Background: Accurate serological assays can improve the early diagnosis of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, but few studies have compared performance characteristics between assays in symptomatic and recovered patients. Methods: We recruited 32 patients who had 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19; 18 hospitalized and actively symptomatic, 14 recovered mild cases), and measured levels of IgM (against the full-length S1 or the highly homologous SARS-CoV E protein) and IgG (against S1 receptor binding domain [RBD]). We performed the same analysis in 103 pre-2020 healthy adult control (HC) participants and 13 participants who had negative molecular testing for SARS-CoV-2. Results: Anti-S1-RBD IgG levels were very elevated within days of symptom onset for hospitalized patients (median 2.04 optical density [OD], vs. 0.12 in HC). People who recovered from milder COVID-19 only reached similar IgG levels 28 days after symptom onset. IgM levels were elevated early in both groups (median 1.91 and 2.12 vs. 1.14 OD in HC for anti-S1 IgM, 2.23 and 2.26 vs 1.52 in HC for anti-E IgM), with downward trends in hospitalized cases having longer disease duration. The combination of the two IgM levels showed similar sensitivity for COVID-19 as IgG but greater specificity, and identified 4/10 people (vs. 3/10 by IgG) with prior symptoms and negative molecular testing to have had COVID-19. Conclusions: Disease severity and timing both influence levels of IgM and IgG against SARS-CoV-2, with IgG better for early detection of severe cases but IgM more suited for early detection of milder cases.