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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Coca-Cola Collectibles

Coca-Cola Collectibles

The Collectibles page of the official Coca-Cola website features photos and videos on bottles, signs, advertising, … [read review or visit site]

Historical Marker Database

Historical Marker Database

If you're the type who pulls over when you see a 'historic marker ahead' sign, you'll love this site. Orchestrated … [read review or visit site]

Bobbys Coca-Cola on the Web

Bobbys Coca-Cola on the Web

This site, a group effort, is a great reference for Coca-Cola collectors. Start with the timeline and product lists… [read review or visit site]

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Ralph and Carol Falvo's excellent collection of automobiles, petroliana, jukeboxes, soda, and general store items. … [read review or visit site]

Soda-Machines.com

Soda-Machines.com

The ultimate guide to vintage soda vending machines, from Coca-Cola to Pepsi to Royal Crown to Dr. Pepper. Start at… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1950's Vintage Coca Cola Soda Pop Tin Metal Sign Antique AdvertisingOld Coca Cola Metal Sign Big King Size Double Fish Tail - Robertson Usa #276Antique,vintage, Advertising,advertising Signs,pepsi Signs,old Pepsi,coke,soda1949 Coca-cola Shop Refreshed Cardboard Sign 41x23.51960's Coca-cola Tin SignVintage Coca Cola Horizontal Fishtail Metal Display Sign 26" X 12" PaintedVintage 1928 Drink Coca Cola Soda Pop 30" Porcelain Metal SignBeautiful Original Coca-cola Fishtail Sign Enjoy Refreshing Not A ReproductionRare Original 1951 Coca-cola Heavy Metal Flange Sign Free Shipping!Coca Cola Non Porcelain Metal 1960's Store Sign Diner General Store Not Pepsi!!!Original 1950s Coca Cola Double Sided Rack Sign1920's Vintage Original Grape Ola Tin Soda Sign Coca Cola Pepsi1957 Coca-cola Advertising Sign 40" X 25" Pause That RefreshesVintage 36" Coca-cola Button Sign, Clean, Stored For Years, Estate ItemLarge Old Tin Coca Cola Bottle Cap For Display SignOld Coca Cola Porcelain 5 Color Sign Wow!1920's Grape Ola Tin Soda Sign From Porcelain Neon Coca Cola Sign EraTwo Piece 51 Inch Coca Cola Steel 1947 SignLot Of 2 Vintage 1940's Coca Cola Delicious Refreshing Celluloid Button SignsCoca Cola 'take Home A Carton' Sign 1938*original* 1953 Coca Cola "bottle" Panel Sign 36" X 18" Gas Station Display Large 1950's Vintage Coca Cola Thermometer Soda Pop Tin Metal SignOriginal Vintage Coca Cola Flange Sign Dated 2-46Rare Coca Cola Cardboard Press Board Advertising Sign 1950s Woman Old Vintage Vintage 1954 Drink Coca Cola In Bottles Soda Pop 50" Metal Sign~nice ConditionVintage Original Coca Cola Flange Sign Dated 8-53Nice 1960's Big Coca Cola Sign, Single Bottle, 52 1/2" X 18", Metal AdvertisingNos Drink Coca-cola Painted Metal Fishtail Logo Red Advertising Soda SignVintage Coca Cola Bottle Return Rack Sign "sign Of Good Taste" Excellent Cond.Vintage Coca-cola Embossed Metal Sign- Off Cooler- Or Machine-28.5"-sodaVtg 1950's Coca-cola Drive In Restaurant Diner Movie Car Hop # Tray Sign Exc!Coca Cola All Time Favorites, Cardboard Sign, Red GrangeVtg Coca-cola Bottle General Store Advertising Display Button Sign Coke BadgeIndiana Find=ex-large Vintage 1936 Porcelain Coca-cola Fountain Service Sign1950's Celluloid Coca Cola Disk Sign From A New York City China Town DeliPorcelain Coca Cola Door Pull Pushbar Sign Advertising Enamel Coke ReproductionCoca-cola Button Sign Original Tin Coca- Cola Sign - 1960's - 1970's - 30" X 15"Vintage 1960s Tgbwc Coca-cola Light-up Double-sided Soda Fountain Fishtail SignVintage Original "a Sign Of Good Taste" 1963 Coca Cola Fishtail Sign - RareCoca Cola Lighted Sign VintageRare Collectible Vintage Coca-cola Coke Working Stop Light Clock Sign!A&w Root Beer 12" Porcelain Sign No Reserve Coca Cola Pepsi Crush Drive ThruSuper Clean 1950's Coca Cola / Coke Soda Cigar Tin Advertising Thermometer SignCoke Cola Porcelain Sled Sign Nice Vintage Coleman's Ginger Ale Porcelain Sign (not Coke- Not Pepsi) Vintage 1960's Robertson Coca-cola Bottle Thermometer Advertising Sign1940s 3 Foot Chrome Coca-cola Metal Bottle Sign - Wow! - No Reserve!!Coca Cola Coke Fishtail Hot Dog Cowboy Advertising Embossed Metal Diner SignMiniature Coca Cola Soda Pop Coke Lolly Pop Sign 3 1/4" Mint Free Usa Ship Vintage Drink Nu Grape Porcelain Sign (not Coke- Not Pepsi) Large Vintage Coca-cola Sign 46" X 34"Coca Cola Yippee Food And Coke Embossed Metal Sign,diner,cafe Shop,restaurant.Original 1937 Coca Cola Advertising Tray SignDr Pepper 12" Porcelain Sign No Reserve Pepsi Coke Crush Soda Food Drink Rc ColaRear View Mirror & Car Window @ Storefront W Coca Cola Sign Vtg American PhotoCoca'cola Neon SignVintage Collectible Coca Cola Trade Mark Bottle Tin Sign Thermomter 17"Vintage Original 1940's Coca-cola Soda Pop Sign2 Sided Coca Cola Flange Sign Soda Coke Advertising Costa Rica

Recent News: Coca Cola Signs

Source: Google News

Atlanta Proxifan: ZOMBIELAND!!!
moviepilot.com, May 22nd

The film opens with a list of rules about dealing with zombies. This montage features several scenes filmed in Downtown Atlanta, at the intersection of Park Place and Edgewood Avenue. This is also the intersection where Woodruff Park mingles with the ...Read more

Signs of Clover Moore's town gall
Perth Now, May 18th

It claims a precedent for the 15 per cent level was set during a ruling by the NSW Land and Environment Court on a billboard near the Coca-Cola sign on Darlinghurst Rd. In an example of the material it could run, City of Sydney pointed to an advert...Read more

Baton Rouge Coca-Cola sign remains dark a year after ownership spat began
Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, May 11th

After a year of on-and-off negotiations over the ownership of one of downtown's best-known landmarks—the neon Coca-Cola sign atop the Richoux Building at the corner of Florida and North Third streets—the building's owner and the Arts Council of...Read more

Weekend sale boosts town's historical society
Johnston Sun Rise, May 7th

everything from gently used antique cabinets and dining room tables to chairs, snow blowers and old-fashioned bicycles. One of the most interesting items, as society vice president and tag sale chairman Dan Brown said, “was that old-time Coca Cola...Read more

Jose Bautista smashes Coca-Cola sign at Fenway Park with long foul ball
Yahoo Sports (blog), April 29th

In the fifth inning against Red Sox right-hander Edward Mujica, Bautista skied a long foul ball down the left field line and the ball smashed into the Coca-Cola sign that stands high above Fenway Park. The Red Sox escaped without suffering any further ...Read more

MLB Daily: Dan Uggla to the Rescue; Masahiro Tanaka to the DL; Jose Bautista ...
The Big Lead, April 29th

Pepsi challenge: A Jose Bautista foul ball hit the Coca Cola sign at Fenway last night. Maybe Adrian Beltre will send him an invoice? Fun with Stats: Your list of sub-1.00 ERA pitchers is down to four: Nick Martinez, Dallas Keuchel, Chris Archer and...Read more

Kings Cross Coca-Cola sign to get a facelift after 40 years
Sydney Morning Herald, November 10th

After more than 40 years exposed to the elements, the Coca-Cola sign at Kings Cross is getting a facelift. The lights were turned off a month ago and a close inspection shows it's being held together by ropes with all the bulbs taken away. "It's lost...Read more

Smith T discovers century-old Coca-Cola mural behind wall of Opelika hardware ...
Opelika Auburn News, October 4th

Smith T referenced what is considered the oldest Coca-Cola sign, one dating to 1894 located in Cartersville, Ga.; however, it has been repainted. “It makes you wonder how many old buildings there are around the South or around the country that would be...Read more