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.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising

This gallery of cigarette magazine advertising from the 1940s and 50s contains no surgeon general's warning, just p… [read review or visit site]

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Ad Access

Ad Access

Duke University's library has pulled together an impressive collection of over 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadi… [read review or visit site]

Plan 59

Plan 59

From the Nostlagia Factory in Virginia comes this celebration of 'mid-century automotive advertising illustrations'… [read review or visit site]

American Package Museum

American Package Museum

Ian House's gallery of early 20th Century American package designs. Browse the exhibits in slide show mode or view … [read review or visit site]

Found in Moms Basement

Found in Moms Basement

Paula Zargaj-Reynolds’ blog, an extensive collection of 20th century vintage advertising, is a visual feast. Scro… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1954 Metal Pepsi-cola Door Push SignLarge Vintage C.1960 Orange Crush Soda Pop Bottle 54" Embossed Metal Sign~niceVintage C.1940 Pepsi Cola Double Dot Soda Pop Bottle Cap Embossed Metal SignOriginal 1930s Porcelain Sinclair Gasoline Sign 48" DiameterNeon Oval Ford Sign By Mulholland Sign Co Kalamazoo, Mi Vintage C.1940 Kotex Comfort Station 2 Sided 24" Porcelain Metal Flange SignVintage 1950's Coca Cola Fountain Service Soda Pop 28" Porcelain Metal Sign~niceVintage 1950's Coca Cola Soda Pop Fishtail Carton 36" Embossed Metal Sign~nice"national Old Trails Road" Porcelain Sign- 1910's Very, Very Rare & Hard-to-findVintage 1950s White Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle 24" Metal Button SignRare 1952 Vintage Quaker State Oil Can Rack Old Gas Station Metal Display SignVintage C.1960 Orange Crush Soda Pop 29" Metal Thermometer Sign W/box~very NiceVintage 1963 Coca Cola Fishtail King Size Carton Soda Pop 28" Metal SignLarge Vintage 1920's Coca Cola Soda Pop 45" Porcelain Metal SignVintage 1940's Drink Nugrape Soda Tin Sign 24" X 12" Graphic & Totally EmbossedVintage 1943 Orange Crush Soda Pop Bottle 16" Thermometer Sign W/crushyVintage C.1930 Pepsi Cola Double Dot Soda Pop Bottle 12" Metal SignVintage C.1960 Dr Pepper Soda Pop 28" Embossed Metal Sign~niceVintage 7-up Soda Advertising SignVintage 1950's Drink Coca Cola In Bottles Soda Pop 36" Porcelain Metal Sign~niceVintage 1950's Pepsi Cola Soda Pop Bottle Cap 19" Embossed Metal Sign~niceVintage Zimmerman's Jersey Cream Bread Farm Dairy Metal Sign Not Porcelain !!!Vintage C.1940 Drink Dr Pepper Soda Pop 27" Porcelain Metal SignAntique, Diamond Dyes Cabinet Tin Lithograph Sign, The Peoples Court, NrVintage C.1940 Nugrape Grape Soda Pop Bottle 21" Metal Sign~niceAntique Vintage G. Heileman's Old Style Lager Beer 2 Side Porcelain Sign Vintage 1947 Texaco Motor Oil Insulated Double Sided Sign Gas Station"wides" Vintage-gas Station-porcelain-double Sided-6'-sign-pump-plate-non-neonVintage 1960's Sun-drop Soda Bottle Pop 27" Embossed Metal Thermometer Sign~niceVintage Large 1920's**ultra Rare**pan Am Amaco Round Porcelain Gas Oil SignVintage 1941 Orange Crush Soda Pop 21" Embossed Metal Sign W/crushy~niceVintage 1953 Coca Cola Soda Pop 6 Bottle Carton Pilaster 41" Metal Sign~niceVintage**ultra Rare**original 1960 Arctic Cat Snowmobile Advertising Clock SignVintage 1940's Dr Pepper Soda Pop 34" Metal Door Push Bar SignVintage 1939 Coca Cola Soda Pop 18" Porcelain Metal Thermometer Sign~niceVintage 1960's Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle 32" Metal SignVintage 1950's Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle 25" Metal Sign~niceVintage 1956 Stroehmann's Sunbeam Bread 26" Embossed Metal SignVintage C.1930 Coca Cola Soda Pop 18" Embossed Metal SignNeon Arrow €Vintage 1933 Moxie Drink Sign 18 X 13Rare-coca-cola Porcelain Advertising Thermometer-green-c.1930's-silhouette GirlLarge Vintage 1956 Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle 54" Metal SignVintage C.1940 Dr Pepper Soda Pop 21" Porcelain Metal SignLarge Vintage 1960 Coca Cola Soda Pop Fishtail Bottle 54" Metal Sign~niceVintage 1953 Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle 37" Metal Sign~niceVintage 1920's Coca Cola Soda Pop 30" Porcelain Metal SignVintage C.1940 Nehi Beverages Orange Soda Pop 2 Sided 18" Metal Flange SignTexaco Distributor Porcelain Sign Dated 1946, G.ed York 12 1/2 X 10 1/2" PumpAntique Coca Cola Advertising 24" Round Metal Red Button Sign 1950's Rare Coke1920s Oil/gas Station Porcelain Sign"hood Tires" Near Perfect Man,18"x8", Vivid!Rare Vintage 1929 Coca Cola Soda Pop 2 Sided 30" Metal Arrow SignRare Orange Crush Brown Bottle Thermometer Sign."naturally Taste Better" SloganVintage 1960's Gulf Porcelain Gas Station Sign With Pole, Texaco, Standard OilRare Vintage Metal Store Coca-cola Soda Sign Complete With BracketsLarge Vintage 1950's Coca Cola Fishtail Soda Pop 44" Porcelain Metal SignAntique Shell Gasoline Porcelain Advertising SignVintage 1950's Nehi Fruit Flavors Soda Pop 19" Lighted Metal Sign~worksVintage 1950's Dad's Root Beer Soda Pop 27" Embossed Metal Sign~niceVintage 1940's Canada Dry Spur 5c Soda Pop Bottle 9" Embossed Metal Sign~nice

Recent News: Advertising

Source: Google News

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

Email "Timeless Journeys": 21st Annual Summer Poster Show!
ArtfixDaily (blog), July 18th

In addition to gallery shows and special exhibitions, IPG's award-winning website, www.internationalposter.com offers one of the largest, most comprehensive online collection of vintage advertising posters in the world. Originally launched in 1998, the...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

Joëlle Jones, Jamie S Rich bring Lady Killer to Dark Horse
Digital Spy UK, July 16th

"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 Comics Alliance. "I wanted to play in that world with all the stereotypical...Read more

The best entertainment in Kansas City for the week of July 17
Kansas City Star, July 16th

With space for as many as 1,200 vendors working under a mandate that “80 percent of the items to be sold must pertain or relate to the transportation industry, antique advertising and coin-operated items,” the two-day event is likely to resemble a...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

Collectors by the hundreds are lured to fishing show at Grand Wayne
News Sentinel, July 10th

Collectors of fishing lures, rods, reels, creels, knives, books, antique advertising, novelties and more gathered at Grand Wayne Convention Center Thursday for a show that continues Friday and Saturday. The national show of the National Fishing Lure ...Read more