How to spot fake porcelain signs
Collecting antique porcelain signs can be rewarding, profitable, and in some cases expensive. While there are large collections that change hands from time to time, most posters are bought and sold through established and trusted networks of buyers, collectors, and sellers. These people know and trust each other as resources for the product, as well as us as trustworthy and trustworthy business practices.
Unfortunately, due to the high value of many of these posters, many unscrupulous sellers go out of their way to mislead buyers with new reproductions of the original posters. While this is nothing new, often a seller takes a new sign and “ages” it in such a way that it creates an appearance of authenticity when in reality the sign is not old at all. For collectors, it is important to understand some of the characteristics of authentic signs, as well as the techniques used to age new signs.
Some examples of aging techniques include chipping and oxidation. While many signs were hung outside, some of the chipping and rusting done by counterfeit producers is a bit exaggerated. In some cases, they target specific areas and damage and oxidize those areas. For example, grommet areas are often damaged on original signs and thus become an area of interest to counterfeiters. However, they often overlook the fact that the holes themselves are not in the proper location or that the number of holes is not exact. They also target edges and the infamous “bird shot” and “bullet hole” techniques. The edges of a sign are generally only badly damaged and rusted if the sign was originally on a metal frame which would cause the porcelain to chip. The “bird shot” and “bullet hole” technique gives the sign a possible roadside story. If the seller claims that he has been inside his grandfather’s barn for 75 years, how did he get the bullet holes? Grandpa doesn’t practice target shooting in the barn, does he?
Another distinctive feature of antique porcelain signs is called a bookshelf. The shelves are actually the porcelain and enamel layers on the steel sheet. The first layer is usually white porcelain. Then each colored layer used in manufacturing is laid on top of the white layer. The end result is a layered texture of the image. If you run your hand over the image, can you feel the different layers? It’s soft? Some manufacturers used a lithography technique, as well as the layering technique, so this is not a guarantee of authenticity, but should be part of your examination of the sign.
Selecting your vendor is often the most critical decision when buying antique porcelain signs. Do you know the seller? Do you have any reservations about doing business with them? If you do, it is best to keep your cash. Not only will a legitimate seller often sell the sign to you, they also want to be connected to you. Their goal is to sell you the sign and at a later date possibly buy it back to sell to another collector. Since authentic signs generally increase in value, a good relationship with you means potential future benefit to him.
Today there are many companies that produce new reproduction of porcelain signs, including ours. Most of us produce a quality product at an affordable price for decorative use only. We permanently tag and date them. However, sometimes less than honest resellers acquire those signs, implement some of the techniques mentioned above, and try to sell them at outrageous prices.