Hunter collector on the hunt for antique pub signs

Peter is seeking information as to the location of the Tooth’s sign featuring a marlin which once adorned the Tea Gardens Hotel.

IF you are under 60 years of age, you may have never seen the iconic glass signs that adorned NSW hotels from the late 1920s until around 1980.

The glass signs once help pride of place on almost every pub, right throughout the state.

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Now, Hunter-based collector Peter Gentz is on a mission to locate as many of the classic pieces of pub memorabilia as he can.

A recent trip to the Tea Gardens Hotel, where he spied a black and white photo of the pub with a Tooth’s beer sign featuring a large marlin front and centre, has inspired him to continue his search in the local area.

“There are still some sitting in sheds, long forgotten until a clean up occurs,” Peter said.

“Hopefully the Tooth’s marlin sign that hung outside the Tea Gardens Hotel is one of them.”

Some of these signs are now more than 100 years old.

“Tooth’s had a brilliant idea in the 1920s to use glass signs with oil paintings stuck on the rear side to advertise their cleansing amber liquid.

“Such was the competition from rival brewers such as Resch’s, Tooth’s wanted something that stuck out and was different from any other form of advertising,” Peter said.

Produced in the thousands (estimates say up to 6500) between 1930 and 1960, many got broken, stolen or recycled for their 6mm plate glass.

Painted by talented artists, signs would be made and sent out to pubs in need of some dressing up.

By the time 1990 rolled around, most of the outback pubs had their signage removed.

“Nowadays, only the plastic copies may be found in the pubs around NSW,” Peter said.

“After 36 years of collecting, I am still coming across old photos of signs that depict all facets of life in both country and city environments.

“A pub close to a boxing gym would have a sign or two of boxers on the front walls.

“A pub close to a greyhound track would naturally have the dogs racing after the hare.

“Likewise, the rarest of them all, a cricket scene on pub walls near the Sydney Cricket Ground.”

Depending on condition, rare examples of these signs can now fetch $15000 each.

“Condition is everything!” Peter said.

“The signs weren’t made to last 100 years and after years of sun, rain, heat and cold, the paint can start flaking similar to that of old house paint.

“Restoration may at times cost more than the sign is worth.”

Like all valuable things, reproductions of the signs have begun circulating.

“It’s a case of ‘caveat emptor’ – buyer beware.

“If in doubt, the originals are very heavy, have a load of gold leaf work, may have original tin on the backing and well, just look old,” Peter said.

If you know the location of one of these iconic signs, contact 0400 761 801.

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