Garage Art: The Journey From Collector To Business

Garage Art: The Journey: My obsession with old gas signs started 32 years ago with the purchase of an original Texaco Petrox pump sign. I bought it from the owner of a local orchard in Manson, Washington. My family collected old signs and antiques. However, I never saw the value in collecting them because of the cost. But after my first treasured purchase of that Texaco sign I was hooked. I went on to buy every old gas sign I could afford.

Any collector will tell you that the hunt is just as much fun as the actual purchase. Over the years, my collection grew. At the outset, I considered myself a purist collector and never bought reproduced signs. 

In 2005, I pivoted and started turning toward reproduced signs. Original signs were too cost prohibitive to grow my collection to the level I wanted. I thought that there must be more people out there that love old signs but couldn’t afford the originals. Our company, Garage Art, was born out of this idea. 

Garage Art: The Journey From Collector To Business

In 2006 we opened our doors as a place where people could buy quality reproduction signs and garage decor. One of the first signs we reproduced was a Washington Chief Gasoline sign. 

A few Washington Chief Gasoline signs in NOS (new old stock) condition surfaced during the 1990’s in an antique store in Seattle.  This brand was created by the Inland Refinery in Spokane Washington which operated from 1939 to 1957. Inland originally planned to open stations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.  The porcelain signs were produced to mount in advance of new stations opening. Inland opened the first station in Spokane followed then a second in Aberdeen Washington. Shortly thereafter they were bought out by Wasatch Oil. 

The original signs went into storage with little to no value only to surface 30 years later. The original 6-foots signs have vibrant colors and have become valuable collector items. Prices for originals sell between $20k – $75k. For most, this is just too much. Our production version certainly does not replace or devalue the originals, but allows people to enjoy owning a version of this sign. 

Furthermore, Garage Art now sells over 13,500 items including an expansive collection of other vintage oil and gas signs. Over 90% of our items are made here in the USA. Our goal is to provide more collectors access by marketing quality reproductions as an alternative to originals. But we still highly encourage the hunt for the originals! 

By: Steve Johnson (Founder of Garage Art)