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    

Buffalo's Gilt Edge Ale Beer Cab Light Advertising Sign Rog Art Deco DisplayVintage C.1940 Dr Pepper Soda Pop 2 Sided 24" Metal Flange SignVintage 1950's Coca Cola Soda Pop 34" Metal Door Push Pull Bar Sign~*old General Store Find~* Vintage Coca Cola 6 Pack Rack Sign Display Coke Vintage 1920’s Shell Motor Oil Porcelain Larger Sign 25" X 24.5" Vg+ ConditionVery Nice * 1934 Vintage Coca Cola Marching Bottle Old 54 X 18 Inch Tin SignCoca-cola Double Button Flange Sign. Not PorcelainVintage 1950's Double Cola Soda Pop 30" Metal Door Push Pull Bar SignVintage C.1960 Pepsi Cola Soda Pop Bottle Cap 31" Embossed Metal Sign~niceVintage National Coal Porcelain Enamel SignVintage 1940's Prestone Anti Freeze Porcelain Thermometer Gas Oil Sign OriginalVintage 1947 Duplex Marine Engine Boat Motor Oil 20" Metal Sign~nice ConditionVintage C.1930 Nu Icy Soda Pop Bottle 24" Embossed Metal SignVintage C.1960 Champion Spark Plugs Gas Oil 2 Sided 18" Metal Flange SignVintage 1950's Dr Pepper Soda Pop 2 Sided 12" Metal Flange SignVintage 1920s Standard Sony Socony Motor Oil 15" Curved Porcelain Metal SignVintage Original Embossed Tin Soda Sign Drink Orange Kist Early Thin Tin 1930'sOriginal 1940's Poll Parrot Shoes Neon Porcelain Sign DiecutVintage C.1950 Hires Root Beer Soda Pop 32" Porcelain Metal Push Pull Bar SignSinclair Pennsylvania Oil And Sinclair Opaline Porcelain Advertising SignVintage Quaker State Motor Oil Advertising Lighted Bubble Clock Gas Sign 1950'sVintage 1940's Telephone Company Phone Booth Payphone 19" Porcelain Metal SignVintage 1940's Dr Pepper Good For Life! Soda Pop 27" Porcelain Metal SignVintage/original Royal Crown Cola Thermometer Embossed Metal Sign~great Colors!Rare 1948 Vintage Coca Cola Air Conditioned Old Button Logo 50x16 Inch Tin SignVintage 1950s Esso Metal Flange Sign 14" X 8" Double Sided SignVintage 1950s Hires Root Beer Soda Pop Bottle 14" Metal Door Push Pull Sign~niceVintage 1940's Barq's Root Beer Soda Pop 28" Embossed Metal Sign2 Vintage Mobil Oil Gas Pump Plate Signs Rare Mobilfuel Diesel Special, MobilgasRare Vintage Late 1940s Fox Deluxe Beer 32" Screen Door Push Sign Chicago Nice!Vintage Original Embossed Tin Cigar Sign Mark Twain 5 Cent Cigar Liked By AllVintage C.1960 Coca Cola Fishtail Soda Pop 26" Metal SignVintage 1940's 7up 7 Up Soda Pop Bottle 20" SignVintage 1950's Hires Root Beer Soda Pop Bottle 32" Embossed Metal Sign~nice1953 Rustic 24 Inch Coca Cola Metal Button Sign W/ Original Brackets Rough ShapeVintage C.1960 Leinenkugel's Beer 14" Bathroom Scalethermometer SignPorcelain Motor Coach Station Bus SignVintage Original Embossed Tin Cigar Sign Odin 5 Cent Cigar Vintage 1953 Sunbeam Bread 13" Metal Door Push Plate Sign~nice ConditionVintage Mid 1920s Texaco Marine Lubricants 30" Porcelain Sign Gas & Oil GarageVintage C.1940 Orange Crush Soda Pop Bottle 15" Metal Thermometer Sign W/crushyVintage C.1930 Nu Icy Soda Pop 28" Embossed Metal SignAntique American Folk Art, Blacksmiths Anvil Carved Wood Sculpture Sign, Nr!Vintage 1950's Green Spot Orange Soda Pop Bottle 15" Metal SignOriginal Intage Old Tydol Oil Fat Man License Plate Topper Gas Pump Oil Can SignVintage Original Embossed Tin Soda Sign Howdy Sugar Drink Early Thin Tin 1920'sDr Pepper Friendly Pepper-upper Diecut Can Porcelain Advertising Soda Sign Vintage C.1930 Red Star Flour Bread Bakery 14" Metal SignOld 42" Dodge Plymouth Dependable Service Porcelain Double Sided Sign Excellent Vintage/original Bireley's Embossed Metal Sign~large With Beautiful Colors~look!Vintage 1920's Don't Be Gas / Oil Hog Perfect Circle Piston Rings Metal Sign PigVintage 1930's Yocum's B-y's Y-b's Cigar Tobacco 20" Metal SignVintage Pure Firebird Super Metal Flange Sign 1950s 14" X 14" Double Sided GasVintage C.1915 Kirk's Jap Rose Soap 27" Porcelain Metal Thermometer SignVintage C.1939 Bubble Up 5c Soda Pop 24" Embossed Metal SignVintage 1949 Pennzoil Motor Oil 2 Sided 17" Metal SignVintage 1947 Sun Spot Orange Soda Pop Bottle 12" Embossed Metal Door Push SignVintage 1950's Adams Black Jack Chewing Gum Candy 18" Metal SignVintage 1950's Kodak Cameras Film 2 Sided 24" Metal SignVintage C.1950 Hires Root Beer Soda Pop 27" Embossed Metal Sign

Recent News: Signs

Source: Google News

Scotland County is motivated to recruit industry
News & Observer, August 1st

The former manufacturing facility for Abbott Labs, which employed nearly 900 people before closing in 2001, stands empty now. The vacant building is located at the intersection of US 15-501 and US 401 in Laurinburg, N.C. Photographed on Friday, July 24...Read more

Observant Neighbor Leads Deputies to Stolen Property
Ottumwa Post, July 31st

OTTUMWA – On Saturday, July 25, at approximately 7 a.m. a concerned neighbor witnessed “suspicious activity” on Little Soap Road. The neighbor contacted the Wapello County Sheriff's Office about what they had observed and provided them with a license ...Read more

Keyport's Honey Hole Antiques has future in past
Asbury Park Press, July 29th

KEYPORT – Looking for vintage furniture, a collectible toy, or a repurposed treasure? Then you've hit the mother lode at Honey Hole Antiques, a two-year-old antique co-op in Keyport that offers a return to yesteryear and “a little bit of everything...Read more

Petroliana, Vintage Signs, Toys, Extensive Collection of Decorative Porcelian ...
Benzinga, July 29th

A 1956 Mercury Montclair Phaeton previously shown by Bob Leslie of Lexington, Massachusetts, along with his extensive collection of vintage signs, oil cans, gas pumps and hood ornaments will feature at Kaminski's August 9th auction. The sale will also ...Read more

Orpheum wins approval to restore vintage sign
Madison.com, July 20th

The Madison Landmarks Commission on Monday approved the restoration of the Orpheum Theater sign, right, to its original 1926 design, left, featuring point lights along the perimeter and within individual letters. The $200,000 restoration could begin...Read more

Reward offered in theft of antique sign
inForney.com, July 16th

FORNEY, Texas — De Ridder Antiques is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons who stole an antique sign from their business earlier this week. Allstate. Between Sunday, July 12, 2015, and Monday, July 13, 2015, ...Read more

Vintage signs, oil cans and more in man's bric-a-brac collection
Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 9th

Bob Grant's home on the foothills of Frenchman Mountain has five buildings and a yard full of primarily automotive and gas station memorabilia. (F. Andrew Taylor/View). Vintage signs, oil cans and more in man's bric-a-brac collection...Read more

Vintage sign removed for rebranding of Fagiani's bar site
Napa Valley Register, July 8th

Three years ago, on a July night, the neon sign at Fagiani's bar was lit for the first time in decades in advance of the opening of Fagiani's Bar at The Thomas Restaurant. On Wednesday morning the sign came down permanently as part of the restaurant's...Read more