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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Antiques & Collectibles: Metal and neon signs generate collector interestPost-Bulletin, February 27th
In Eric Bradley's book "Picker's Pocket Guide to Signs," you'll find information and the discovery of all sorts of signs. Today, vintage advertising signs are more like vibrant pieces of artwork with unusual slogans and nostalgic character that has...Read more
What's up: New life for River District AntiquesWausau Daily Herald, February 21st
The 5,000-square-foot building, which at one time housed five apartments, now features three stories of antiques, including typewriters, glassware, furniture, antique advertising materials and an entire room of nothing but vinyl records. WDH 0222 River ...Read more
Gearing up for National Button Week March 15-21Antique Trader, February 19th
About Toni Rahn. Antoinette (Toni) Rahn is the online editor and content manager for Antique Trader. She has a penchant for collecting petroliana, vintage advertising items, Irish collectibles and general Americana. She lives in Wisconsin with her...Read more
American Pickers is coming to GeorgiaTifton Gazette, February 11th
old toys, pre-1950s vending machines, old movie posters, unusual radios, antique gaming machines, vintage advertising items, taxidermy, vintage concert posters and T-shirts, early Boy Scout items, pre-1960s vintage diner collectibles and TV...Read more
5 things to know: Vintage RadioShack commercials, an old building gets a new lifeDallas Business Journal (blog), February 6th
With RadioShack's filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday dominating local business news, we found an interesting article at Mashable that highlights some of RadioShack's vintage advertising. The commercials feature computers, really ...Read more
KU professor will speak about racial profiling and policeBethel College News (press release), February 3rd
Every day, thrift stores across America receive donations of objects that display racial imagery, from antique advertising cards to collectible salt-and-pepper shakers to vintage children's books to mugs with sports mascots. “Sorting Out Race” looks at...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
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