This post is about collecting authentic produce signs. It discusses how to identify them, where to find them, and how much they cost.
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The Back Story
The truth is – I have been collecting authentic produce signs for quite some time. It started off innocently enough with just a few hand painted “tomatoes” and “corn” signs and now I have become a little obsessed.
If you live anywhere near a rural area, you KNOW that summer is synonymous with these hand crafted produce signs. Local farms have them posted along the road declaring – “U Pick Strawberries” and “Fresh Eggs”. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to drive through a rural area and NOT see some of these signs.
Of course, there are also the signs where a craftsman or craftswoman invested time and effort into making it look especially nice. With these signs the lettering is ornate and there are decorative details on the edges of the signs. Today, we are going to dive into the topic of collecting authentic produce signs. I will share tips on how to identify them, find them and their general value.
Authentic Produce Signs
You many have noticed that I used the word “authentic” which was intentional. The first thing I want to share is that there are a lot of reproduction and knock-off produce signs. If you go into any craft store, you will see these reproduction signs in abundance. The focus today is on collecting authentic produce sign that was perhaps attached to a stake in the road or nailed to the side of a barn.
How to Identify Authentic Produce Signs
The first thing you are probably asking yourself is – “Well heck, how do I know that what I am buying is authentic and not a reproduction?”. Excellent question. The short answer is , there is no way to be 100% sure you aren’t buying a reproduction, however, there are some basic things to look for.
- Verify that the sign is made out of wood. (Not particle board or MDF.)
- Look for indications it was hand painted – look for brush strokes. (Not printed by a machine)
- The sign should show signs of wear. This means it should look as though it has been outside in the elements for an extended period of time.
- Most produce signs are on the large size and are long. Anything that is less than 2.5 feet long should be viewed with skepticism.
- Authentic signs often are double sided. Meaning they are painted on both sides.
The “Pears” sign above is a good example of an authentic produce sign and is about 3 feet long and painted on both sides. It also shows a fair amount of wear.
Although rustic signs are more common, there are also signs that are painted by hand that are highly stylized. These paintings include decorative flourishes and ornate lettering. If you find a sign like this, be prepared to pay accordingly. The “Potatoes” sign above is a good example of a more stylized and ornate produce sign.
Where to Find Authentic Produce Signs
I have had the best luck finding signs in some fairly rural areas in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maine, and Upstate New York. Generally, I look for antique stores in rural farming communities. Any place where there are roadside farm stands, produce stands or You Pick fields will likely have antique stores or estate sales or auctions that sell these signs. As a rule of thumb, the closer you are to an urban area, the more these signs will cost.
Towards the end of this post, I have provided links to some produce signs that I found Etsy.
The misspelling of the word raspberries lends a charming touch to this hand painted sign. Creating this sign was clearly an act of ingenuity because it is painted on an old metal appliance panel. I found this sign in a field in the back of an old farm.
Purchasing Authentic Produce Signs
Estimating the cost of these signs can be challenging. The price really depends upon the area, the quality of the sign, what the signs says, and its size. A sign purchased in a rural Pennsylvania town is going to cost less than if the same sign is purchased in New York City. Having said that, the more rustic and simple signs can be found for as little as $50 and then the price will increase from there. If a sign is double-sided, it will cost more, since as a rule, double-sided signs are more desirable. A run of the mill authentic sign that is rustic, hand painted, weathered but in good condition will generally cost upwards of $150. The larger the sign and the more ornate the lettering or painting the more it will cost, assuming it is in good condition.
If you attend auctions you will see that it is not uncommon for these signs to sell for hundreds and occasionally for thousands of dollar. I have found that in recent years they have become more collectible.
Although the photo above is not great, it does show one of the signs in my booth. The “Melons Sold Here” sign is charming and is a very generous size. In a past life, this was mounted inside a building. This wooden sign is framed nicely and as a result is very heavy.
These signs are fun to bring out on a seasonal basis. This is particularly true when fall arrives, and everyone wants to display their “U Pick Apples” or U Pick Pumpkins” signs. Fortunately, these signs don’t take up much space and they are easy to rotate in and out of your seasonal displays.
If you visit Instagram and search for “vintage signs” there is a great array of photos that show up.
Jam Jars with Original Labels
Since I am on the topic of produce, I thought of one other summer collectible with you. Vintage jam jars with their labels still attached are fun to use and display in the summer months or year-round.
These are great to use for storing your every day silverware. They can coral office supplies – pens, scissors, rulers and such. They are also great to display on their own. The labels add such a cheerful pop of color to any home. All of this is to say, when you are looking for produce signs, keep your eyes open for jam jars with their original labels.
SHOP THE POST
Thank you for stopping by the blog today. I hope you learned something useful about collecting old produce signs. More importantly, I hope you have an excuse to spend an afternoon out in the country, perhaps sto
Summer Collectibles Series
If you like this post on collecting old produce signs, here are some other posts in the Summer Collectibles Series that you may enjoy.
There is post on Collecting Vintage Thermoses.
This post on collecting vintage enamelware
This post on collecting vintage bottles.