Would You Buy a Damaged Collectible?
Would You Buy a Damaged Collectible?
Pictured here is an awesome, one of a kind Wespeco chimney capped gas globe, the only one known. SEE PCM March 2016 ARTICLE FOR COMPLETE PHOTOS...Would you want it? What if I told you it was broken? Still interested? Check out the super rare Transport Airport Canadian gas globe. Like it? Would you buy it? What if I told you that insert was broken in three pieces? Still interested? How about that rough Caldwell porcelain sign? It's the only one like that known. Like it or too rough for your taste? Look at it after restoration. Did we do the right thing? See the Red Crown chimney capped globe also pictured here? Cool, eh? I first saw that globe in the Carol Sears collection back in the late 1970s in Chicago. It is still the only one known. I looked up at it sitting on the shelf back then and told him I thought that was the coolest globe I had ever seen! He said, “It is, but it's broken.” I said I didn't care. I still don't care. I finally bought it back in 2002 or so.
The hobby has come a long way in the last 40 years since I started. Back in the day if you had a broken globe is was pretty much worthless unless it was something like the ones mentioned above. Even today, broken globes have a limited audience and you have to buy it at the right price. But, broken pieces are being accepted more and more every day with new collectors searching them out. Want a killer looking globe or sign for a fraction of the price? Don't pass up on broken globes or damaged signs.
People ask me, What's this broken globe worth or how much is this rough sign worth? No one knows these answers. Only common sense and experience can steer you through these scenarios. You would not want to pay $150 for a broken Sinclair Dino globe when $250-$300 can buy you a mint one. But $25 for a single broken insert would not be too much. Recently, I sold a near perfect fired paint Sinclair Gasoline one piece globe for $600 but it had a large base chip. A mint one would set you back about $1,500. I feel the buyer got a very fair price for the globe. Many buyers have approached me and other collectors wanting damaged globes. Is this just a trend? I don't think so and I think it's a smart thing to do. You just don't want to pay too much. But what that is no one really knows. I've been buying damaged globes for decades and have several in my collection. I just buy them because I like them. Some of the pieces, like the Red Crown Chimney cap, are still the only ones known. I love that piece and don't have a lot into it. I think I paid about $1,200 for it at auction 14 years ago. It has gone up in value I would guess, but I didn't buy it for value. I bought it because I like it. A mint one if it existed would set you back many times that amount.
Setting these prices for broken or rough pieces is hard to do. Just a few weeks ago a super rare 15” metal “Aviation Gasoline” globe insert sold for over $1,900. It had a small half moon crack across the top of it. Who cares? Any collector would love that globe, broken or not. What a fantastic globe for a fraction of what a mint one would cost and you can hardly see the crack. I would be thrilled to have the piece in my collection. What would you pay for a Rainbow Gasoline insert broken in half? I bet it would still bring a few thousand or more. Good luck finding or affording a mint one.
A couple years ago my friend bought a Texaco Gasoline and Motor Oils chimney capped globe for around $3,500 but it had a large chip out of the base. This is Texaco's first globe, circa 1916. You would want this globe. It still stands but the chips is big. A really nice one will set you back about $25,000 or more. On a shelf or pump you can't see the crack or damage. What direction would you go?
Signs are a different beast. I'm not a sign expert, but, like broken globes, damaged, rough or restored signs also have a limited audience. Value parameters are similar. Common rough signs have little value and restored or damaged super rare signs have decent values. Its always a case by case basis. The Caldwell & Taylor sign shown here is one that I kept and had restored. I was really on the fence about it, but was finding it difficult to enjoy the sign as is. So I spent the money and had it restored. Again, when I collect I don't give a hoot about value or future value. I just collect. When I buy and sell I have to be concerned with values. Honestly, I would not have bought the sign for resale, not because it didn't have value, but because I would not know how to price it in that condition or how to factor in restoration costs. That I would leave to the sign experts.
There are a couple people out there who can hide a fracture line in any insert and make any broken insert look near mint, even if it's in several pieces. We hope we can lure these artists into your hobby as I have seen their work. You would be amazed. The Transport Airport insert shown here is such work. You cannot see the break in the glass lit or not lit. This person no longer does work for our hobby. But someday soon someone will and when you can fix a broken insert and not see the repair, these pieces will go way up in value. This can apply to BB holes in one piece globes, pieces missing, etc. There will come a time when actual glass or similar material can be reformed into such a piece so you would not know it was ever broken. Epoxy and other bonding materials work okay and this has been done with some success. Signs have already passed this step a long time ago.
So, when you buy a piece that is not in the best condition you have a few things to consider. Are you reselling it right away? If so, you need to buy it right. Are you keeping the piece and thinking you'll worry about it's value later? If so, you will hope the value might increase a bit so when you do sell you'll get your money back and make a profit. But honestly many of these answers you won't really know until you pull the trigger.
Good luck and may you never look at a damaged piece the same way again! Good luck!