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.


Todd said...

Trying to sell a ZIMA light Dont know what it is worth nor do I know where to sell it. Can someone let me know I do have pictures

Joe said...

Hi Todd, I did a quick online search for Zima signs and only found a few, all off of One I'm seeing is a mirror w/ no light listed at $7.50 + $14.50 U.S. shipping. There's one 'Zima Clear Malt' 16" high x 25" wide. It sold for $4.99 +$14.70 shipping. I'm also seeing a Zima Edgelight 'Refreshing Alcohol Beverage' 25" height x 14" wide x 2 3/4" thick which sold for $7.99 +$14.51 shipping. These are the cheaper electric models, not neon. Not sure of the sign you have but this seems like the going rates for these kinds anyway. There aren't too many bidders on these either so for selling if you want to make more, list on ebay and set a reserve price or a high minimum bid, otherwise try You might get more money off of if there, plus it's free to list and the buyer won't have to pay for shipping. If you've got a neon in good working order, especially a rare model, you'll pull in more money for it. Hopefully this helps, good luck man.