Tips for Spotting Fake Enamel Porcelain Signs March 4, 2017 – Posted in: Petroliana – Tags: , , ,


Original and Genuine 6ft Enamel Sign Mobilubrication Australian Vacuum Oil Company.

Counterfeit, reproduced and my least favourite turn of phrase used by some auction houses to bamboozle the collector ” a modern vintage” enamel porcelain signs. It never used to bother me when I would see people offering to recreate some of the great old enamel porcelain enamel signs using an enamel firing process of sorts and heavy gauge steel. They for the most part always owned the fact that they were reproduction / fantasy pieces and sold them as such. Unfortunately as the collectors of enamel and porcelain signs will attest the market has been growing exponentially for years now and with money comes unscrupulous behaviour aimed solely at exploiting three things 1. Many of the porcelain enamel signs being counterfeited are for brands that no longer exist or the company does not care to prosecute 2. People really want these things and particularly at auctions will drive prices sky high and happily have their new purchase on their wall until someone points at the flaws and the last point 3. The counterfeiters are getting good, really good. I will get into all of this with this article.

It is tragic but you really need to be wary now. This hobby for most has now really exploded in popularity and as a result value. I recently attended a popular Australian yearly auction where prices for Petroliana / Garagenalia collectables, in particular enamel porcelain signs, literally added 30% year on year and some items 150% in value. I also watch Auction houses around the world and there are some truly astounding values being achieved. Sadly some of these astounding values are being achieved on porcelain enamel signs which are being mass produced out of India and now china. 

So without further delay here are some tips:

  1. Does the rusting look right. It should not be a rusty look that you are used to, it won’t be orange and it won’t be dusty.
    good year 6ft Franco Signs London

    Original Franco Enamel London Goodyear Tyres Sign

  2. Mounting holes: sometimes there are brass rivets where historically there were none. Often reproduction porcelain enamel signs have to achieve a level of authenticity so there is chipping conveniently only at the mounting holes. Also ask yourself does the number of holes make sense for the purpose of the porcelain enamel sign.
  3. Makers Mark: Thankfully many of the earlier reproductions did not include the makers details though this is no guarantee anymore with this also now being copied.
  4. Chips: Firstly as noted chips to only the mounting holes, very convenient. Now chips to the body of the porcelain enamel sign but only in areas where it won’t effect the value or appeal of the porcelain enamel sign (along the border, in large open areas of space.
  5. Make up of substrate of enamel porcelain signs: Chips on the substrate of the porcelain enamel sign reveal a consistency more like hardened wall putty rather than the glass/shard like appearance of enamel. Remember an enamel porcelain enamel sign is liquefied cooled glass. It should chip and shard.
  6. The existence of any colour within the enamel layers that does not exist anywhere else on the porcelain enamel sign. This one can be a really easy way to spot Shell Porcelain and enamel porcelain enamel sign fakes more so than others. Most of the fake enamel porcelain signs I have seen use white as the base layer. Shell enamel porcelain signs for the era did not use white anywhere in most of their pump plates, clam sells etc. You see a layer of white within a chip and chances are it is a reproduction porcelain enamel sign.
  7. Seller who refuses or delays showing back of the porcelain enamel sign: This can instantly be the “tell” for seasoned campaigners. If the seller refuses to post a picture of the back or it is out of focus or seems too new or has odd “rail” marks across it it is a reproduction piece.
  8. Aged black even look and Paint smears on the back of the porcelain enamel signs: The paint smears are where the enamel worker would wipe his hand as he plied his craft on the front of the porcelain enamel sign. This is however no longer a given as companies providing reproductions are even offering this as an added feature of the enamel porcelain  sign.
  9. Common sense: When you are on eBay and you see a super rare Australian enamel motorcycle oil porcelain enamel sign and then you look and find more it isn’t real even if it looks great. You buy it at reproduction prices no issues but don’t buy as real
  10. My last and number one tip is get yourself a brains trust or three. There are so many fantastic groups of enamel porcelain enamel sign collectors, enamel sign collectors, bottle collectors etc. Ask for help and get good solid answers. Above all else we don’t want to see each other getting ripped off.

Personally I have gotten quite good at spotting the fakes but I am also always learning. The more we learn the less likely we are to get caught out trying to enjoy this hobby called collecting.

As a final point to highlight how easy it is to mass acquire these porcelain reproduction porcelain enamel signs here is a store that details how it does these porcelain enamel signs. All you need to do is scan original enamel porcelain signs and send the files over to china to get it reproduced. guys here and in the states have bought one legit porcelain enamel sign, send it over to china and get it copied. They even offer “drip effect” and “company logo” to the back of the porcelain enamel sign.

More than happy to help out anyone at anytime I don’t know it all or even 5%. Also perhaps we can help each other out with eBay listings. Oh and the obvious one never buy from India unless it is Bengal Enamel anyway :). Get in touch.

Let us not even get started on oil bottles and tins, collectible dinky models new in box minimum orders of 100 etc. Happy Hunting.