If you are new to collecting there are a lot of pieces out there that you will consider buying. In the last 30 years, we have seen a large number of reproductions enter the market. Some reproductions are made in the same shape, size and style of the original. Some are easy to tell from the original, others are exact replicas and made to deceive the buyer. Some are the exact same size but others are larger and you may think it is a variation.
As the price and demand go up on any collectible, reproductions will appear. Back in the 1960’s reproductions were being made of Depression glass, cast iron toys, cast iron banks and cast iron door stops. Reproduction signs started being seen in the 1970’s and continues today.
As for reproduction signs, do your homework on any item that you are investing your money in. First and foremost, ask the seller if it is an original piece or a reproduction. Ask if the seller guarantees the item to be an original. Look at the piece for manufacturer marks and don’t assume just because it has a marker’s mark. We know that reproductions are being made by several companies including Desperate Sign Company and AAA Sign Company.
If you look at the number of holes there will be difference between the original and the reproduction. Also look really closely around the grommets.
Sign companies who made the old signs used metal that resisted rust. Grommets were used to protect the corners. If you see rust or lots of chipping around the grommets, beware. This is not normal with an old sign. Be conscious of size. Is the size different from what you have seen…is it smaller or different? Are the more holes than normal? Reproductions will often be a different size than the original.
Don’t forget to look at the back. Porcelain does not rust and you can see from this picture it is made to rust to look old. The back of American made porcelain signs WILL NOT look like this. Note lots of rust around the holes.
Lots of reproduction signs are from India. There are of low quality, feel grainy and the seller will “rough up” the holes and edges, including breaking off the porcelain and rusting them. These are being shipped in quantities. Where the problem comes in when they are purchased at a cheap price by US buyers, than offered at auctions or on line for a high price as the original. Here are some reproduction signs we have seen available for sale.
Your best bet is to buy from a reputable seller / dealer who knows what they are selling and can even give you some history of the piece. If you are buying on line, contact the seller and talk to the seller to very they guarantee the sign is old. At the current time, the only online marketplace to only sell only original pieces (not reproduction) is http://www.icollect247.com. The sellers on the site only sell original pieces. There are no reproductions, no limited editions and nothing later than 1980.
By the way, if you are just using is as a decorator piece or a barn hanger and you don’t care if it is a reproduction, go for it! Reproductions are an inexpensive way to enjoy collecting and decorating. Just know what you are buying!
If you end up buying a reproduction piece you thought was real, don’t give up on collecting! Use it as a learning curve as part of collecting. No matter how long you collect you will be fooled., believe me there is someone always out there reproducing something to fool the buyer. Believe me when I tell you that it happens to even the best of us!