Meet Francis. He’s been a passionate enthusiast for antique enamel advertising signs for almost his entire life. He started collecting and hunting for the most exclusive pieces around 1987, and has been fascinated by these authentic pieces ever since. He is happy and lucky at the same time to have been able to share his passion for the past 25 years with his partner in crime Peggy who has always supported him, and fortunately, shares the same passion and fancy for these 100-year-old eye-catchers.
Today Francis is recognized around the world as an authority in antique enamel advertising art. He is a frequently requested expert for appraisals and authentications on both national television programmes as well as on private occasions and for weekly online requests. Peggy handles back office, loves creating content for website and social media channels and is happy to help with all inquiries regarding consignments and planning. Trained and educated as auctioneers by their masters Alexander and Susanne Zacke in Vienna, you can find them at any important auction, fair or expo related to the world of advertising art.
Having built up an international network of contacts and customers, an immense digital database covering many of the most exclusive and rare finds and an important & international private collection over the last 35 years, they keep aiming for the unimaginable 24/7 and have the determination to achieve it together as a winning team and help others in their search in any way they can.
Francis and Peggy are currently working on an oversized high-definition coffee table-book project, covering the world’s most exclusive top signs that once adorned the streets at the beginning of the 20th century. All of the international top signs that are known upon today bundled in what they like to refer to as … the “holy bible of antique enamel advertising”!
Star struck …
Love at first sight … or simply bitten by the enamel bug? Words cannot describe the thrill of the first encounter with Jean D’Ylen’s 1930s Spa Monopole enamel sign. The stunning orange Pierrot clown spraying off the top of the bottle showing the world how fizzy the mineral water in a bottle of Spa Monopole actually is. I experienced it personally back in 1987 at Marc & Nadine’s antiques corner store in the Kloosterstraat in Antwerp City. I could not afford it at that time, but was determined to one day own such a fantastic and authentic piece of art and started my hunt for enamel signs at the tender age of 16.
Hunting and collecting enamel signs long before the internet and social media existed was completely different than the fast-paced digital age we live in today. In the eighties & nineties we simply had to wait for auctions to be announced. Most of them were held in Germany, Austria and France some only took place twice a year. In between auctions we could only look forward to the postman bringing us an analogue photo-pack update, distributed by well-known dealers, most of which were German, at the time. In Europe, only a few galleries in Germany, Switzerland, France and Austria were specialized and dealt in signs as their daily business. Between 1989 and 1991 Aril Drouven in Lankau/Germany organized 4 fantastic auctions filled with many European highlights. These 4 catalogues are an absolute must for every collector today! After that, and during the 10 years between 1991 and 2001, the city of Vienna almost became my second home. I attended most of the ZACKE auctions hosted by our good friends Alexander and Susanne Zacke from Dorotheum Auction House in Vienna/Austria. They were able to shape a landscape for enamel sign enthusiasts like no one had ever done before. In those 10 years covering some auctions they auctioned off almost all of the signs that had been discovered in the years since people started hunting and collecting enamel signs in the 1970s. The difference between regular mass-produced signs, and exclusive masterpieces was already clear back then, during the nineties!
The sale of Andreas Maurer’s collection at Christie’s Auctions Amsterdam in 1996 was definitely a milestone for me personally, as for many among us. Collectors from all over Europe had gathered in order to attend this exclusive sale full of international highlights. With empty pockets, but nevertheless a strong desire to admire, watch and learn, I experienced this day to remember forever. Such a wide variety of absolute top-quality signs, and an auction hall filled with so many enthusiasts & nationalities and not even 1 empty seat left available. Big rounds of applause and even standing ovations when the hammer knocked down another expensive and exquisite sign. Everyone converting those Dutch guilders or Dollar currencies to their own currency, because the euro would only arrive 3 years later.
The arrival of the internet around the year 2000 would profoundly change the collector’s community. What was located and inventoried previously during the analogue years was suddenly so accessible for everyone, and pictures could travel around the globe from A to B in only a few seconds. Buying, selling, comparing and trading got so much faster and smoother, and many unknown top signs might have never been discovered if it hadn’t been for the internet. I never travelled more frequently around the globe for signs than between the years 2000 and 2010, always hunting for the missing pieces that would complete the puzzle, pairs or series of signs. Add online auctions, online platforms and social media to our digital world, and we have seen – for many years – that the market is booming. Anyone can hunt for signs, anyone can become a specialist, anyone can be lucky and discover a hidden treasure. We have seen some winning the lottery, but unfortunately, we have had to disappoint many others … since not every enamel sign is worth its weight in gold. Experience has shown us what is hot (and why), and what is not.
Whether you have the ambition to start collecting signs, you are an enthusiast just looking for one specific top sign in particular, or you have the opportunity to look for investment grade opportunities, contact us! We can surely help!