Few brands have been as effectively and aggressively marketed as Coca-Cola, which was invented in 1886 by John S. Pemberton. Almost from day one, advertising materials, including signs, were produced to trumpet the virtues of the sweet, carbonated beverage. In fact, in his first year of business, Pemberton spent more money on advertising than he took in, producing, among other items, 14 outdoor signs painted on oilcloth and another 45 painted on tin. Today, thanks in part to his early obsession with advertising, Coca-Cola is one of the best-known brand names in the world.

The first metal Coca-Cola signs were lithographed or painted. Known as tackers, these signs were designed to be nailed directly through the metal and onto a wooden wall or fence. Even at this early moment in the company’s history, Coca-Cola understood the power of the celebrity endorsement—by the end of the 19th century, the popular opera singer Hilda Clark was pitching the beverage on rectangular and oval signs, made out of everything from paper to metal.

By 1910 the short-lived era of large outdoor oilcloth signs had come to an end. Because these signs wore out quickly (they were no match for the elements), they were systematically replaced by more durable, and expensive, metal ones. Some of these large outdoor signs were similar to the tackers, but others were made of fired enamels that were baked until they created a porcelain surface on a base of iron or steel. Eyelets at the corners and sides were built into the design, since nailing through porcelain would destroy the sign.

The first of these porcelain signs were roughly eight-by-eight feet and got right to the point: “Ice Cold Coca-Cola Sold Here,” they proclaimed. The Coke bottle depicted on the sign was straight sided—the company’s trademark curved bottle, which resembled the contours of a hobble skirt and was nicknamed “Mae West,” was not widely used until 1920.

Some tin signs were embossed, giving the brand’s famous logo relief, while others were made of aluminum and coated in celluloid, which was less durable than porcelain but worked fine in interiors such as soda fountains and bars.

An especially popular sign from 1914 featured a model named “Betty.” This marked a shift for the company away from high-brow celebrity toward something approaching sex appeal, although the young lady’s attire and flirtatious gaze is certainly tame by 21st-century standards. Other signs on cardboard from this period admonished customers to ask for Coca-Cola by its full name, which was an effort by the company to combat competitors trying to capitalize on the parts or even misspellings of the brand’s good name.

World War I brought severe sugar shortages, so very few signs were produced during these years, but in the 1920s the Coke advertising machine was in full swing again. One classic sign from this decade is the gas-station sign, which often had a chalk circle or triangle built into the sign so station attendants could write in that day’s gas price. Larger signs had what are known as “privilege panels” above the Coca-Cola panel itself. These gave retailers space for signage of their own, in close proximity to the Coca-Cola panel, of course...

The 1920s were also when flange signs first came to prominence. These signs featured stenciled-and-fired enamel artwork on both sides of the sign, with a small right-angle flange at one end so the sign could be attached to a building and read by customers walking in opposite directions.

Another famous vintage Coca-Cola sign shape is the so-called red button, which was made by porcelain sign manufacturer Temco of Nashville, Tennessee, among others. The red button sign shape found its way onto Coca-Cola clocks, metal trays, and calendars, as well as flange signs. Shield signs forced the logo into a triangular shape, while rectangular signs were jazzed up by placing the logo within a fishtail shape.

As with the rest of popular culture, Coca-Cola signs changed with the times. For example, the frames of Coca-Cola signs exhibit distinctively Art Deco touches through the 1930s, while the signs themselves often feature mirrored or reverse-painted black glass. In fact, despite the Depression, the 1930s were a big decade for Coca-Cola signage—in 1934 alone, for example, the company offered 28 different styles of signs to its retailers, plus four versions designed just for coolers.

The 1940s saw the arrival of a new Betty on Coca-Cola signs, but new metal signs were put on hold due to the needs of World War II. Untold numbers of porcelain signs were scrapped for the war effort, which, of course, has led to their current scarcity and popularity among collectors. After the war, porcelain signage fell out of favor for less-expensive alternatives such as aluminum and eventually plastic.

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Recent News: Coca Cola Signs

Source: Google News

Harry Thetford: Ex-soldier still gunning at 97
Greensboro News & Record, August 29th

German soldiers would not be happy to see it. “All I had learned about Africa in school was it had large snakes and wild animals,” he said. “Imagine my surprise when we landed at Casablanca — I saw the largest Coca-Cola sign I had ever seen,” he said...Read more

Students get first MLB experience at Giants game
KTVU San Francisco, August 28th

"I see a big crowd and the Coca-Cola sign is awesome," said one student. “They live in the city but a lot of times they don't make it very far from their one-mile block they live in," said school principal Joni Rummell. "So this is an awesome...Read more

If You Brawk Them, Will They Come? ChickenStock Books Country, Rock Stars
Lovely County Citizen, August 27th

The first was a Coca-Cola sign, the second a Sprite Boy sign on the former Skip's Barber Shop, he said. When Wright heard two weeks before the Fourth of July that there wasn't any money for the town fireworks display, he posted an alert on BON and...Read more

CAROL LINK: Pruett's backyard layout achieves 'another day in paradise'
Gadsden Times, August 27th

a red and white Coca-Cola sign; a red and white Dr Pepper sign; a yellow Nehi soda sign; a red and yellow Phillip Morris cigarette sign; a Ted's root beer sign in green and white; a “Come back again, we appreciate your business” sign; a Route 66...Read more

Rose's Coffee Shop: Flavorful and robust
Pierce County Tribune, August 15th

Many of us will recall the upholstered gold booths, her Coca Cola sign even listing a Denver sandwich for 85 cents, and a sense of community that dwelled within the Coffee Shop walls. There will also be a few who can recall when ketchup was substituted...Read more

You don't have to be a cowboy to love rhinestones
azcentral.com, August 12th

Q:I have a cardboard Coca-Cola sign with the slogan "Ice-Cold Sunshine." Do you have any idea of when it was made? — Ralph, Mesa. A: "Ice-Cold Sunshine" was a slogan Coca-Cola used about 1932. Other advertising slogans used by the company ...Read more

Making flexible staff work for your brand
Marketing Week, August 6th

This year, people can drop into 'selfie' kiosks to capture a picture with their personalised bottle in front of the famous Coca-Cola sign in Piccadilly Circus and hang out on the party pod rooftop terrace to listen to music. Share a coke. Some of Coca...Read more

30 years later, Old Town Square is wearing out
Washington Times, August 1st

Several ghost signs are visible throughout Old Town, including a Coca-Cola sign on CooperSmith's Pub and Brewing Co. Designs for Old Town Square's renovation are still under wraps until the dinner, but some overall themes are becoming clear. “How can ...Read more