Beware of Bootleg Neons!
The Truth About BOOTLEG Neons
So you were searching through eBay and came across a neat looking neon beer sign for an unusually low price. You open the page and notice that the picture is not of the actual item, but rather a computer generated image of the item. The seller’s description rants and raves of the fantastic quality and the extreme rarity of a lot of their neons. You stop and think to yourself .. is this too good to be true?
The answer is YES! You’re dealing with a neon bootlegger.
Then there is the occassional auction that shows a legitamate picture of the neon bar sign that you’ve been dying to get. But still, with that incredibly low and hard to believe price. You then notice the extremely inflated shipping cost. Then when you look for the seller’s location to possibly work out a deal to pick the item up to avoid such fees, you find that the seller is in a seemingly secret location somewhere in America.
Yes, he’s a bootlegger too!
Any legitimate seller, with REAL legitimate neon signs, would be MORE THAN HAPPY to personally hand you your neon sign. Don’t get us wrong. eBay is a great tool and a revolution in the internet sales market. You MAY VERY WELL DEAL WITH companies that are selling you real products and you may even find the occassional person trying to clean out their basement at low prices. However, when surfing through eBay, you haev to take notice that you don’t get ripped off by other guys looking to make a quick buck.
So What’s the Big Deal With Buying Bootleg Neons?
You are saving money, right? So I guess there isn’t a problem with it. That is, of course, if you don’t mind sacrificing the quality, reliability, accuracy and overall appearance of your neon sign. Bootleg neons are manufactured with inferior glass and transformers. In other words, they’re more likely to fail after a short amount of time, especially compared to authentic UL-2161 neon signs.
UL 2161? What Is That?
UL 2161 is rigid standards set by Underwriter’s Laboratories obligating the manufacturer of a listed product who must demonstrate compliance of its design with the appropriate UL standards, and then demonstrate that it has a program to ensure that each copy of the product will similarly meet the essential criteria.
If a product design is modified, a representative example may need to be re-tested before the UL mark can be attached to the new product or packaging. UL also ensures the product is manufactured as tested, with unannounced Follow-Up Inspections at the manufacturing locations, usually conducted several times per year.
So why are we giving you this information? Because bootleg neons do NOT meet UL 2161 standards and are a fire hazard to your dwelling or place of business. You will not find the UL mark anywhere attached to a bootleg!
Underwriters Laboratories was created during the World Fair when Thomas Edison demonstrated electric light bulbs. Effectively, concerns were put towards Edison on the safety of his devices, someone from the crowd charged for his service of assuring the safety of everyone by inspecting Edisons devices, thus UL was born.
There are only a handful of legitamate neon companies that are privileged to manufacture beer/liquor neon signs. Their company name, model number, and date of manufacture are PROMINENTLY displayed on the frames of these neons. A bootleg neon will have no identification what-so-ever!
Always be sure to ask who manufactured the sign and for multiple pictures showing both the front and back of the neon. All legitimately
manufactured neons are double boxed by the maker and both boxes will be printed with the item enclosed.
We’re Not The Only Ones Trying To Educate About Bootlegs!
Quoted below are some experienced, reputable eBay sellers who, like us, are disheartened by neon bootleggers.
“Heres yet another pet peeve, As a Sign Shop owner and restorer of Neon Signs. It simply annoys me when i see a repoped sign offered as the real thing on ebay, the sad thing is anyone who can bend glass can make a fake and offer it as an offical sign. A real good example of this is the imfamous George Strait “Coors Light” Signs you see here all the time, with the phrase “rare” well thats true since this sign was never made for Coors as George is under contract with Bud Light. Hence this sign is a damaged Bud Light sign and someone has simply placed new Coors neon in its place (really poorly done I might add, Coors never uses block letters) With a little research you can find out that mosr true OEM neons are made by only a handfull of neon manufactures like Federal or Fallon. So my point here if you want a fake hanging you collection thats fine, however if you a collector thinking your buying a classic neon, and get a fake instead well thats just wrong. Do your homework, look as the fonts, most of the time there a dead give away. See my other Guide on Over Blown shipping of Neon signs” - Carolinasignsandgraphics.com
I love these auctions with a low .99 no reserve, yet they show a $100+ shipping and handling charge. Im here to tell you the average Neon sign shipped anywhere in the US is less than 25.00 on UPS and less than 20 on Fed Ex Ground. What we have here is con game of making the auction look attractive, hoping you bid without seeing the outrageous shipping fees. The Tip here is do your home work anyone can go on line and see what the true charges are for shipping, as it is based on weight and girth. Don’t be fooled and pay too much for shipping, and dealers be honest if you need 155.00 for a sign then start your bid there. Look for my other Neon related guide “Fake reproduction beer signs”
This is a guide for novice neon collectors and buyers, that shows what to look out for when purchasing a neon sign on ebay. It also explains how to avoid counterfeits and scams.
It is likely that up to 50% of neons sold on ebay are counterfeits.
Today ebay is chock full of counterfeit and unliscenced neon signage for sale. These sellers are taking away business from those who sell legitimate collectible neon by A: offering a much lower price for their cheap reproductions while making up the difference in their rediculous shipping price, and B: offering an “unbelieveably” wide variety of name brand designs, especially when most of these designs don’t even exist. Most buyers of neon on ebay are unaware of this unlisenced and illegal practice and often opt for the cheaper item. Little do they know that the item they have just purchased and probably overpaid shipping for is a fake and holds no collectible value.
Here’s what to look out for when considering to buy a neon sign and how to spot a fake.
First, contact the seller and ask if the item they are selling is an original, lisenced neon sign. Do this for name brand designs such as “BUDWEISER”, “CORONA”, “BOSTON RED SOX”, etc . Generic designs are common to everyone and do not require lisencing, eg. “OPEN” , “TANNING”, etc. If you recieve no response, steer clear. Any legitimate seller will be more than glad to let you know theirs is the real thing.
Next, look for tell-tale signs of a counterfeit such as an unrealistically low price compared to other listings. A computer-generated auction pic is also a dead giveaway. This is not a photo of a real sign, but a computer rendered image designed by the seller. These are used as a template to make the reproductions if you decide to buy. Look closely at the photo and you can usually tell that it is not a real image.
Shipping prices should be no more than about $60 for even the largest neon sign. If a seller is selling a $300.00 neon for $99.99, he will usually charge shipping of $100 or more to make up for the difference.
If a seller has an “VERY WIDE” selection of only the most desireable designs and claims the he can get you any design you are looking for, then you are probably dealing with a bootlegger. Real name brand neons are hard to come by and demand a fair market price. No one has the ability to order any design at will. This is why real neons are pricey at times.
If a seller specifies that the sign you just purchased will be available in a few weeks, then that seller is making the sign in their basement or is waiting for a shipment of counterfeits from overseas. THIS IS A FAKE.
Every name brand neon has an electric transformer on the back of its frame made by one of only four companies or so. These should be labeled either, EVERBRITE, GHN, NEONTECH, ENHANCE, and one or two others. A sign with a no name transformer is usually a fake.
An original neon usually has a serial number etched or stuck onto the back of its frame. Absence of a serial number may indicate a reproduction.
This should be sufficient information for most people to make an educated decision when buying neon. Feel free to report any suspicious selling to the ebay security center and voice your concerns. Remember that you are spending a nice chunk of change and you deserve the real thing and not a rip off.