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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Now Available: Picker's Pocket Guide – SIGNS: How to Pick Antiques like a Pro
News-Antique.com (press release), December 22nd

News-Antique.com - Dec 22,2014 - IOLA, Wisconsin — Picker's Pocket Guide – SIGNS: How to Pick Antiques Like a Pro (Krause Publications, 2014), packs 208 full-color pages with tips, tricks, and strategy on how to collect and sell vintage advertising signs...Read more

American Pickers in search of MS treasures
Bolivar Commercial, December 8th

motorcycles, bicycles (Pre '60s to turn of the century), old toys: tin, wind-up, cast iron, Pre 50's vending machines, pinball and slot machines, old movie posters, unusual radios, vintage movie memorabilia, vintage advertising items, taxidermy...Read more

You Must Pre-Order The Hell Out Of 'Lady Killer' #1 By Joelle Jones & Jamie S ...
ComicsAlliance, December 5th

“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 ComicsAlliance. “I wanted to play in that world with all the stereotypical...Read more

American Pickers is coming to Phillips County
Helena Daily World, December 4th

unusual radios – transistors, tabletop etc., antique casino/gaming machines, vintage movie memorabilia, vintage advertising items, early Boy Scout items, pre 1960s vintage diner collectibles, pre 1960s TV merchandise, pre 1950s western/equestrian...Read more

Historic junk mail
City Pulse, December 3rd

The actual term is “cover envelopes,” but that doesn't do justice to this collection of over 1,400 pieces of vintage advertising. Most items in the auction, collected by the late James H. Hayes of Plymouth, are from Michigan companies or were mailed to ...Read more

Blu-ray Review: 'Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear'
TechnologyTell, December 2nd

They also provide a collection of deleted scenes and behind the scenes footage to go along with the vintage advertising. Perhaps the best thing about the package is the presentation. The 1.85:1, 1080p presentation is excellent, and the DTS-HD Master...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

Vintage advertising sends a powerful message of nostalgia
Chicago Tribune, April 25th

Fitting into the very popular collecting category of country store/antique advertising, it is special within the genre. First, the box is in super excellent condition. Add to that the quantity and high quality of embossed lettering on every surface but...Read more