Perhaps the most easily recognizable advertising medium of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is the porcelain sign. Starting in the 1880s, companies saw the advantages of porcelain as a material that was both durable and weather resistant. Although these signs were first made in Germany, the manufacturing technique soon spread to America, where their bold colors and eye-catching graphics were put to good use advertising cigars, motor oil, railroads, and soda pop, especially Coca-Cola. With the onset of World War II, however, many of these signs were destroyed for the base metal they contained. Their resulting rarity makes them attractive to collectors.
A similar fate befell tin signs, which were often produced as a cheap alternative to porcelain ones. Unlike their porcelain companions, however, tin signs were prone to rust and degradation, so many of those that have survived the years are in poor condition.
On the other end of the size scale were celluloid pinbacks, cheap buttons that were meant to be worn and displayed. Some companies distributed pinbacks to encourage newspaper subscriptions or the purchase of particular brands of cigarettes, while others were handed out at political rallies as campaign pieces.
Alongside ads that were meant to be seen were ads that were meant to be used. Coca-Cola, for one, realized that practical pieces of advertising would last much longer than signs and posters, which were routinely discarded. Common types of “utilitarian” ads included thermometers, calendars, mirrors, and clocks, all of which bore a company’s brand name and image in some way or another. Some small storeowners, for example, kept their vintage Coca-Cola thermometers displayed in their stores, for the simple reason that they remained useful. Items that were never or barely used, of course, command the most attention from collectors.
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Things to do this week: Jan. 26-Feb. 1Cincinnati.com, January 26th
Furniture, jewelry, art, primitives, vintage advertising, repurposed industrial, home decor, linens and more. $5. 513-353-4135. Feb. 1: Cin City Reptile Show, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Fairfield Banquet and Convention Center at Tori Station, 74 Donald Drive...Read more
Bulgari Opens a Flagship Store in New DelhiArchitectural Digest (blog), January 15th
For the new boutique's design, the brand drew heavily on its Italian roots. An undulating Murano-glass chandelier comprising 5,500 crystals, designed by Angelo Mangiarotti, is the focal point of the space. Photographs from vintage advertising campaigns...Read more
Murder mystery party set at museumWalla Walla Union-Bulletin, January 13th
It looks at Walla Walla's early years through the eyes of the business community. Collectors of Joe's other compilations and of Walla Walla memorabilia and vintage advertising will enjoy the collection. The cost is $10, which benefits the museum. It's...Read more
Vintage Ad Art Up For AuctionMediaPost Communications, January 13th
While Swann regularly auctions vintage advertising posters and has included advertising art in its previous Illustration and American Art auctions, this is the first sale which presents a large number of original works of art by celebrated ad agency...Read more
NASA's vintage advertising for planetary tourism is really beautifulBreakingNews.ie, January 9th
NASA put men on the moon and landers on comets, but it's not all serious over there. As part of their promotion of possible human visits to other worlds, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory created a (fictional) "Exoplanet Travel Bureau" – complete with...Read more
Cabin fever?Greensburg Daily News, January 6th
The Indy Antique Advertising Show will fill the 65,000 square-foot Champions Pavilion at the State Fairgrounds March 20 and 21. Heralded as one of the best in the country, it will feature advertising from a wide variety of categories, including...Read more
Rare, unusual fossils and minerals, antique advertising items, more will be ...ArtfixDaily, September 15th
A mid-week auction featuring over 500 lots of rare and unusual dinosaur fossils and minerals, antique advertising items, a collection of Black Americana and Part 2 of a great ice cream collection will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 15th, by Philip Weiss...Read more
Vintage advertising sends a powerful message of nostalgiaChicago Tribune, April 25th
Fitting into the very popular collecting category of country store/antique advertising, it is special within the genre. First, the box is in super excellent condition. Add to that the quantity and high quality of embossed lettering on every surface but...Read more