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Signs: topping out or room to go?

By: Mike McCandless

A long way to go, and here is why.

In August 2022, the collectible market was turned on its head as Richmond Auctions set a staggering world record for an advertising sign, $1,500,000. As word spread, rumors swirled about its impact on the market. This will never happen again! That’s crazy, no sign could be worth that! Why!? Much like cars, the top 5% of the market is difficult to price. The Musgo Gasoline sign was the convergence of rarity and condition. The dedicated collector knew this was a once in a lifetime purchase. What does it say about the rest of the market? Why do I believe we have a long way to go? Let me tell you how I went from a car collector, to sign obsessed.

I’ve been a car collector my entire life. I used to laugh at the people who got to the auction early to “buy those stupid signs”. I never understood it. In 2018, that all changed. I had plans to one day open a car museum. A place to feature my best cars and share my fathers racing history. Unbeknownst to me, my father had told people at HotRod magazine that I would have my “museum” open in 2018 for them to stop by during the HotRod power tour. That meant, potentially, that 1000’s of people would be stopping by a museum that didn’t currently exist. This was Jan of 2018, power tour was June of 2018. To me, a museum should be more than just cars. I was at an auction when I found out about my fathers comments. Next thing I know, I’m raising my hand at the auction buying some Mopar signs.

Six months later, I had a successful open house during the Power Tour. It was an incredible learning process, because I turned into one of “those guys”. The hunt is what every car collector craves. The dopamine rush from scoring a car you’ve always wanted, is difficult to replace. I realized that I was able to get that same rush from finding an amazing sign as I was the incredible car. What I didn’t anticipate, was the history I would learn during this journey. My obsession with history and collecting was now laser focused on the advertising history for the brands I love.

I went from the car collector who laughed at the early auction goers, raising their hands to buy those old signs, to having over 1,000 pieces of advertising in the McCandless Collection museum. I tell you this story because I believe other collectors, once exposed and educated on the market, will do what I did. As their garages fill, but their need for collecting and dopamine persists, they’ll find their cure in collectibles. In January of 2023, one car auction house, at one auction, sold 4,000 cars. During the calendar year of 2023, Richmond Auctions will sell approximately 3,000 signs. I believe every car buyer or history nut is a potential buyer for old advertising. With that as your potential customer base, we are closer to the starting line than the finish line of this market.

Premier Two Day Advertising Sale on September 15-16th, 2023

If you’re looking to start your collecting journey, no better place than Richmond Auctions on September15th-16th. This auction, with over 800 of the highest quality signs ever assembled, will present an amazing opportunity to start your collecting journey. With over 70 world class neons, you’re guaranteed to find something to light up your garage. For the experienced collector, Richmond will be offering a few select pieces that have never been publicly sold. With survival rates in single digits, the Clipper and Mohawk offerings represent a once in a lifetime opportunity to purchase at no reserve!

If you need assistance curating signs for your collection, selling your collection or just looking to expand your knowledge. Feel free to reach out to us at: (864) 382-1302 or

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