From colorful Victorian trade cards of the 1870s to the Super Bowl commercials of today, advertising has gone from a small component of everyday life to a ubiquitous presence.

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.

Other advertising collectibles include produce crate labels, salesman samples, tobacco tins, beer trays, and door push and pull signs.


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Recent News: Advertising

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ArtfixDaily (blog), July 25th

If vintage advertising is your passion you will certainly be entertained by the Eight Old Judge Cigarette Advertisements. The eight lithographed advertisements by Goodwin & Co. and printed by H. Bencke have a presale estimate of $100-200. Additional ...Read more

Your Hometown Stories: Take A Step Back In Time At Aiken's First Old ...
WJBF-TV, July 23rd

"I collected antique advertising for many years and our basement looked like a country store and people would come over and say, 'this reminds me of being a kid in a candy store', and the seed was planted," Cindy says. Dick and Cindy found a 100-year...Read more

In Pictures: Discovering Tutankhamun at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and ...
Culture24, July 23rd

Photos taken by the excavation's photographer, Harry Burton, depict the tomb and its contents exactly as it was when the doors were opened, while Carter's evocative plans, diaries and journals record his thoughts when he made the discovery and his ...Read more

Historic posters at Gourock station on track for award
Greenock Telegraph, July 17th

Now he has finished his project with steam train, vintage advertising and Clyde coast posters. It has been dubbed 'the Great Wall of Gourock' by ScotRail's external relations manager, John Yellowlees. He said: “Alastair's tremendous display is unique...Read more

Lady Killer: Joëlle Jones' New Project Finds The Happy Medium Between ...
ComicsAlliance, July 15th

“How it all originated was through an obsession of mine with vintage advertising and falling in love with some of the illustrators from the '40s '50s and '60s,” Jones told ComicsAlliance. “I wanted to play in that world with all the stereotypical...Read more

Contents of historic Pope Valley store to be auctioned
Napa Valley Register, July 14th

While the contents have just begun to be cataloged, antique advertising, slot machines and other gambling devices, firearms and mining equipment should be some of the highlights of the event, Witherell said in a news release. The stage coach went to...Read more

Portsmouth eatery with a past looks to the future
New Hampshire Business Review, July 11th

The bizarre art and vintage advertising still line the walls, which are now lime green, but the restaurant's short booths and black and white '50s-style tile are gone, replaced by taller booths and dark wood flooring. Goodwin said he plans to...Read more

Finding value in vintage
Idaho Mountain Express and Guide, July 1st

Marsters said to expect fine art, pedal cars, vintage advertising, Western folk art, cast-iron door stops, guns, estate jewelry and more. She said one vendor is coming from Florida with vintage fabrics and another from Montana with whimsical Mexican...Read more