Vintage Tin Signs: Decorate and Collect
Dean Ferber, owner of No Egrets Antiques and Collectibles, imparts valuable tips for consumers interested in collecting tin signs.
What to Consider
Do you have a special interest, such as antique cars? Consider augmenting a collection or a hobby with signage. Take into consideration the size and location of the space where you will display your vintage finds. Collections can be placed in bedrooms, basements, garages and even in barns. Budget and time frame are significant. Tin signs are prone to rust and are easily reproduced, so buyers must beware. Authentic tin signs range from $300 to $3000, but can soar upward depending upon rarity.
Where to Purchase
Signs are often found as a person is searching for other treasures. They can be discovered anywhere, from open air markets and eBay to upscale showrooms. Dean believes that antique malls and flea markets offer the best chance to find signs in volume. Auctions are for informed collectors with deep pockets, especially if they're well advertised in newspapers or trade magazines. Estate and garage sales are hit and miss propositions. Get there early. The process can be time consuming, yet potentially financially rewarding
How to Choose
The rarest antique signs are personalized. A "Rexall Drug Store" sign might be exceptional, but "Bob's Rexall Drug Store, Phone 372 for Free Delivery" is one of a kind, dated by the three digit phone number. Heavy gauge metal signs are desirable and demand greater prices. Size matters. Big and beautiful vintage signs are always high priced, but demand is very low as not many people have the display area to justify the purchase. Some company signs are in low volume, and avid collectors would snatch them up. Included in this group would be Remington, Edison, Rambler and Studebaker.
When to Restore
Antiques are most valuable if unaltered and maintained over time so that they are not in need of restoration. For the tin sign collector, aging, fading, slight bend and rust are part of the beauty and proof of age.
Frank Roberts, owner of the Palladio Group Design Centers in Memphis, helps his clients integrate antique signage into their home design themes.
Enhance Home Design
When using vintage tin signs for home decorating, Frank looks for those that make a statement and lend an atmosphere consistent with the design themes found in upscale homes. He passes over most signs depicting such items as domestic oil companies, soft drinks and foods. He searches for tin signs bearing distinctive or recognizable European places. Streets, towns, transportation, parks and buildings are good examples. Color is extremely important, and Frank advises that some portion be red. Traditional or period letter fonts are essential. Bold is always best. Especially good are antique signs with names of places that might also be surnames of people.
Treat As Art
Frank believes that vintage tin signs are forms of art and should be treated with the same dignity. The placement of an antique sign is just as important as the placement of a piece of original artwork.