Petroliana covers a broad range of gas station collectibles from containers and globes to signs and pumps and everything in between. As with all advertising items, factors such as brand name, intricacy of design, color, age, condition, and rarity drastically affect value.
Beware of reproduction and fantasy pieces. For collectors of vintage gas and oil items, the only way to avoid reproductions is experience: making mistakes and learning from them; talking with other collectors and dealers; finding reputable resources (including books and websites like ours), and learning to invest wisely, buying the best examples one can afford.
Marks can be deceiving, paper labels and tags are often missing, and those that remain may be spurious. Adding to the confusion are “fantasy” pieces, globes that have no vintage counterpart, and that are are often made more for visual impact than deception.
How does one know whether a given piece is authentic? Does it look old, and to what degree can age be simulated? What is the difference between high-quality vintage advertising and modern mass-produced examples? Even experts are fooled when trying to assess qualities that have subtle distinctions.
There is another important factor to consider. A contemporary maker may create a “reproduction” sign or gas globe in tribute of the original, and sell it for what it is: a legitimate copy. Many of these are dated and signed by the artist or manufacturer, and these legitimate copies are highly collectible today. Such items are not intended to be frauds.
But a contemporary piece may pass through many hands between the time it leaves the maker and wind up in a collection. When profit is the only motive of a reseller, details about origin, ownership, and age can become a slippery slope of guesses, attribution, and unfortunately, fabrication.
As a collector’s eye sharpens, and the approach to inspecting and assessing petroliana improves, it will become easier to buy with confidence. And a knowledgeable collecting public should be the goal of all sellers, if for no other reason than the willingness to invest in quality.