New Neon Bar Signs

We've discussed the advantages of buying used and now we come to the advantages of buying new neon bar signs. A new sign is the only kind of neon that you'll get that's customized (unless you happen to have the exact same bar name as the sign you'll find at a discount store or elsewhere). The customized sign has more marketing leverage than a generic sign because of the custom message you'll be showing to your customers. Unless you have a friend that's a really good glass bender and electical technician, you'll have to purchase new if you're going the custom route. Another good reason good to purchase new is because newer bar signs are going to be in better condition and will be more efficient. Newer neons give off a stronger glow and the better wiring generally on the newer makes will be more energy efficient, thus saving you money. You likely don't need a detailed explanation of why brighter light is better for your bar. If your glowing white OPEN sign is vibrant in the middle of the night in a town where almost everything's closed except your diner, you're going to suck in the teenage kids driving around looking for a bite. If your OPEN sign is dim or fizzing, they may not see it and they'll just hit the Wendy's down the street that does have a bright welcoming glow. I've read that this happens oftens believe it or not. The biggest downside to buying new neon bar signs is obviously the price; however, don't be fooled. The best signs are not always in the $200-$300 price range. Will you find expensive, professionally made ones online or at local shops? You better believe it. But consider trying online auctions like ebay for new signs. As of this writing there's a simple white new OPEN neon sign that measures 12" x 9" going for $25, including shipping! Now I won't lie, it's a basic sign, but it's new and it's working and it's 110-120v USA compatible with hanging chain (or an optional 220-240v plug for overseas buyers). For serious business owners buying new might be the best choice. Buying used neon bar signs of course has its advantages, but you may be stuck waiting for the perfect sign or end up with an inferior product.

It can difficult trying to find the best place to purchase new if you are looking for the highest quality for the best price. I'm not at the point yet where I can tell you who has the very best deals on neons. There's so many reputable companies to choose from and it wouldn't be fair for me to say who "the best" is. Not to mention the fact that your local neon makers might be better choices than what you'll find online, not so much because of the quality of the bar sign but because sign manufacturers and dealers will know the local bar and club codes and laws. But let's face it, even if you spent $300 for a sign that you could have gotten away with spending $50 for, what's the difference if that sign brings in $500 worth of extra business for you in the next two weeks? I encourage any business owner to look for the best deal obviously, but figure out how much your time is worth. If it takes you months looking for that perfect "Sally's Diner now OPEN til 9PM" glowing neon, how much time have you spent when you could have just ordered a custom neon for maybe a couple of hundred more? How much time have you wasted tracking down that "perfect deal". I talked about my buddy Chuck finding his Houston Texans sign for $20 off Craiglsist. Great deal. But it took him about 5 months. I did a search today and found the exact same sign for about $90 after shipping (new). If you've got the time to hunt down exactly what you're looking for in your area, great, but I don't know any bar owners that are timerich.

Some of the things you should look for when purchasing new. Obviously the electrical outlet. Finding the perfect neon does you no good if the electrical sockets don't correspond with your sign. Usually you'll have a 110-120v electrical outlet so if your sign is made for that you're good. Find out if you'll need a transformer or not and if it's included or not. Don't be afraid to call or email sellers to make sure, they want your business and will be more than happy to assist you. Get a ballpark as to how much electricity you'll use as well. Most of the modern day neons are much more energy efficient than the old school ones, but make sure you're comfortable with your new electric bill, more typically if you plan on running many neon bar signs 24/7 nonstop. Which brings us to safety. Always know what your neon and/or transformer safety standards are. Make sure you're hanging the neon off of a stable material and using the proper hardware. How hot your neon gets will help determine where to locate it. Energy efficiency. If a newer OPEN sign costs $200 but is 50% more energy efficient than the $25 OPEN sign example we used earlier, you could make up the costs in less time than you'd think. I'm not trying to scare you. It's really not too too involved, but like anything else, a little research into even modest business investments can produce surprising results. Buying new neon bar signs is no different. Price is another factor. New neon is a great way to go but if a simple neon sign saying "Sally's OPEN" prices at $500, maybe you could get away with just OPEN, especially if you've already got a much larger beautiful custom neon of Sally's already. What's the purpose of the sign? If it's just to display that you're open, maybe you can save your money on the cheaper alternative. Think about the marketing purpose of the signs but also use your head and common sense as well.

Used Neon Bar Signs

So when should you buy used neon bar signs as opposed to purchasing them brand new from a custom neon manufacturer or off of other neon signage websites? The biggest advantage to buying used is obviously the reduced price (you're welcome for stating the obvious). If someone is selling used they are obviously looking for a change in decor or are looking to upgrade.

I've seen these used signs laying in a corner on the floor in backrooms of bars with the extension cords wrapped around them, just collecting dust. I asked the manager what they do with them and he said he'll probably either just donate it or sell it. "Why, would you like to buy it?" he asked expectantly. Being that I don't have much use for a used lite beer sign, I didn't want to insult him with a low, low offer (but maybe I should have). Occasionally I'll drive by and see a used neon sign sitting out by a dumpster, so many owners obviously just throw them away. But managers and bar owners probably only throw away neon signs that are broken. They don't want to be bothered getting them fixed when you could just find one on ebay for $40 or $50. Here's a decent way to find the exact discounted neon you're looking for. My buddy Chuck picked up an old Houston Texans neon sign off of Craigslist for $20. Craigslist is awesome for picking up great deals provided you don't mind trusting the owners sometimes over-flattering descriptions and taking a ride to pick it up. The other big problem with C. List is that you hardly ever find exactly what you are looking for exactly when you need it. If you've got time to wait, one trick is to sign up for their RSS feeds and just check them every time they're updated. For example, say I specifically wanted a cheap (probably used) green Rolling Rock neon sign in the shape of a bottle. Well I can find this on ebay right now. In fact I'm looking at one and it's going for $225 plus $40 for shipping in the U.S. and you'll have to wait 2 weeks. I mean it's a cool sign and all, but $265 and half a month later for a R. Rock sign is a bit much if it's for personal use. I'm checking Google right now under "rolling rock bottle neon sign" and the first two I find are priced new at $250 and $300. I didn't even check their shipping rates, most charge for shipping, some don't, but you get my point, they're usually expensive new. So if you don't want to pay and don't mind waiting, just go to Craigslist looking under the "collectibles - for sale" section and sign up for the RSS feed. And wait. And wait, and wait and wait. And then wait some more. Just keeping checking the feed (it updates automatically) for Rolling Rock neon signs, and eventually someone should post one that fits your description, usually for a reasonable price. Chuck did this with his Texan's sign and four or five months later someone posted saying to make an offer. He replied back an offer for $20, and bam, he had a deal. Oh, one other method. This may be even easier, I haven't tried this. Post what you want under the "wanted" section in Craigslist. Just put in the title "Used Rolling Rock Bottle-Shaped Neon Sign". I don't know if it'll work, you may have to post it several times, but you may get lucky.

Now obviously there's some flaws buying used neon signs using this method. If you're a teenager looking for something cool to hang on your bedroom wall with your allowance money, CL will work. But let's face it, if you're a bar owner the last thing you want to do is spend months online looking for an exact neon sign that fits your business needs just to save a few bucks. Your time is money. You may be better off just investing the $200-$300. The really cool thing about Craigslist though, is there is no shipping costs and in most cases you can pick up the neon sign in a day or two. That's overnight shipping without the fees. And for practicality sakes, used neon bar signs are basically just as good as new neon signs. Which is the next point. We've discussed a little how to find the best used neon signs, but perhaps I should have started with SHOULD you buy used neons (what can I say, I'm a crappy writer, sorry)? Neon signs are notorious for working extremely well for a period of time and then flickering and sputtering. This happens more with outdoor neon signs because of extreme weather, but it does still happen to indoor neon signs. So please, when purchasing used neon signs, make sure they operate properly. Ask the seller what the quality of the light is, how old is the neon, is the wiring of good quality, is the extension cord messed up, etc. It's great to find a $20 neon sign, but if it's flickering, you may be better off just buying new. Remember, neon signs are used for marketing purposes. If your first impression on customers is a dying, faded sign, they make think the same first impression of your bar. So skimping can cost you money if you're not careful. But again, if the neon sign you're buying is only months old, the owner didn't have it turned on 24/7. he/she maintained it properly, and the sign and tubing is in good shape, then it'll probably be as good as new. Of course buy it at a discount! Also, sometimes you have to buy used neon signs. Manufacturers are not allowed to create any sign that they want. You may want a vintage neon sign that is not in production anymore because the copyrights might still be enforced. There will only be so many of those signs out on the market. Those signs, obviously, will be more expensive. Is it worth it to purchase for your business? That depends. If your bar is centered around a nostalgic theme, then yes, probably. If you serve the oldest mixes and drinks, modern neon signage won't do you much good. There are also some really great vintage custom neon sign makers so don't assume that you always have to buy used. You can get the perfect vintage neon look and not have to worry about it being unfuctioning or malfunctioning later. You'll have it brand-spanking new.

Okay I better wrap this up. Used neon signs can be much more cost-effective investment in your bar or restaurant than new signs. You already know the benefits of neon bar signs in general, the visibility from distances, the branding, asthetics, etc., but if you have the time to shop around for used and discounted signs, then you can buy many more of them and spend your money on other parts of your business. Again, you should do your research when choosing what neon signs to use. It is fact that neons help your bottom line. There aren't too many cases of them actually losing you money. But put a little thought into it. What's your message, your purpose, your call-to-action. What are you trying to say to your customers about your bar? How can you get them to eat, drink, or visit more often? For most restaurant/bar owners, it's mostly about your bottom line. Buying used neon bar signs may very likely be a better investment than new signs.