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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Was this the car stay-at-home dad John Lennon drove?Toronto Star, December 25th
If you buy admission to the car museum, you can wander around without charge and check out some beauties, along with vintage signs for hot doughnuts and such. I introduce myself and then wander around, spotting a 1981 white Marauder that looks like a ...Read more
Iconic Kim's dinner recaptures '50s vibe with Waco reopeningWaco Tribune-Herald, December 25th
The Pages paid $41,000 for H&H Sign Company to restore the 1960s vintage sign to its original grandeur. “I love that sign,” Darla said. “It caused so much excitement when it was delivered back to the restaurant. Motorists stopped in the middle of 26th...Read more
Final holiday shopping days mean busy time for Claremore shopsClaremore Daily Progress, December 24th
“Vintage jewelry is a popular item at the moment, as well as grandfather clocks and vintage signs.” He said the business has seen a steady growth in sales each year since they opened three years ago. “About four months ago, local merchants began...Read more
APSO seeking whereabouts of Denham Springs man in Ascension ParishDonaldsonville Chief, December 23rd
Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office Lt. Col. Bobby Webre is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Denham Springs man wanted on charges for purchasing a stolen antique sign and refusing to return it to authorities. email print. Comment ...Read more
Search on for man who bought antique sign stolen from Prairieville restaurantThe 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
Cascone's remains a North Oak landmarkKansas City Star, December 23rd
Cascone purchased the Viewpoint roadhouse at 3733 N. Oak Trafficway and converted it to Cascone's. They built a new restaurant on the site in 1980 and later tore down the original building to expand the parking lot. But the vintage sign from 1955...Read more
The Good Life in Kerrville, TXHCPLive, December 23rd
In some ways Kerrville is a micro-example of the State of Texas itself. First came the pioneers, then the cattle men, then the money men. No we don't mean the politicians, we mean the bankers. And in Kerrville the local banker was the German immigrant...Read more
Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office looking to identify suspect accused of ...NOLA.com, December 5th
THe Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office Major Kevin Hanna is attempting to identify a male suspect who is accused of stealing an antique sign from the exterior of Tommy's Fish House on Nov. 16. The restaurant's video surveillance shows an older model...Read more