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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L.A. in BloomKCET, October 29th
He also loves listening to Celine Dion. Los Angeles is a diverse city filled with hope. It's also a city filled marked by rows of flowers, intriguing vintage signs, front yard shrines, and street art just about anywhere you go. What do you love most...Read more
The AMSOIL/Street Rodder Aeromotive Road Tour - Part 3Hot Rod Network, October 29th
There was a Morgan sitting in a line of street rods, pick-ups and muscle cars. Mixed in with the vehicles was a great collection of automobilia including vintage signs, pinball machines and Coca Cola items. One of the best features of the collection...Read more
Reserve vendor space for Surprise Super Swap MeetYourWestValley.com, October 28th
Attendees of the 2013 Surprise Super Outdoor Fall Swap Meet check out vintage signs and plates. Buy this photo. Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 8:30 am. Reserve vendor space for Surprise Super Swap Meet Staff report Your West Valley. The Fall ...Read more
Strip Scribbles: It's on! Robin Leach vs. Carolyn Goodman at SlotzillaLas Vegas Sun, October 27th
12 as the fifth vintage sign to be restored and on display at the museum. Rose. Rabbit. Lie. at the Cosmopolitan has won Esquire's award for “The Best New Opportunity to Die From Happiness.” The venue will be in the spotlight in the magazine's November ...Read more
Here's How New York City's Subway System Looked 110 Years AgoBusiness Insider Australia, October 27th
There are vintage signs from the time period on the walls. Car 1407 features wood paneling. The wooden 1407 car was part of the BMT fleet, which operated above ground. Instead of AC, there were wooden ceiling fans. Inside the subway cars are a...Read more
Golf cart, sign, antique brass nozzle stolen from West Kern Oil MuseumTaft Midway Driller, October 27th
A Club Car Golf Cart and the antique nozzles were taken after doors were kicked in Maxwell said, and an antique sign from the Women's Improvement Club was taken some distance away off the door on the Oil Museum tent house exhibit. Maxwell said tracks ...Read more
Amalie Arena, meet Amalie BenjaminBoston Globe, October 26th
Amalie Oil, a company known to me by their ads on Red Sox broadcasts during my childhood and antique signs collected by my parents, had assumed the naming rights for the arena. Amalie Arena. And then, the next day, came perhaps my favorite tweet of ...Read more
Vintage sign, sedan stolen; reward offeredJacksonville Daily Progress, October 4th
Cherokee County Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $500 for information about a recent theft from Jacksonville business. According to a press release, over a period of several nights, someone took antique Mobil Oil Company signs from Kirkland...Read more