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.


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Recent News: Signs

Source: Google News

MBTA Gifts Range From Flip Flops to $800 Vintage Signs
Boston.com, September 13th

If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind gift for someone who really enjoys Boston public transit, look no further. MBTAgifts has it all: flip flops, furniture, shower curtains, iPad covers— even (as redditor wack1 pointed out) authentic Government...Read more

Australian Vintage signs China wine distribution deal
Reuters, August 24th

SYDNEY Aug 25 (Reuters) - Australian Vintage Ltd, the maker of McGuigan Wines, said on Monday it had signed a distribution deal with a Chinese company aimed at boosting its sales in a rapidly growing market. Australian Vintage did not disclose the...Read more

El Monte sells vintage signs after costly replacement project
San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 17th

El Monte sells vintage signs after costly replacement project. Street signs at Valley Mall in El Monte are shown earlier this year. staff file photo. By Rebecca Kimitch, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Posted: 08/17/14, 7:18 PM PDT | Updated: on 08/17...Read more

Artist's massive homeless sign collection 'makes some people uncomfortable'
Yahoo News, May 14th

DALLAS — A dozen pieces of cardboard are sprawled on an art gallery floor in a hopscotch pattern. It looks like child's play, but the situated squares also bear prominent passages penned by homeless people looking for assistance. “Anything Will Help”...Read more

Queens Native Is Rescuer Of Vintage Signs
Western Queens Gazette, April 23rd

Photos Jason D. Antos A sign collector from Queens is preserving elements of his hometown borough's slowly vanishing history in a very unique way. When one visits the junkyard of Jimmy Ruocco in Freeport, Long Island, it is here that Hale Storm keeps...Read more

Utah artist Darren Gygi visits Lodi's Antiquarium to sign collection of home ...
Lodi News-Sentinel, April 11th

Darren Gygi will be at the Antiquarium on Saturday, April 12, 2014, to sign prints of his work from 4 to 6 p.m. at 18 W. Pine St. Advice from a professional. Darren Gygi offers these tips to artists: Paint from life. It's far better to have something...Read more

Honest Ed's vintage sign sale raises more than $17000 for Victim Services Toronto
National Post, March 17th

The store originally said it would put 1,000 of its vintage signs on sale. But, seeing the demand, staff began rifling through all the stores' nooks and crannies and dragging out every old leftover sign they could find, he said. In the end the store...Read more

Antique signs stolen from rural auction site
CTV News, February 25th

Police in Innisfail are investigating after a number of vintage signs were stolen from the community hall in Spruce View and say the total value of the theft is between $30,000 and $40,000. Over 30 antique signs were taken from the community hall in...Read more