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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Ad Access

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Found in Moms Basement

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Recent News: Advertising

Source: Google News

250 Best Auction Houses: Berlin and Cologne
BLOUIN ARTINFO, September 24th

I have a passion for vintage advertising signboards, historical cash boxes, trunks, and cassettes. One piece I was very proud of was an enamel sign called “Opel- Schaufel,” a signature object from an Austrian collection of signboards. I auctioned it...Read more

Reporters' Notebook
Buffalo News, September 22nd

BITS OF HISTORY – Antique bottles, vintage advertising, breweriana, glass, pottery, post cards, Larkin Soap and Pan American Exposition items and other Buffalo-related collectibles will be available as the Greater Buffalo Bottle Collectors Association...Read more

Historical Potpourri: Needles, noodles, newspapers, etc.
Ruidoso News, September 16th

"Plough's Birthday and Dream" book features vintage advertising and more. There is no publication date, but from the look of fashions I am guessing that it was produced in the 1920s. Plough's was a cosmetic company and the black and white booklets were ...Read more

Antiques market: Take the train to luxurious Atlantic City
LancasterOnline, September 10th

Back in the 1930s, the long lines of cars headed to the beach traveled on rails instead of six-lane highways. This original Pennsylvania Railroad poster by Edward M. Eggleston promotes Atlantic City as “America's Great Seashore Resort.” The veracity of...Read more

'Barn Artist' to begin mural project in Barnesville
The Daily Jeffersonian, September 9th

BARNESVILLE -- "Barn Artist" Scott Hagan will begin a mural project to recreate vintage advertising signs on some downtown buildings. Tim McKelvey, Barnesville Village Council president, reported at a recent meeting that Hagan would begin with the...Read more

Mary Berry cuts into giant floral cake to launch RHS Wisley show
Get Surrey, September 8th

Around 100 exhibitors are also competing for the top prizes in the National Dahlia Society Annual Show, while trade stands are dotted around the event selling antique garden tools like glass cucumber straighteners and ephemera such as vintage...Read more

Samuel Robb Cigar Store Indian, and many vintage advertising posters and signs ...
ArtfixDaily, July 30th

Many vintage and antique advertising signs will come up for bid. Examples include a rare two-sided canister reverse glass sign for Moose Beer in excellent condition, made circa 1880; a rare porcelain Shell Oil sign for motorcycles, about 20 inches in...Read more

NASA's vintage advertising for planetary tourism is really beautiful, 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