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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Truth in Advertising

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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

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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]

American Package Museum

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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

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

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Recent News: Advertising

Source: Google News

Toronto auto show features celebrity rides, quirky concept cars, February 12th

The gorgeous cars of the Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance will return for a second year in the Art and the Automobile exhibit, though this time the theme is vintage advertising. Blow-ups of classic ads and actual examples of the cars they sold will be...Read more

Calendar: What's happening the weekend of Feb. 12-14
The Oakland Press, February 10th

20 at the Royal Oak Farmers' Market, 316 E. 11 Mile Road, Royal Oak, featuring pinup art, rock 'n' roll memorabilia, collectible books, vinyl records, movie & TV memorabilia, comics, toys, vintage advertising, $4 for adults, free for ages 12 and younger...Read more

Vinegar brand Sarson's adopts limited-edition retro bottle, February 9th

Research carried out by the brand identified the positive brand associations that the Fish and Chip illustrations generated among consumers, particularly its strong connotations of Britishness and vintage advertising. Parker Williams was responsible...Read more

A passion for antiquing drives store owners through a life-long career
Greenwood Index Journal (press release), February 8th

Besides antique bottles, the Bray's also sell antique advertising signs, vintage gas cans, and antique cupboards and trunks, along with other oddities. "All us antiques people, we laugh about it," John said, "because it's almost like a disease: Once...Read more

Antique show looking for participants in Calfornia
Daily Triplicate, February 4th

According to the show's creators, some of the items Wolfe and Fritz are hoping to buy include tin, wind-up and cast iron toys, pre-50s vending machines, pinball and slot machines, old movie posters, vintage movie memorabilia, vintage advertising items, ...Read more

Morphy Auctions' March Premier Sales Event to Feature a Remarkable Selection ...
Fine Books & Collections Magazine, February 4th

563.jpg Denver, Pennsylvania, February 2016 - Morphy Auctions, the finest auction destination for fresh to the market collections, is pleased to announce this highly anticipated antique advertising sale event to be held on March 6, 2016. Over 650 truly ...Read more

Pitch Names Deutsch Vet Michael Kadin as Its New Chief Creative Officer
AgencySpy, January 15th

Xanthe Wells, who joined the shop as ECD in 2013 after seven years at TBWA\Chiat\Day and got promoted to the chief creative role two years ago, will be leaving to explore other opportunities. In her place, the agency has hired Michael Kadin, who is...Read more

Quality Antique Advertising, Military, Primitives, and Toy Auction
Maine Antique Digest, January 14th

Select items from a 30+ year collection includes: Vintage Porcelain and Tin Advertising Signs, Thermometers, Clocks, Advertising Beer Trays, German and Mettlach Steins, Civil War items include: Photographs, U.S. Springfield Trapdoor Rifle (Stock...Read more