How to Tell If a Sign Is Porcelain

How to Tell If a Sign Is Porcelain

Have you ever stumbled upon an antique sign and wondered if it's made of porcelain?

Porcelain signs hold a certain allure with their timeless charm and durability. However, distinguishing them from other materials can be a bit tricky. Fear not, as we're here to unravel the mystery and equip you with the knowledge to identify porcelain signs like a seasoned collector.

    Visual Inspection

    Porcelain signs are characterized by a smooth, glossy surface. Examine the sign closely for any imperfections. Unlike painted metal or enamel signs, porcelain signs have a glass-like finish that's free of brush strokes or unevenness.

    Look for areas where the glaze may have chipped off, revealing the white porcelain beneath.


    Porcelain signs tend to be heavier compared to their metal or plastic counterparts of similar size. Lift the sign and gauge its weight. If it feels substantial and dense, it's more likely to be porcelain. 

    However, keep in mind that weight alone isn't a definitive indicator, as other factors like thickness and design can also influence the overall weight.

    Backside Examination

    Flip the sign over and inspect the backside. Porcelain signs typically have a smooth, unglazed surface on the back, often with visible mounting holes or brackets.

    You may also notice small indentations or "pimples" on the back, which are marks left by the supports used during the firing process.

    Temperature Sensitivity

    Porcelain is a ceramic material that's fired at high temperatures to achieve its characteristic hardness and durability. Touch the surface of the sign to assess its temperature.

    Porcelain signs tend to feel cooler to the touch compared to metal signs, especially if they've been exposed to direct sunlight.

    Age and Condition

    Consider the age and condition of the sign. Porcelain signs are often vintage or antique pieces, so signs showing signs of wear, rust, or patina are more likely to be porcelain.

    However, be cautious as some modern reproductions are designed to mimic the appearance of vintage porcelain signs.

    Ask an Expert

    When in doubt, seek the expertise of a seasoned collector, antique dealer, or appraiser specializing in vintage signage.

    Call us at (815) 299-7625 for your FREE appraisal of your antique sign! Rock Auction Gallery can provide you valuable insights and help authenticate your antique porcelain sign.

    Share Tweet Pin it
    Back to blog

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.