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    

Large Vintage C.1930 John Deere Farm Implements 72" Porcelain Metal Sign1920s Ford Model A,buick Porcelain Dealer Sign,ultra Rare,11"x24,gas Oil,1 KnownAntique Original Three Millers Soda Fountain Drug Store Sign Tin Metal N350 PbLg 19thc Antique Victorian Hatter Primitive Tin Top Hat Advertising Trade SignLarge C.1950 Pontiac Service Dealership Gas Oil 2 Sided 42" Porcelain Metal SignVintage C.1940 Slick's Place Restaurant Beer Bar 40" Porcelain Metal Neon SignVintage 1930's Odin 5c Cigars Tobacco 27" Embossed Metal SignVintage Original Power-lube Motor Oil Porcelain Sign No Reserve!!Rare Antique 1930s Old Gold Cigarette Door Push Pull Sign Non Porcelain VtgRare Large Vintage 1950's Sun-drop Cola Soda Pop Bottle 59" Embossed Metal SignVtg Mopar Pam Advertising Lighted Bubble Clock Gas Chrysler Oil Sign 1950'sRare Large Vintage 1954 Merita Bread W/the Lone Ranger 36" Embossed Metal SignRare Original 1920's Champion Spark Plug Porcelain Sign - Great ColorsPorcelain Neon Grain Belt Beer Sign. Old Vintage Rare Large Nice Big Brewery NrVintage 1950's Pepsi Cola Soda Pop 2 Sided 36" Porcelain Metal Sign W/bracketVintage 1920's-30's Shell Embossed Gas Station Marquee Porcelain Sign LettersRare Vintage C.1910 Moxie Soda Pop 28" Metal SignVintage Original Standard Red Crown Gas Sign Not Porcelain No Reserve!!Rare Vintage 1920's Conoco Ethyl Gasoline 2 Sided 26" Porcelain Metal SignVintage C.1940 Goody 5c Root Beer Soda Pop Bottle 20" Metal SignVintage Original Conoco Porcelain Sign With Frame No Reserve!!Vintage 1950's Standard Oil 23" Metal.thermometer Sign~works20s Vintage Ford Universal Car Original License Auto Sign Topper Plate FordsonRare 1960s Esso Gas Oil Atlas Non Porcelain Thermometer Sign Antique Vtg 26"Rare Vintage Original Francisco Auto Heater Sign Not Porcelain No Reserve!!Rare Vintage 1960 7up 7 Up "fresh Up" Soda Pop 40" Metal SignVintage C.1960 Orange Crush Soda Pop Bottle Cap 19" Embossed Metal SignVintage 1920's Headlight Overalls Blue Jeans 2 Sided 30" Porcelain Metal SignVintage 1948 Whistle Orange Soda Pop 27" Embossed Metal SignDisney Magic Kingdom Fantasyland Tinker Bell Trashcan Plaque Medallion Prop SignVintage Original Mobilgas Texaco Red Crown Visible Gas Pump Price Box Sign +brktVintage Ww2 Original Remember Pearl Harbor Auto Plate License Sign Car TopperVintage Brucks Beer & Ale Light Up Bar Sign/light By Brunhoff Mfg Co. C.1930'sVintage Original 1920's-30's Mcquay Norris Leak-proof Piston Rings Neon Gas SignAntique Metal Trade Sign Advertising Furniture Coffins Looking Glasses HaskellLarge 1953 Vickers Petroleum Products Gas & Oil 2 Sided 48" Porcelain Metal SignVintage Original Standard Polarine Motor Oil Porcelain Sign No Reserve!!Vintage 1940 Willard Batteries Metal Sign 12x40" Original Antique Auto Ad Nos!!Vintage 1960's Goodyear Tire Sales 2 Sided 24" Metal Gas Oil Sign W/bracketRare 1930s Antique Biltrite Shoes Heels Soles Non Porcelain Sign Work Wear VtgAntique Metal Velvet Piedmont Tobacco Cigarette Advertisement Sign Double SidedVintage 1950's Dr Pepper Soda Pop Bottle 48" Embossed Metal Sign~nice ConditionVintage Original Jewelry And Watch Repair Porcelain Sign No Reserve!!1940s Large White Rock Ginger Ale Soda Sign Tin Litho Vintage Store Advertising Vintage C.1940 Squeeze Soda Pop Bottle 28" Embossed Metal SignVintage Original Buick Porcelain Sign No Reserve!!Large Antique Thomas S. Poole Jeweler Jewelry Store Advertising Trade SignRare Good Year Tires Goodyear Porcelain Sign Double Sided Enamel 1940sSuper Rare Early 1960s Hamms Beer Bear As Catcher Baseball Scoreboard Sign TwinsAntique 1930s Hires Rootbeer Soda Non Porcelain Thermometer Sign Vtg 28" NiceUnused? Near Mint Old Original 1930s Coca Cola Canadian Door Push Porcelain SignCoca-cola Salesman’s Sample Cooler Closed Front Snap On Piece SignVintage 1930's Chicken Poultry Farm Feed & Seed 2 Sided 24" Porcelain Metal SignVintage Square Snuff Tobacco Embossed Tin Litho Door Push/pull Sign-8.5x3.-nice!Hamms Beer 100th Anniversary Rippling Water Lighted Beer Sign1940's Alpen Brau Beer Bullet Sign Price Bros Back Bar Saint Louis Mo As FoundOriginal Hasting Double Bubble Clock, Sign, Oil Can, GlobeRare John Deere Quality Farm Equipment Sign 1930's Original Tractor Dealer UsaRare Vintage C.1915 Hires Root Beer Soda Pop 24" Metal Sign W/girlsOriginal 1905 Coca-cola Chromolithograph Lillian Nordica Free Coupon Advert Sign

Recent News: Signs

Source: Google News

Fitz's Stockton: A house full of wonderful stuff
Stockton Record, March 2nd

Like many people, the Ellises collect vintage signs, including Stockton neon. A neon Pabst Beer sign. An original Valley Brew neon sign from the old Grower's Inn. A tri-colored neon Buick sign from the old Hansel and Ortman dealership. But the Ellises...Read more

First Taste: Bethesda Barbecue Company
BethesdaMagazine.com, February 27th

Right now, the only nods are some whimsical plaques of hogs, but gradually, Friedman hopes to incorporate more vintage signs, wagon wheels, reclaimed wood and exposed brick, plus old barn doors to replace the wall-sized waterfall. The food: Making ...Read more

Victory Lap For Joey Logano Includes A Stop At ESPN And Portland Restaurant
CTNow, February 25th

I have a lot of stuff like antique signs, Shell signs, Coca Cola, Ford, AAA. A lot of our sponsors are old companies. I have an old gas pump. They are all in my shop. I just got back from the Portland Restaurant, my favorite restaurant, and Beth, she...Read more

Bodega Taqueira y Tequila
7Online WSVN-TV, February 24th

A 5-thousand square foot secret (not so secret) space with a bar, velvet couches, vintage signs, a pool table and a d-j. The vibe is chill. The mood: relaxed, anything goes, it's all good. They serve food back here as well but only until 9:30pm because...Read more

eBay and Woolworths sign collection deal
iTWire, February 24th

You will soon be able to pick up items you buy an eBay at your closest Woollies supermarket. The two companies have signed a deal that enables eBay buyers to pick up online purchases at Woolworths and Big W stores. But only from participating sellers ...Read more

Oyster Bay's collectible car museum
Newsday, February 23rd

In Oyster Bay, David Jacobson has opened a museum of collectible cars that features more than 15 unique cars on display, along with antique signs and other automotive memorabilia. The museum also has a car wash and offers car detailing. (Credit: Jessie ...Read more

Signs of the times
Mason City Globe Gazette, February 22nd

Prior to the sale his phone was ringing off the hook as collectors — especially sign collectors — caught wind of the pieces brought for auction by 21 different consigners. Among the most sought pieces included signage, especially seed, gasoline and...Read more

Search on for man who bought antique sign stolen from Prairieville restaurant
The Advocate, December 23rd

Search on for man who bought antique sign stolen from Prairieville restaurant. Advocate staff photo by ELLYN COUVILLION -- The blank spot on the side of Tommy's Fish House restaurant in Prairieville shows where an antique Esson sign was stolen this ...Read more