Jul/Aug 2021 edition
Issue #17 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
9.5 to 10 - Absolutely a mint sign, no imperfections (I never give a “10”).
9 to 9.4 - Almost perfect, may have a factory flaw or almost no damage; if there is any, there will be none in the field, the only chips will be around the edge, great gloss. (The field is 2/3 of the total area, starting in the center of the sign).
8.5 to 8.9 - May have minor damage, small chips and minor wear, but has to have good or great gloss.
8 to 8.4 - Has more damage, chips are getting larger or may be in an important area, still should have good gloss.
7.5 to 7.9 - Chips are still getting larger or more of them, heavier wear in field, gloss is starting to fade.
6 to 7.4 - These signs show heavy damage, no gloss, a small crease, deep scratches. Only 60% to 74% of the paint or porcelain is left.
5 or Less - Poor condition in almost every respect; 50% or less of the paint or porcelain remains.
*When referring to a “painted sign,” we are referring to a factory-painted sign, meaning that the signs were made in a factory by machines for the purpose of advertising. A hand-painted sign means that the sign was painted by hand, either by an individual or a smaller sign shop, so there are fewer of these made.
It is also important to consistently use the same terms when collecting petroliana. Below is a comprehensive glossary including abbreviations for this hobby.
SST - Single sided tin or metal painted sign. This abbreviation is used to describe a single sided tin or metal sign, meaning that the design and paint are only on one side of the sign and the other side is left blank. Tin signs are usually made of a lighter material and are easier to damage than porcelain signs. Pictured left – Lion Head example.
DST - Double sided tin or metal painted sign. This abbreviation is used to describe a double sided tin or metal sign, meaning that there is paint and design on both sides of the sign. The designs are usually the same on both sides, but can be completely different. Tin signs are usually made of a lighter material and are easier to damage than porcelain signs. Pictured left – Grizzly Gasoline example.
SSP - Single sided metal porcelain (enamel) sign. This abbreviation is used to describe a single sided porcelain sign, meaning that the design is only on one side of the sign and the other side is left blank. Porcelain signs are actually painted in enamel and then fired, allowing the enamel to adhere to the metal. This keeps porcelain signs very well protected. They are usually heavier than tin signs and are usually more durable. Pictured right – Clipper Gasoline example.
DSP - Double sided metal porcelain (enamel) sign This abbreviation is used to describe a double sided porcelain sign, meaning that there is design on both sides of the sign. Porcelain signs are actually painted in enamel and then fired, allowing the enamel to adhere to the metal. This keeps porcelain signs very well protected. They are usually heavier than tin signs and usually more durable. Pictured left – Paragon Gasolene example
PPP - Porcelain (enamel) pump plate metal sign (signs used on gas pumps themselves) This abbreviation refers to a Porcelain Pump Plate. These signs are usually smaller in size and were actually attached to gas pumps advertising what type of gasoline they contained. Almost all pump plates are single sided, since they were screwed onto the side of a gas pump and the back side was never seen. Pictured right – Puente Gasoline example.
Rolled Edge - If a sign is described as having a rolled edge, that means that one or more edges have been folded over with a ¼ inch or more lip. When this is the case for an American sign, it usually means that it was part of a larger sign or display. If all of the sides are rolled, it is probably a foreign sign. Pictured left - the backside corner of a rolled edge sign.
“The Field” - is the center 2/3 of the sign, globe face, or can. (Generally this is where the logo, words, and any other design elements are within the sign.)
Gloss - is used to describe a porcelain enamel sign. When the gloss is in excellent condition, the sign actually looks like it is wet.
Shine - is usually used to describe a painted sign. The shine refers to the luster a sign has.
Color - If something is described as having good color, that means that the colors are bright, or the way that it looked when it was brand new
Tin or Metal - is a factory painted or silk screened sign.
Porcelain - is a sign that has enamel decoration baked or fired on it (enamel is a glass).
Repop - Repop is a word used to describe a reproduction of a sign. Reproduction signs have become quite prevalent in today’s world. Some repop signs are sold and advertised as a reproduction of an original. They are not deceptive and are often marked with the year they were manufactured. Unfortunately, not all repops are easily distinguishable. Many reproduction signs are not marked and some people make a practice of trying to deceive collectors into believing that they are originals. Always buy from a reputable seller or auction company. Buyer beware!
Fantasy - A product described as a fantasy item was never created as an original piece for advertising. It was created for the sole purpose decoration.
Repainted - If an item is described as repainted, that means that it has not been done professionally. It was done with a brush or spray can. This refers to all types of petroliana except for signs and globes.
Restored - If an item is described as restored, that means that it has not been restored professionally, but it has been done nicely. It may still have rust, pitting, sanding marks or paint runs. This refers to all types of petroliana except for signs and globes.
Professionally Restored - If an item is described as professionally restored, this means that it was done by a professional restorer or to their standards. You could call it to “top show car quality.” This refers to all types of petroliana except for signs and globes.
Touched Up Sign - If a sign is described as being touched up, this means that someone has tried to color-match chips in the paint or enamel to the surrounding area, but it has not been clear coated. Pictured above – Sunoco Oil sign with touched up paint.
Restored Sign - If a sign is described as being restored, this means that it has had all of its imperfections touched up and has been clear coated. It looks like a new sign with good gloss or shine.
In future columns we will outline ratings and terms for gas globes and oil cans.
To read more great columns like this one from auction expert Dan Matthews,
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Founder of Matthews Auctions and Co-Owner of The Authentication Company, which grades and certifies the authenticity of petroliana and automobilia collectibles.