Saturday, June 04, 2005

Plaques et Pots

It's that time of year again when families are packing up their belongings to start their next adventure in the US or elsewhere. The American School in Paris school year ends on June 10. It seems so early. I know two families that are leaving Paris on June 11.

One of my favorite going away presents over the years has been a Paris sign. Usually there is some going away party and everyone throws in 10 euro toward a group gift. The place to buy these beautiful signs.... well there is probably more than one place (like BHV)... but my favorite place is called Plaques et Pots on rue Ferronnerie in the 1st arrondissement (look it up on www.pagesjaunes.fr).

The signs are special order... you can get a sign with whatever you want written. I usually buy a street sign of where the person lived. They take three weeks to produce and cost 158 euro. But they'll have that sign forever. They are very sturdy.

I have it in my mind that this store makes all the official signs for Paris, but I'm probably wrong. Regardless, it's such a charming, Parisian, no website kind of place that it is worth a visit just to say hello to the friendly monsieur and have a look around this tiny store.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:39 PM



A sign of their street in Paris is an absolutely great idea as a going away gift ... I wonder if there is a company here in the States that does the same thing ... I love this idea!

# posted by Becca : 3:40 AM  

They are so beautiful.
Great clean lines.
What a treasure and a great gift idea.

# posted by BohemianMama : 4:04 AM  

What a wonderful idea! Parisian signs really are something else, so beautiful...

# posted by Melody : 5:08 AM  

Signage in Paris peaks my interest - so this was a particularly interesting post-thnaks!

Here are two "links" that may be on interest - I hope "Becca" sees also. For French signage in the US see frencheuropeanDOTcom.
For background on street signs in Paris see ruavistaDOTcomSLASHstreetDOThtm.

(Did I do the links the cool way?) Terry in SF

# posted by Anonymous : 5:39 AM  

That is such a great idea. I wrote about "pots" recently and their significance in France, but never thought about the gift giving. I'lll definitely remember this idea. Thanks!

# posted by Michael : 6:40 AM  

Hi Auntie !

I have it in my mind that this store makes all the official signs for Paris, but I'm probably wrong.

As far as I know: in some cases, if the sign is current, this store purchases directly from the manufacturer, either ex-stock or on special order. In other cases, I understand that the store might sell valuable originals (if the price is right). In yet other cases, when the signs are not current (for example, a strangely-sized "Pile Wonder"), they might sell both originals and repros. Again, this is as far as I know: this shop is known among enthusiasts and it has an unblemished reputation. It is a good place to visit and offers the purchaser an opportunity to talk to a knowledgeable person, order a sign, and pay the "right" price. One can see exactly what one is getting for one's money, which is not the case when purchasing on eBay or directly on line: there are sites selling such signs, naturally, and there are boutiques in SF and NY, to my knowledge (at least there were the last time I passed through).

Yes: the basement of the BHV Rivoli in Paris used to have an enormous section for "dog" and "house" signs, as well as a whole range of street numbers. Still does, as far as I know. Signs like that are available at the larger DIY chains, too (Bricorama and Mr. Bricolage).

Insofar as "official" signs go, the signs in Paris and other municipalities and local authorities are supplied under what is terrmed un marche public, i.e., "a public market", a bid/tender system similar to what we have in the USA. Generally manufacturers tender for each "market", and, for some time now, depending on the size of the contract, non-French companies and suppliers have been able to bid, too. All these official signs have to be supplied according to spec: size, color, readability, reflectivity, thickness of enamelling and backing, and so forth.

There is a huge collectors' market for authentic French enamelled signs. Where there is that amount of money at stake, there are copies, reproductions, and, to put it bluntly, outright forgeries of the rarest signs. Problems come from the fact that the copies and repros are being passed off as originals. The vast majority of the signs at the flea markets are not originals. No problem with that, as long as the seller states it openly and sets the price as a "copy" price, not an "original" price. Caveat emptor.

Originals can be found at flea markets, of course, but be prepared to haggle. Prices for these originals depend on rarity and condition (rust and/or repainting kills the value) and, as is usual in this type of situation, provenance is crucial. The are some stalls at Clignancourt specialized in authentic signs, naturally, and the value for money is excellent, if one has the cash. One can also look in the specialized press (La Vie du Collectionneur, for example, or Antiquites magazine) to find offers and addresses of shops and collectors' associations. Specialized sign auctions are regularly organized at Hotel Drouot, the traditional Parisian auction house.

Amerloque became interested in all this since he likes "old" cars and absolutely loves flea markets. (smile) There is quite a bit of crossover among people selling enamelled signs in general and "car people", since a lot of the old gasoline and car manufacturing signs were made of enamelled metal. The market boomed in the late 1980s/early 1990s in tune with the classic car market and literally millions of copies of enamelled signs, including the rarest, appeared almost overnight.

A made-to-order, good quality Paris sign makes a great keepsake and a shop like this is definitely the place to buy one.


# posted by L'Amerloque : 9:21 AM  

What a lovely idea and, as you say, they'll keep it forever.

# posted by Anji : 9:37 AM  

LOL - do you know what the firemen do here in Paris when someone retires or changes stations? They have a party for them and also give them a street sign. But they do not buy it. Some of the guys go out in the middle of the night and "steal" one of the actual street signs from the street where the station is located!!

# posted by Pat : 10:40 AM  

I just found your site. I will be sure to check back. I am heading to Paris to stay with my Oncle Michael in July & August and it is great to read of other American experiences in France. Thanks a bunch. Megan

# posted by megan : 3:09 PM  

Though a born and bread parisian for over 50 years now, i've never heard about the "Paris signs stealing firemen" before. Not to say it never happened or never will but reading your post visitors can get the idea it is a well-known and usual and condoned practice in Paris. Which it is not as far as I know.

# posted by Anonymous : 3:31 PM  

That is such a nice idea. Michele sent me but I will be back.

# posted by Dawn : 4:50 PM  

Awesome gift! I love those streetsigns!

Take care,

Michele sent me

# posted by Lucy Jane : 4:57 PM  

hihi! i just happened to drop by ur blog! i've just been to paris in february this year, and i love it! it's a great great place! I wish to go back again! It's great i can come by ur blog to refresh my wonderful memories there! :)

# posted by Clarice : 5:56 PM  

Just a little note to "anon". My comment about the firemen was not meant to be understood that it was something that was "well known" or "usual" or "condoned" here in Paris. But I can ASSURE you that it does happen very often!!! :-)

# posted by Pat : 10:25 AM  

how about the old keep off the grass sign....that would be a perfect fit it seems... ah!

# posted by Anonymous : 9:52 PM  

Becca and Melody, The street sign gift is always very well received. They are beautiful.
BM, They are a work of art. It's true.
Terry, Thanks for passing on the information. My US sister will find that useful too.
Michael, I'll have to read your post on this issue.
L'A, I am always amazed about your knowledge base on so many issues. Thank you for the information.
Anji, Do they have the same kinds of signs by you?
Pat, I can only imagine that plying off a stree sign must take a lot of force!
Megan, Thanks for checking out my blog.
Dawn and Lucy Jane, Thanks for visiting from Michele's place.
A, Keep off the grass... that made me smile. Thanks.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 11:40 PM  

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