Real? Yeah sure... Also, if you compare the pyramid logo sign made by them, to a know original you can see the differences. The lack of a manufactures stamp on the edges or back is also an indication of a fake I beleive. I feel bad for those that don't know, buying them.
Benjamin, I agree about them being fake. I also noticed that there are no dates or makers name at the edges.. The fakes are not just auto related. There are lots of soda company, tobacco company, ect... Its a shame the amount of folks being fooled.
My final occupation before retiring was manufacturing old signs. My products were always identified by labels on the back, either screened or on a sticker. Over the years I've often seen my signs for sale at swap meets, many times with the ID removed and at high prices as originals. Buyer beware.
Peddling signs at Petit Jean, 2002.
Flim flam at Hershey, 2013.
A handy ID hint: if a round or rectangular sign measures 25½", it's one of mine. Ovals are 16" x 24", but almost all others are 25½".
Them thar is JIN-U-WINE 100% AH-THAN-TICT
fake as a CAR-DAZZ-IAN'S BOOTY ....
Now This Here Sign is GEN-U-INE !
I took it just today along I-64 at the Virginia/West Virginia border ....
For some reason I was thinking about Jerry Kramer at the time ...
Steve, I saw your display many times thru the years, and had no clue who you were. I even bought a couple of your cheaper signs, (times were lean back then) I have seen many of the nice porcelain repros, aged by beating up the edges, nailing them to a wall and then "ripping" them off with crow bars, people shoot them with rifles or shotguns,. ect. There was a man that went to Canton Texas flea market, that had a whole trailer load of (New) old porcelain signs beat to hell and threw on the trailer in piles of other junk. His pickup was full of cast iron toys hauled in the same way. He never covered or tarped the loads in any way between shows. He would unload the cast iron toys with a scoop shovel and just throw them out of the truck. when unloading his signs he just threw them out of the trailer. The next day when all set up for business, his stuff really looked old and displayed well. He was a regular at Canton for years. I often wonder how many people think his stuff is original today ... The old saying "buyer beware" is still a good one to listen to...
A few weeks ago at Charlotte I saw a tin soda sign.
It was dated and looked very real. By the end of the day I saw maybe 6 more of the same signs. When a area is flooded with the same sign....it's fake.
There were Alot of cast iron Michelin Man fakes also.
Steve - Any pro tips for how to tell the difference? These new porcelain signs certainly raise the stakes.
Dan one of the signs of repro I always looked for was that the back side not be finished out very nice on originals. The back of nearly all repro signs were nice and clean, usually white porcelain. If not white on the back the repos could also be bare metal finish. The backs of a lot (not all) original signs could have smears, runs, gobs of paint, even finger print smears. They were a lot of the time, a dark color on the back. The porcelain on the fronts of the repros are usually a smoother finish, maybe because the enamel is thinner or flows better today, when baked, than back then. The surface of the older ones is smooth to the touch, but is not perfectly flat. Probably because the enamel is thicker and does not totally flow out. Maybe Steve will chime in with some tips, and maybe let me know if I have been wrong all these years as to judging fakes... Its OK to be honest and brutal Steve... I put my "big boy britches" on this morning.
Just wanted to add this for Fred. Seeing a bunch of the same sign is not always a tell tale sign of them being fakes. There could have been a "hoard" of them show up. It does happen more often that a lot of folks think. I bought 25 "Fisk" tire signs several years ago at a junk dealers place. They were in a old shed and still had the paper between each one. The shed was falling down and the junk dealer remembered putting them in the shed before WW2. I saturated the market with them for awhile. I even saw the ones I sold reappear with double my price on them for several years. That happened several times in my picking days. So it does happen. But when I see a bunch of the same thing I start looking closer at them and try to find out as much as I can as to "why" there are several of them ...
I should clarify that my signs were baked enamel on 18 gauge steel, not porcelain.
I think Donnie's suggestions are good. In addition to the unique size I mentioned above, also check carefully for evidence that ID has been removed from the back. Brass grommets would make me suspicious. They don't decide the issue, because some old signs had them, but most didn't.
But the fact is that there are some reproductions that are so well done that I can't be sure whether they're old or new.
Another way is to look at the Ford 'script'.
Original early script has 'open' top "r".
Reproduction winged sign:
Over-sized later style script, fake rust and damage. No makers marks.
Original winged sign:
Note the feather marks don't approach the Ford area on the original, and the script is same as early Ford script. And the FORD script is in size balance to the graphics. Plus there are maker's marks on originals.
This Ford adv. shows both styles of the script, the closed 'r' is common, but most of the early use the 'r' is open. They can be used both, as this literature shows, but those early winged Ford porcelain signs always have the open 'r'.
A buyer should always remember,"Buyer Beware",before any purchase.
Unfortunately i bid on the sign on T bay but someone has passed my bid. They can have it!! Tim
I will try and post a link to a web site I found when I was looking at signs. It may help you.
Look at the next page of North American signs and the foreign signs.
Look at the southeastern sign. Hope this helps. Dan
This is the sign that started me looking at the India buyers. It "appears" to have the proper look to the porcelain that can be seen in a few of the photos, it has a nice deep rust to the chips and holes and also the correct look to the rust staining. but there is no makers name or date to the edge, and the rust chipping to the edge is (in my opinion) not consistent with the damage to the face. so it just says "fake" to me. I would really love to have it to go with my 1933 Plymouth because it is the early shield design. Even as a fake I would pay as much as 200.00 for it. Nice single sided brand new repro porcelain signs in the larger sizes are now going for 150.00 or more new. But it is already over 300.00 and could easily go to 500.00 maybe more. I have seen some of the repro fake aged signs bring 900.00 to over 1000.00. This sign as an original would be 2000.00 to 2500.00 if you could find it for sale. So maybe 500.00 is not too much for a fake sign ... ???? but its too much for me ..
OK here is what seems to be and an American faker. I would bet good money the signs this guy sells are all fake. Here is a link to his current auctions ...
look at the rear side of the Dr Pepper and the Jayhawk Orange soda sign. The spatters and runs on the rear of the Dr Pepper appear to be the same paint as the Jayhawk Orange color of orange. Like I said in the post above, runs and smears on the back are common to old signs as well as "off color" back colors, but this guy has taken it to the extreme. Every thing he has for sale has over-kill on spatters and runs.
I believe from what I am seeing on e-bay that we may be at the point that there are more fakes out there than originals. I think Im going to quit looking. Im getting depressed and mad at the same time ...
Of the 9 1971 Hemi Cuda convertibles originally produced, 75 remain...
All my signs are reproductions. The originals are to expensive for me. If I had to pay $2K for an original sign, I'd rather put that money in my car's restoration. I'd love to have a Authorized Ford Repair Station sign, the same size as the original, but haven't found a source. I have one of the smaller (Andy Rooney) signs with the same logo, but 'size matters".
The Pierce Arrow Service sign is well known in the Pierce Arrow Society as a reproduction, think they were made about 15 years ago. For display, some of the faked signs are good value if sold as such, but as mentioned, it's a buyer beware world.
This is true of cars, also. There are lots of "fake" convertibles out there (non-T), for example, in the higher end cars, and there are faked "original" cars that one might never suspect.
Terry, the reason you haven't found a full size Ford repo is the steep cost of licensing. That's why, except for a one-off for myself, I didn't make Ford signs. I would never have sold enough of them to cover the cost. It made sense to stick to brands with reasonable licensing costs or free. Some brands are public domain and free for anybody to reproduce, some need to be licensed but at no charge, some cost 5% or less, and some cost considerably more with a demand for a guaranteed minimum. I could make the first three work, but not the last.
Steve, thanks for the input, but I doubt that dealers, forgers, and manufacturers in India, care much about obtaining licensing from Ford. To them its just an added expense that they can afford to hide from in India, due to the distance from Ford's world headquarters in Dearborn. They probably have it figured out how to shut down overnight to avoid the Law and legal system.
I'm something of a sign guy. Been playing "American Picker" now for 45 years. And in that time
I've watched dollar values escalate on some items to a point that people will make reproductions
to meet demand. Somewhere in this mix comes the fraudster who sees all this stuff we love more
in terms of money than cool.
This is a key philosophical point. Most of us love this stuff for a passion we have for "Americana".
It isn't about money, it's about cool. It's about nostalgia and all these elements of old that make us
happy. Money is only a tool in which to make it happen.
And then there are the guys who may share some parts of this outlook, but the bottom line is "what's
it worth ?" or "How much can I make on it ?", rather than just being into it for the love of the stuff.
Many reproduction signs are fakes ... defined as something never made. It may be a size difference,
it may be lettering, of simply that such a thing was never made back then, period. A pure fantasy piece.
For anyone willing to spend some time learning, these ones become obvious fast.
Many others are reproductions of originals. Some of these are done so well that even experts have
a tough time telling a reproduction from an original. Most will have details in the quality of manufacturing
that will give clue as to when they were made. Old signs tend to be made on heavy gauge steel. The
earliest porcelain signs were made on IRON sheeting, and are warped and "lumpy". The glazes will
be heavy and often runny, with little-to-no attention given to the back side (on single sided signs),
resulting in a sloppy finish. No one cared. It was going against a wall.
With today's paradigm of quality control, it is hard for reproduction artists to get the manufacturer/s
to reverse engineer the sloppiness and overall crudity that sign mfg. typically was in 1888 or 1921,
and thusly, new signs tend to be "thinner" in metal base and porcelain covering, have a much smoother
overall finish, and the backs are typically finished as nicely as the fronts, even if blank.
But this is where the fun begins ....
There is HUGE money in signs. Porcelain, plugged for neon signs can easily reach into six figures.
Add in "popular" nostalgic brands (such as Ford, Polly gas, etc.) and there are eleventy-thousand boobs
out there with more money than brains, who will drive the prices off the charts for good surviving examples.
And what happens when fat wallets open ? That's right ! .... the money guys hear that crisp sound of
a fat checkbook opening and crawl out from under the rocks to do their best to swindle Daddy Warbucks
out of as much as they can squeeze out of him !
And we all pay the price, because that same tide raises all boats. Be it that we can no longer find that
cool sign for less than a cool grand, or we have to swim the shark-infested waters of frauds and erstwhile
My spin is this, .... I have lost all interest in the stuff everybody else seems to clamor for. Be that the
Polly gas stuff, or the advertising gee-gaw for the Big Two, not only does one see it everywhere they go,
but it has just become cliché for it's following. Sure, that OK Used Cars dealership neon is awesome
unto itself, but it's what it has become associated with in the old car/sign hobby that makes it just another
contrived tool in the box of those inclined toward the cliché. Not only does one run a huge risk of being
defrauded for a recently made piece being passed off as original, but in the end, one ends up being just
another one of "those guys" ... the kind of guys I consider poison in the hobby I do as a "passion".
Instead, I seek out the weird. The off-brand, everyday stuff that the "money boys" don't consider "worthy".
I look for all the signs of being made way back when, and I avoid the hob-nob set. As an example, I recently
acquired a neon sign I had been lusting for for 25+ years. It reads "COLD DRINKS (in blue)/ TO GO (in red).
Now, most people would want a similar size/type sign to read for their favorite beer brand, because they
are that inclined to cliché. It's the whole "man cave" (insert puking icon here) mentality. But the COLD DRINKS/
TO GO sign was commonly used back in the day in states where selling liquor to go was legal. That whole
dynamic has largely vanished and those signs vanished with it. So, they accurately represent a cool facet
of history, AND the mass hordes look right past it as they rush to shell large to get the Budweiser window
neon like every other boob has for his "man cave". :-P
Now, none of this is to say that new signs are necessarily bad. They make great ambiance and display
when done right, and no one get snookered in the process, thinking it was an old sign. But for many, the
hinge point comes on this pivot of paying for new vs. paying for old, and feeling vulnerable to getting
taken by one of the money guys.
I love off (unpopular) brands. My dad worked at the Pathfinder refinery in Seal Beach until he went with Union Oil in 1943. Nobody has ever heard of this outfit, but they had some killer trademarks.
Burger, very well said. I am like you in lots of ways. I also like the unusual. and I also steer clear of the "yuppie" "man cave stuff". I have a fairly large collection of stuff that I have bought thru the years. Most of what I have was free or close to free in price. The sad thing is how many people who are paying good high dollar for the repro fake aged signs, probably really think they are real. Just a little research goes a long way. It only took me very little research in my spare time, over a couple days, to get a good idea of how the INDIA connection works in all this sign stuff. I also see no problems with the repro stuff, but do not try to pass it off as original. But with human nature like it is, cheating and cons are just a fact of life.
Donnie, I am right there with you, but add in the disdain for the "plastic" man cave mentality crowd.
I have little use for phoney people.
I'd like for it ALL to be ancient tech, but I run my business out of here, so my tools and junk also must
cohabitate. I guess I have built my own version of my Grandfather's shop, combined with my own interests
and stuff I mentally collected from the disappearing landscape as I was growing up. Model TT trucks,
resting in several barns around my area were just part of that fabric of cool and old and forgotten.
Something not pointed out are the part numbers and makers marks on original signs...
Reads "Gurney Canada" which will explain the French "Sales & Service"
I don't mind fake signs as long as they're represented as such, and priced accordingly.
I like the real old signs, but can't justify the cost. The Ford sign I recently bought in poor condition was expensive enough. In nice condition they bring $3-5,000.
Mine was approx. 1/10 the price of a nice one, but it's almost too rough to display the way I want to... An accurate fake would suit my needs just fine, as long as I could afford it.
I stumbled onto this site today. An interesting perspective by an India dealer ... ???