How To Tell If A Vintage Porcelain Sign Is Fake Or Real

Fake Porcelain Gas Station Sign in Spotlight
Texaco Porcelain Enamel Gas Station Sign

Old Gas Station Signs

How to Tell If a Porcelain Sign Is Fake Or Real

Spotting Fake and Reproduction Signs.

The most collectible vintage sign group is old gas station signs, and the demand for these old advertising signs makes them a target for fakes and reproductions. But, there is a difference between a reproduction of a vintage sign and a fake one.

Reproductions are legitimate, and they are mostly of old automotive signs you would see at gas stations and country stores that sold gas. Petroleum product signs, such as; Texaco or Shell, motor oil brands, and especially service centers signs like Ford or Chevrolet, are produced because there is a market for them. However, legitimate reproductions tell you they are reproductions. They are not trying to fool you. Fake porcelain signs claim to be real, and they are trying to fool you.

Vintage reproductions are great for non-collectors that just want the design and decor appeal but don’t want to pay hundreds, or thousands, of dollars to get it.

Tips to tell if a porcelain enamel sign is a fake:

Sign appearance and the “hand” test
The original process for making porcelain signs is to apply each color in layers. The colors are actually powdered colored glass that is kiln-fired to melt the powder to a smooth enamel finish. Typically starting with a base white layer, then each subsequent color is layered on and kiln-fired.

The point is, if you rub your finger over the sign, you will feel those layers on an original porcelain sign, you will not on a fake or reproduction. Their surfaces will be smooth because the printing/painting process is just one step and done.

Use your eyes and hand on the chipped areas too. As in the photo below, you should also be able to see and feel the enamel layers at the edges of chipped areas. And the bottom layer should be white.*
*Shell brand signs are an exception. Shells signs didn’t use a white base coat, so, if you see a white porcelain base layer on a Shell-brand sign – it is almost certain to be a fake or reproduction.

For instance;

*click to enlarge image
Old Chipped Porcelain Texaco sign
Old Chipped Porcelain Texaco sign

Check out the rust: The rust on an authentic original sign will be black, or dark brown. Probably because of production limitations – or counterfeiting processes – the “rust” on reproduction and fake signs is almost always an orange-ish brown, and, you won’t feel the layers

Check the grommets and mounting holes
Grommets are mostly found on gas station signs that were hung from or on poles outside of the station.
Remember that original porcelain signs were made on a sheet of steel – which will rust, not aluminum – which doesn’t rust. Some porcelain sign makers used real brass grommets on the mounting holes to protect the porcelain enamel edges from chipping. Reproduction and fake signs will have plated brass-look grommets, (if they have grommets). Also, look for wear or misshaping of the grommets. If the sign is real and was used, you will see signs on wear on the grommets.

The alignment and spacing of mounting holes are also mentioned as a way to tell a fake sign from a real one, but … unless you have a known original sign to compare, this can be hard to tell. A little research or an expert in the field of collectible signs can help determine hole alignment authenticity.

Examples of Porcelain Signs Condition Prices.

Trust your seller
If you are not buying a sign in person, you can’t put your hands on it, then your only clues will be the photos of the sign, and too often they will not be clear enough to let you confirm the important details.

That is when it is most important that you can get a sense of confidence in the seller of the sign. Most collectors don’t have good things to say about buying signs online, and it is true that there are many fake, counterfeit, and reproduction signs being sold as authentic signs. But, there are also collectors that will claim a fake is real. It’s all about the money, so having confidence in your seller is a big deal.

If they won’t answer your questions, or provide additional photos and information – then look somewhere else.

Many collectors trash ebay as a prime source of counterfeit and fake signs, but there are also a lot of real authentic porcelain signs sold there. There are two great protections for buyers on ebay. One is that you can check a seller’s reputation. If they sell fake signs, they probably won’t last on the site, but if they do, they will have a low rating full of comments from past buyers.

Secondly, the ebay of today is not the fleamarket of ebay’s early years. Today they have Buyer’s Protection programs that will guarantee your purchase is what it is supposed to be, or you get your money back.

Free ebay coupon offer

A note about the “New ebay” and the collectibles market.


Die-cut Vintage Gas Station Signs

Smaller Porcelain Signs

More Vintage Gas Station Porcelain Sign resources:

Free ebay coupon offer

A note about the “New ebay” and the collectibles market.


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