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”)

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]

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]

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]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Antique 1897, North American Insurance Company, Bronze Indian Plaque SignRare Vintage 1954 Drink Pepsi-cola Bottlecap Advertising Pressed Tin SignUltra Rare 1936 Orange Crush Triangular Art Deco Tin Sign With Crushy & BottleVintage 1956 Coca Cola Restaurant Menu Board Soda Pop 29" SignVintage Crisp C.1930 Tin Over Cardboard "wrigley's" Gum Package Display SignVintage C.1930 Pepsi Cola Double Dot Soda Pop Metal Sign~door Push/dispenser?Vintage 1930's Carter's Overalls Pants Coats Gas Oil 24" Porcelain Metal SignNice * 1963 Vintage Ice Cold Coca Cola Rare Old Tin Sign With Paper Cup GraphicsOld Vintage Full Wagner Motorcycle Metal Quart Oil Can Tin Sign Gas Harley HdOriginal Coca Cola Fountain Service Porcelain Double Sided SignVintage Coca Cola 1950's Nos Thermometer Sign With Original Box Rare No Reserve!Original 1951 Coca-cola Large Size Advertising Sign In Wood Kay Display FrameVintage 1952 Drink Coca Cola Button Soda Pop Gas Station 16" Metal Sign1950s Vintage Original Wolf's Head Motor Oil & Lubes Old Gas Station Tin SignNice Potosi Beer Sign With Indian Old Advertising Sign Wisconsin BeerCreepy Orange Graphics * Rare 1930s Vintage Sun Crest Soda Old Embossed Tin SignOriginal Whistle Embossed Outdoor Sign Circa 1948Vintage Porcelain Sign Pulver Chewing Gum One Cent Gum Machine-store DisplayRare! Large Antique Lusitania Cunard Line Steamship Ocean Liner Tin Litho SignDisney World Authentic Winnie The Pooh Ride Fantasyland Fp Return Prop SignFrancisco Auto Heater Tin Advertising Sign Old Vintage Car Service Station Gas 1940s Porcelain Coca-cola Fountain Service Sign 28" X 12" (excellent Condition)Vintage C.1940 Dr Pepper Soda Pop Bottle 17" Embossed Metal Thermometer SignVintage Coca Cola 1950's Thermometer Sign Excellent Condition No Reserve!!Rare 1917 Vintage Adams Spearmint Gum Old General Store Tin Display ~ SignVintage 1930's Quaker State Motor Oil 2 Sided 29" Porcelain Metal SignLarge Vintage 1962 Valvoline Motor Oil Gas Station 2 Sided 30" Metal SignRare 1920s Vintage Westinghouse Battery Service Station Old Gas Station Tin SignVintage 1940's Threemor Milk Chocolate Soda Pop Bottle 20" Embossed Metal SignVery Rare Early Ok Chevrolet Used Cars Ds Porcelain Auto Gas Oil Walker SignRare Vintage 1930's Pepsi Cola Double Dot Soda Pop 17" Embossed Metal SignBeverwwyck Wuerzburger Beer Tin Over Cardboard Sign Albany N.y.Antique Buckeye Beer Vintage Bar Brewery Light Old Hanging Sign Deer Toledo OhioVintage 1940's Quaker State Motor Oil Gas Station Display W/6 Metal Cans SignRare Original 30" Sterling Gasoline Sign, PorcelainRare Vintage C.1950 Conoco Motor Oil Can Gas Station Display W/2 Porcelain SignVintage Porcelain SignRare 1920s Vintage Du Bois Budweiser Old Prohibition Graphic Tin SignCow Ease Metal Tin Advertising Store Display Sign Cattle Horse Agriculture SprayVintage 1950's Quaker State Motor Oil Gas Station 2 Sided 29" Metal SignRare 1940s Vintage Folgers Coffee Old General Store Celluloid Over Tin SignVintage Old Crown Lazy Aged Beer Or Ale Reverse Glass Sign Centlivre Fort Wayne50s Coca Cola Kay Display Wings Sign & Mounting Brackets For 12" Button Nos NrsvBig 44" Original 1930s Porcelain Neon Office Sign Gas Oil Auto Antique Vtg RareOriginal Rare 1940s Vintage Old Crow Whiskey 21 Inch Wood Door Stop Display SignNation's Choice White House 5¢ Cigar Tin Embossed 14" X 9 3/4" Embossed SignLarge Vintage C.1950 Drink Coca Cola Lunch Soda Pop 48" Metal Sign~very NiceNear Mint 1965 Vintage Say Pepsi Please Old 7 X 27 Inch Tin Thermometer Sign1970s Vintage Champion Spark Plug Old Gas Station Display Plug Sign7up Seven Up Sip Taste It Likes You Soda Door Push Porcelain Advertising Sign Killer Condition 1930's Red Indian Motor Oil Unopened Quart Tin Can Canada SignOriginal Coca Cola Porcelain Sign - Drugs/soda ButtonOilzum Pennsylvania Motor Oils Porcelain Sign Gas Oil Pump Plate Service Station1950's Orange Crush Bottle Cap Advertising Thermometer Vintage Sign Soda Pop Vintage 50s Pep Boys Gas Oil Auto Parts Bulb Kit Ford Gm Chevy Amc Buick Dodge Rusty Old Dr Pepper Cola 29" X 11" Soda Pop Bottle Tin Sign * No Reserve Vintage C.1930 Spinning Policeman Hood Ornament Radiator Cap Gas Oil Metal SignGenuine Large Old Vintage Police Notice - Road Closed Metal Sign - Very RareNice 1920s Vintage Sweet Orr Overalls & Pants Old Country Store Tin SignVintage 1950's Chesterfield King Cigarettes Tin Advertising Sign & Thermometer