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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Mixed-Media Collage Is Lakeland Artist's NicheThe Ledger, April 23rd
Many of his earlier pieces were constructed in Joseph Cornell-style shallow boxes, combining human figures from 1950s vintage advertising with found objects. The boxes, he explains, came to being simply because of available materials. He had a supply...Read more
Place Creative Company Finds a Niche With Vermont Food BrandsSeven Days, April 23rd
"That was right around when I was in college, and it was so cool to go through that almost-museum of vintage advertising and packaging. It just kind of sinks into your DNA." The ranks of new Vermont food businesses swell each year, and a walk through a ...Read more
Controversial Artist Richard Phillips Brings His Irreverence to the Dallas ...Architectural Digest (blog), April 22nd
The exhibition traces the New York artist's blurring of fashion photography, vintage advertising illustration, and hyperrealistic techniques, from his 1995 breakthrough, Mask, which he painted in the East Village while still an art handler at the...Read more
Morphy Auctions Brings Iconic American Advertising and Antique Toys to The ...SYS-CON Media (press release), April 22nd
The Company's April 26-27 auction features more than 1,600 choice lots of antique advertising, coin-ops and figural cast-iron pieces as well as Part II of the David Silverman pinball collection. Morphy Auctions' May 3 Spring Toy Auction will highlight...Read more
Stop Telling Women to "Man Up" at WorkHuffington Post Canada, April 22nd
When the Ottawa Citizen asked me to be a columnist, my first response was pride. My second response, after the adrenalin wore off, was complete and utter insecurity. I sat across from a male friend at brunch, picked sadly at some smoked salmon and...Read more
Hungry Girl's First Diet Book Hits BigPublishers Weekly, April 21st
“I collect vintage advertising, and I even have a Charlie the Tuna phone from who knows when.” Shane Mullen, events host at Left Bank Books, which helped host the Dierbergs event, said energy was high at the event. “You could tell they were huge fans...Read more
Antique phonograph stands out at St. Charles showChicago Daily Herald, April 6th
It took 10 years for Paul Baker to restore his 107-year-old Multiphone coin-operated phonograph. It was a showstopper Sunday at the Chicagoland Antique Advertising, Slot-Machine & Jukebox Show at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles. Advertisement...Read more
Group hoping for donations to fund billboard museum in OklahomaKOCO Oklahoma City, March 26th
The nonprofit hopes to honor and preserve the vintage advertising and signs that once drove American commerce, along with the techniques used to create their impressive displays. They hope to work with private companies and collectors to create an ...Read more