I first learned that original antique vintage signs even the severely rusted ones have become valuable collectable items. I learned this from watching such shows like Storage Wars and especially American Pickers.
The hosts of American Pickers seem to be especially enamored with antique or old vintage signs. They seem to buy every last one that they can find. They don’t care if they are in bad condition or are even damaged.
I also personally saw a big oil company vintage sign adorning the living room of a former manager of the said oil company. The owner of the oil company vintage sign said to me that he was very proud of the vintage sign.
The vintage sign reminded him of his days as an employee of the said oil company. It was also an investment for him. According to him, the original vintage sign he owns is very rare and is worth good money now.
Watching shows like Storage Wars and American Pickers have opened my eyes to the world of memorabilia. I already know that some objects gain considerable value the older and rarer they get. I now add old vintage signs to the list of these collectable objects.
Speaking of the memorabilia market, a little bit of online research revealed to me that the collectibles market size is growing at a healthy level, this according to the Market Decipher website.
They estimate that it is worth about $412 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $628 billion by 2031. And this is just one website or reporting company. Similar business reporting websites also state the same report.
Although vintage signs are just a segment of the memorabilia industry, we can say that this segment could be likened to the bigger collectible industry which is the formal art market composed of paintings and sculptures, but there is a big difference.
Unlike paintings and sculptures which we can arguably say is too numerous now because many people paint and sculpt and even educate and train themselves on how to do it, vintage signs were not made with the intent of being sold, and are therefore not mass produced.
This is one factor which make authentic vintage signs rare. Just like a painting, a vintage sign can be a one off thing. Just imagine this scenario, A pub in some part of the world has a business sign which promotes their business.
When their business closes, it’s like some part of history closes especially if the pub is very much famous. We can arguably say that the business sign is one proof that a business once existed with such a business name.
But the question still remains: Why would people give importance to old or even antique signs from a once real life company? Why would people care for example for the old sign of a former pub?
What could be in the mind of a vintage signs collector when they buy these objects? Even the fake ones? Are they any different from paintings for example? Let’s analyze a painting first. For one, a painting may or may not represent a real object or person.
Therein lies one of the most important characteristics of a sign, especially a business sign. Signs represent real things: companies, businesses, roads and other physical things which really existed.
Is it any wonder now why business and even road signs are stolen by people who have no intent on selling them? You may not be able to own a business, company or a road, but you could at least own its physical sign.
For example, there are roads in America which have gained prominence or notoriety. We have Route 66 for example which have even been immortalized into a song. Of course, no one can own Route 66, but at least they can get the sign.
The market for such road signs alone is big enough that even counterfeit road signs are already being sold and passed on as originals together with the counterfeit government certifications and stickers.
As has been said, many of these vintage signs once belonged to business which may not exist anymore or who have changed their company logos and signs. The same goes for vintage road signs of roads that do not exist anymore. Or for that matter, any old sign.
In essence, these vintage signs have become rare and much sought after by collectors. This is exactly the reason why there is now a thriving market for counterfeit vintage signs. The counterfeit signs seems to come from such diverse countries as China and India.
Of course, one of the biggest if not the biggest market for counterfeit vintage signs is America. This is because many of the world’s most recognizable companies, both old and young are located in America.
Think of this: Is there a country anywhere in the world which has not been influenced at one point in time by an American company? Let’s take for example the Coca-Cola Company which has a global reach.
Try typing the Google search keywords: “authentic coca cola signs” and you would instantly see vintage coca cola signs being advertised as either authentic or reproductions. E-commerce sites are simply filled with these products.
Regrettably, the market for signs depends on popularity. One cannot simply sell their new signs especially if they are a young company. Only the likes of such famous companies in the league of Tesla and Apple can truly make money from their company signs.
For example, the famous bunny logo of the gentleman’s magazine Playboy is now worth more money than the centerfold models it features in its magazine and other media products.
This is the reason why you should cultivate the media image of your brand. Just take a look at the sign/logo of Starbucks. The company’s logo once stamped on any coffee mug is enough to bring up the value of the coffee mug.
Let’s take another example, the iconic Apple logo once stamped on any t-shirt or piece of cloth would be enough to raise the value of the said piece of cloth. It is no wonder that companies like Apple are so protective of their company signs.
Now, imagine if you stamped the Apple logo on the cover of a notebook or on a piece of cheap pen. The same thing that happened to the Apple t-shirt would most likely happen to the notebook and pen. Now, imagine this happening to a vintage sign you own:
Let’s say that your grandparents once owned a pub. Let say that the name of the pub is “Wild Boar Pub” which seems like a catchy name for some medieval pub. Your grandparents retire and close the pub.
Even though your grandparents have closed the pub, you or they can still make money from the intellectual property that they own from their pub business. You and your grandparents can make duplicate signs, t-shirts, stickers, and all other merchandise tied in to the sign of the pub.
Of course, the amount of money you can make from your pub sign related merchandise depends on the popularity of the pub in the first place. But there have been signs and related merchandise that were able to sell due to their sheer design alone.
In business parlance, this is known as “Goodwill.” Goodwill is the monetary value of a certain product based on its perceived value. In simple terms, its like the power of a brand. Let me illustrate.
Assume you stamp a drawing of a vintage car, motorcycle or carriage in a t-shirt, Automatically, people would most likely identify your t-shirt to people that repair their own cars or are into vintage cars. This is the power of branding.
Let us say that you display the sign of an old auto repair business in your auto repair shop. Let us say that you display the sign of an old bakery in your pastry shop. Wouldn’t your business be perceived with more legitimacy?
My previous example might not be very clear, but let us say that you display the sign of an old pub in your man cave or just in your bar in your living room? More than just a conversation piece, the sign would have the effect of you being perceived as an alcohol connoisseur by your guests.
We can compare this to a person who collects antique art so they can give the impression that they are cultured in the arts. We know there is a big difference in the public mind between a person who collects antique art versus a person who collects modern art.
The same can be said for people who collect antique or vintage signs. These kinds of people are likely to be perceived as the mature type of person who collects things from the past especially from their childhood.
Remember this public perception of people who collect vintage and antique signs if ever you decided to go to the vintage sign selling business. More than likely, your customers would be mature individuals already with stable and even prosperous incomes.
Fictional company brands as designs are nothing new in the t-shirt business. In fact, they are one of the more popular designs out there. I have seen for example t-shirt designs of fictional auto repair shops, sporting teams, infrastructure and pubs.
With their success in t-shirt designs, could business/sporting/ infrastructure/pub signs for example be also popular with actual signs that can be placed as designs for walls?
More than likely, you would not have the same success. This is the reason why entrepreneurs and counterfeiters decide to make signs of something that is already popular and have an attached goodwill to it.
Maybe you would have a better chance with much, much older brands like those companies or pubs who’s copyright have already expired. These kinds of vintage signs are more than likely being duplicated already by others.
What they do have really is not rarity value but decorative value and are usually sold at much lower value than the real vintage signs. Of course, the more attractive is the design, the more is the likelihood that it would be popular.
Vintage signs are highly prized because of their authenticity and rarity. Since they are not really made to be mass produced and could even be one offs, they have become very collectable items now.
While newer signs can still make money, it is usually the most popular companies who stand to make good money with them by not only creating signs but also other merchandise. You could also make signs of brands who’s copyright have already expired, but chances are, others are also already doing the same.
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