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”)
Historical Marker Database
Falvo Collectables Gallery
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Signs
Source: Google News
ShortlistRoanoke Times, May 28th
Judged car show, classic car parts, vintage signs, gas pumps, vendors, food and camping. All day. Chantilly Farm, Floyd. $6. 798-7898. SATURDAY. Artisan Fair at Sedalia. An outdoor festival that showcases the region's creative community, with art...Read more
Beloved IHOP to relocate to Stanhope apartmentsN.C. State University Technician Online, May 27th
“I know it's cheesy, but the blue roof, vintage sign and overall decor make this place seem more like a diner. I feel like moving it under the Stanhope apartments will turn it into a place to go after a night of partying, which might be just what some...Read more
Joe R. Pyle Holds Third Vintage Sign AuctionWBOY-TV, May 25th
Veterans from across the country gathered at the Marion County Vietnam Veterans Memorial for the annual Memorial Day service. Veterans from across the country gathered at the Marion County Vietnam Veterans Memorial for the annual Memorial Day ...Read more
New home sought for vintage Rapid City neon signsRapid City Journal, May 23rd
Such television shows as "American Pickers" have since highlighted a modern revival of interest in nostalgic signage, and vintage signs like Swedlund's can be worth significant sums. But when he was saving them beginning in the 1990s, nobody asked for ...Read more
Beaumont: A fine hub for exploring the attractions of Southeast TexasChron.com, May 22nd
The second floor tells the story of Spindletop and displays some vintage signs and equipment from major oil companies. Vitals: Admission is $5. 600 Main, 409-833-5100; texasenergymuseum.org. Shangri La Botanical Gardens & Nature Center: This ...Read more
Ace Sign Co. restoring iconic Bel-Aire 'Sputnik' for local museumThe State Journal-Register, May 18th
The dedication for the Ace Sign Co. museum is Tuesday, May 19, 2015. The museum resulting from 75 years in the sign business is a neon who?s who of the city?s retail-commercial history from The Hub clothing store downtown to Reisch Brewery...Read more
Charleston City Vehicle Traveling With Campaign Signs Sends Social Media ...WCHS-TV8, May 15th
His sign collection includes yard signs, real estate signs, and of course, campaign signs. But there were signs for Jones in Robson's stack. None could be found at Cato Park where the Parks and Recreation director started an illegal sign collection of...Read more
Waynesboro man's sign collection much more than 'chicken bucket'The Augusta Chronicle, March 22nd
Out front, though, is what many in Burke County would probably consider the shining star of Taylor's 600-sign collection – a 30-foot-tall Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket that motorists along Highway 25 can see for miles at night. “It lights up bright...Read more