It’s all about Condition? Not so Fast!
By Scott Benjamin
You’ve heard it over and over again, it’s all about condition. Only buy the best, only buy the near mint or mint pieces. Only the mint pieces bring the big bucks…If you are looking at the highest prices expected for a certain piece, then yes, the higher the condition, the more it should likely bring. If you are selling, the higher quality should bring the most money. But that doesn’t mean someone isn’t interested in your grade 7 sign you have for sale.
Lately I have seen poor grade signs, gas globes, cans, gas pumps and other items bring crazy prices! This is not every case, but more often than in the past. Reason, supply and demand, it’s that simple. If you have lots of money, then buy the best! But again, less quality items sell just as quickly, in many cases even quicker.
Because of the influx of countless undated reproduction signs, a few gas globes and even cans these days, many of my customers are totally okay with any piece that shows a little character. There are a couple good reasons for this. First off, they won’t pay as much for a condition “8” piece as they would a mint piece. In some cases that could save you hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars. Also, you will know for sure it’s real. There are some super rare pieces that turn up in such great condition you really have to convince the buyer it is real or not restored. These days it’s almost easier to sell an, “8” or “9“condition piece as it is a mint one. Rare mint pieces are closing the door to people who are not wealthy, or have limited extra discretionary income! Sometimes they may be too difficult to sell as stated below.
Years ago I had bought a rare, small, 15” or so Pure Tiolene porcelain sign, one hardly ever seen, and it looked like it was made yesterday. It truly was mint perfect. Some of the experts swore it was not real. I knew the guy that found it and the bulk plant it was pulled from so I wasn’t worried. It finally sold, but not before being passed over by several serious collectors. That piece will always command a high price but if it had one small chip it may have sold nearly as well and a lot easier too!
A topic came up on the the Oldgas site which I’ll elaborate on again, about broken gas globes. Broken inserts do have some value. You just don't want to pay too much. The problem is that no one knows what too much is! They are getting more accepted into our hobby and prices are going up, all for the reasons mentioned above. What many are forgetting is that there are a few people, and expect more in the future, who can fix broken inserts and it is nearly impossible to tell. I have a rare Transport Airport globe broken in three pieces. It was repaired by someone who is hired by museums to fix million dollar vases. I think I paid her $250 many years ago. You cannot see the repair, even up close! Fracture lines are gone too! This would add value to an insert. One piece globes, down the road, will probably be able to be fixed with a glass type of filler, which would make it perfect. Some rare inserts, like say a Rainbow or Gilmore cracked in half, have sold for well over $1,000 in recent years. Did anyone see the Bristolville one piece with a large hole, repaired well too, that brought around $2,000 on eBay? However, a broken Sinclair Dino insert is not worth much at all. But some globes are worth good money, even broken. You just have to get a good deal on it and don't over-pay.
Keep this in mind when selling off your collection. I noticed that most people who are selling their collection always have a second fear. The first concern being that they aren’t getting enough for their pieces, which is understandable. But the second fear is that they are afraid collectors only will buy their best pieces and leave the common and low end stuff sitting there forever.
Not true! There are buyers for every piece out there. There are actually more buyers for common and not so perfect pieces than for mint pieces demanding $10,000. There is nothing wrong with collecting either way. You will get your monies back and more either way in most cases unless you just paid too much for the item. The only way you can pay too much for an item is keeping yourself uneducated! So ask questions! We all really buy what we like and what we can afford. I, myself, am not a condition freak. If I like it and want to buy it, then a little character is just fine with me. If I get a good deal on it too, that’s even better. As scarce as the collectibles in our hobby are getting, I would say buy it if you really like it. Waiting for a better example may not be an option. You can always, “trade up later” they say. If not, enjoy what you have.
So remember, there are other options out there and that so-so piece may just be perfect for you!