White Elephant Gallery Retail Sign

‘WHITE ELEPHANT’ is a commonly used term in the western world, but where did this phrase originate?

A white elephant has come to mean a possession which the owner can’t easily dispose of and the cost of which is out of proportion to its usefulness. Probably originating in an old story from Siam (now Thailand) where the king had the custom of presenting one of these animals to any courtier who had made himself a nuisance. In bestowing this present, the recipient would be ruined by the cost of upkeep for the elephant.

Actually, white elephants have been kept by monarchs in the southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Burma, Laos, Nepal and Cambodia. It is still regarded in Thailand and Burma as a symbol and a sign that the king reigns with power and justice, and the kingdom is blessed with peace and prosperity. Of course, just being able to own such a beast is proof of great stature and standing, and this has often been reflected in their titles (ie: Lord of the White Elephant). Found in both Hindu and Buddhist cosmology, white elephants were considered sacred and were protected from labor. In Thailand, there are eight grades of medals called the The Order of the White Elephant which are awarded by the government.

Sometime around the middle of the nineteenth century the expression ‘white elephant’ came into use, and white elephant sales and swaps became common in the early twentieth century. This was the place where used items could be recycled – people getting rid of unwanted odds and ends and profiting from it at the same time.

A perfect name for a collectibles shop, the white elephant on this sign was hand sculpted and painted, while the text and accents were carved using hand chisels and gilded with 23kt gold.

Carved & Gilded
Sculpted & Painted Add on
Sign Size
32 " x 22 "