Antique and vintage signs are highly sought after by collectors for their beauty, enduring historic value, and because they make great discussion pieces. Used to advertise everything from soda to farm equipment to household appliances, key genres include wood, porcelain (aka enamel), tin, and neon.
Porcelain enamel signs were first produced in Europe in the late 1800s, and became popular in the U.S. in the 1890s. Porcelain signs were made of powdered glass fused onto rolled iron. Different colors were stenciled on and fired, creating a different layer for each color; although later porcelain signs were silkscreened. Porcelain signs were durable and able to withstand exposure to the elements, so tens of thousands were made. But during the World War II scrap drives, many were melted down. Eventually high labor costs caused porcelain signs to fall out of favor in the 1950s.
Tin signs were also melted in WWII scrap drives, halting production almost permanently. Although some tin signs were made after the war, their reemergence was short lived. Tin signs reached their peak of popularity in the 1920s and were usually painted, screenprinted, or stamped. But they were not as durable as porcelain signs, and were prone to rust.
The first neon sign was introduced in 1912, for a Parisian barber. Neon signs contain tubes filled with neon or inert gasses that glow when a high voltage is applied. Though popular in the 1920s and 1930s, they were expensive to make and very fragile. In the 1940s and '50s, custom-made neon signs were produced in small quantities for businesses like restaurants, clubs, bars, hotels, and auto dealerships. More modern mass-produced neon signs for companies like Budweiser and Coca-Cola can also be collectible.
Some collectors also seek out vintage cardboard signs, which were popular in the mid-20th century and were used to advertise a broad range of consumer items (soda, beer, candy, etc.) and upcoming events, like the circus. Other sign formats, like and door pushes and pulls, are highly sought after as well.
Although some collectors focus exclusively on signs, many pursue the hobby as an adjunct to another collecting interest. Therefore antique and vintage signs related to these areas are in high demand, like automobile, oil and gas, travel, farm, food, smoking, beer, and railroad signs. Signs from the west coast are in especially high demand.
With antique and vintage signs, condition, visual appeal, and scarcity are important influences on value. Many signs have bullet holes from being shot at or rust or crazing from exposure to the elements. Do your homework before buying - many reproductions have been made and many signs have been restored.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Historical Marker Database
Falvo Collectables Gallery
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Signs
Source: Google News
Art pieces can bring drama, design to outdoor spacesThe Augusta Chronicle, April 28th
For wall art, consider vintage objects, such as picture frames, mirrors, cast iron grates, architectural elements or antique signs as outdoor wall art. Arrange groupings of small vessels like planted terra cotta pots, buckets or paint cans. Put themed...Read more
Meet the Self-Described 'Sign Geeks' Keeping Neon AliveVICE (blog), April 28th
“We had a small group of friends who were vintage sign obsessed and by interacting with each other on Instagram daily, we got to know each other. Lennie Locken suggested that we start our own hashtag because we're all such geeks about signs, and ...Read more
Reward offered after Honest Ed's has vintage sign stolenCTV News, April 25th
The discount store is a Toronto landmark, easily recognizable with its lit up marquee sign, and has been a community staple in the Annex since it was founded by Ed Mirvish in 1948. The store had been selling its vintage signs for as cheap as $2 to as...Read more
Vintage signs light up the Museum of Neon ArtBend Bulletin, April 23rd
Home · Lifestyle; Vintage signs light up the Museum of Neon Art. print · Share | e-mail Facebook Tweet StumbleUpon Google. 2286027. false. Sam McManis / The Sacramento Bee The Museum of Neon Art in Glendale, California, features vintage neon signs ...Read more
Vintage signs, vintage designs, it's all good in the bay areaTampabay.com, April 13th
Slogans, catchphrases, lines from movies and TV shows have appeared on everything from mugs to magnets to T-shirts since the mid 20th century. Tropes like Where's the beef?, I hate Mondays and Keep on truckin' have been emblazoned on all sorts of ...Read more
Big antique sign auction set in LarnedHutchinson News, April 2nd
LARNED – A huge auction of collectible signs and restored vintage tractors is set for April 9 and 10 in Larned. Carr Auction and Real Estate, 909 Auction Ave., is selling the collection of Charlie Sharpe of Chase, who is entering a long-term care...Read more
Comeback plan for vintage signs at Hull's Annison buildingHull Daily Mail, April 2nd
Comeback plan for vintage signs at Hull's Annison building. By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: April 02, 2016. By Sophie Kitching. HISTORY: How the billboards used to look. Picture: Ringtons Archives. VIEW GALLERY. Comeback plan for vintage signs at Hull's ...Read more
Tampa Bay man's colossal sign collection will amaze youWFLA, November 19th
They are collectors of vintage signs, driven in part by nostalgia for days gone by. There is nothing slight about Tommy Small's colossal collection. Step inside his 12,000-square-foot backyard museum and you stand in awe. Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...Read more