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    

Rare Vintage 1967 Mountain Dew Soda Pop Gas Station 27" Embossed Metal SignFabulous 1930-40's Gillco Valley Forge Beer Sign Convex Glass Taxi Cab Light HtfLarge Vintage 1940's Rc Royal Crown Cola Soda Pop Bottle 59" Embossed Metal SignLarge Vintage 1940's Nehi Orange Soda Pop Gas Station 54" Embossed Metal SignVintage 1950's Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer Gas Oil 18" Metal Thermometer Sign~worksNear Mint 1950s Vintage Pepsi Cola Old Bottle Cap Script Logo Thermometer SignMint N Box 1940s Vintage Ac Spark Plug Gasket Old Gas Station Tin Display SignLarge Vintage 1948 Exide Batteries Gas Station Oil 48" Embossed Metal SignVintage "indian Lake" Ohio State Park 20" X 14.5" Porcelain Metal Road Sign! GasLarge Vintage C.1940 Firestone Tire Tires Gas Station 72" Porcelain Metal SignVery Old & Large Rac Repairer Enamel Sign - Extremely Rare - Pall Mall LondonLarge Vintage 1940's Rc Royal Crown Cola Soda Pop Bottle 59" Embossed Metal SignSchlitz Beer Sign Tin Over Cardboard Cone Top Can & Cap Milwaukee, WisconsinLarge Vintage 1950's Rc Royal Crown Cola Soda Pop 54" Embossed Metal SignSuperb Colman's Mustard Grocery Fold Out Show Card Sign C1920sNice Old Tin Litho Die Cut Stubby Soda Beverages Advertising Door Push Soda SignNice Old Tin Litho Stubby Soda Beverages Advertising Door Push Soda SignVintage 1950's Dr Pepper Soda Pop Gas Station 17" Metal Thermometer Sign~worksRare Vintage 1920's Spear Head Chewing Tobacco Gas Oil Porcelain Metal SignVintage/original Pepsi-cola Thermometer Metal Soda Sign~embossed Bottle Cap~wow!Large Vintage 1941 Pepsi Cola Soda Pop Bottle Gas Oil 60" Embossed Metal SignHavoline Waxfree Oil Sign Steel Thick Porcelain Vintage Gasoline Gas Pump PlateRare Vintage 1930's Valvoline Motor Oil Gas Station 2 Sided 27" Metal SignVintage 1920's Star Soap Grocery Store Gas Oil Kitchen 18" Porcelain Metal SignLarge Vintage 1940's Filmoil Motor Oil Gas Station 71" Embossed Metal SignHamm's Motion Spinner Light Beer Sign St. Paul, Minnesota Minn Heat Lamp Theo MnRare 1 Gal. En-ar-co White Rose Canada Tin Can Motor Oil Slate Boy Sign ImageLarge Vintage 1940's Rc Royal Crown Cola Soda Pop Bottle 59" Embossed Metal SignLarge Vintage 1955 U.s. Royal Tires Gas Station Oil 60" Embossed Metal SignLarge Vintage 1942 Gould Batteries Gas Station Oil 47" Embossed Metal SignLarge Vintage 1950 Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle Gas Station 54" Metal SignPiels Tin-over-cardboard 9 Inch Button Beer Sign Brooklyn New York Toc Ny Gnome+Vintage 1940's Ex-lax Medicine Drug Gas Oil 36" Porcelain Metal Thermometer SignLarge Vintage 1962 Co-op Tires Batteries Gas Oil 54" Embossed Metal SignVintage 1940's Nugrape Nu Grape Soda Pop Bottle 17" Embossed Metal SignVintage 1950's Hires Root Beer Soda Pop 18" Embossed Metal Sign By Donaldson ArtVintage Nos Huge Goodyear Tires 32" X 20" Porcelain Metal Tire, Gas & Oil Sign!!Rare Large Vintage 1940's Heinz Soups 2 Minute Service Restaurant 54" Metal SignVintage Frostie Root Beer Soda Pop Bottle Cap 20" Embossed Metal Sign By StoutVintage United Motors Service 23" Double Sided 3 Piece Porcelain Flange Sign Nr1908 Diamond Dye Display Cabinet With Tin Litho Sign Front By American Art WorksGreat Looking Old Shell Hanging Metal Sign - Garage Clearance - Very Rare - L@@kVintage Advertising Sign Buck Beer Metal Sign- Very Rare Vintage Champion Spark Plug Dependable Service 18" X12" Porcelain Metal Gas SignOld 1951 Wolfs Head 100% Oil Flange Sign Am Sign Co. Gas StationRare Vintage Tru Ade Orange Soda Advertising Thermometer Sign-cola-ale-1962Vintage 1951 Harley Davidson Motorcycle Sport Riding 24" Porcelain Gas Oil Sign!Nice Old Tin Over Cardboard 1930s Wonder Orange Soda Advertising Soda SignRare 1930's Gargoyle Mobiloil Canada Motor Oil Quart Tin Can Sign Mobil PegasusRare Vintage C.1933 Arden Ice Cream Gas Oil 2 Sided 20" Porcelain Metal Sign1920s Vintage Pre Pro Anheuser Busch Grape Bouquet Bottles Old Prohibition SignRare Full Dursol White Rose Motor Oil Imp Quart Can Sign CanadaBartels Brewing Co Lager Ale Porter 12" Tin Metal Advertising Sign Chas W ShonkVintage 1952 Tru Ade Orange Soda Pop Gas Station 30" Embossed Metal SignLarge Vintage 1940's Auto-lite Batteries Gas Station 60" Embossed Metal SignVintage Nos Michelin Tires+ Bibendum Man Playing Drum 24.5 Porcelain Metal Sign!Vintage Coca Cola Tin SignVintage Firestone Ground Grip Farm Tires 22" X 14.5" Porcelain Metal Flange SignLarge Vintage 1969 Valvoline Motor Oil Gas Station 2 Sided 30" Metal SignFresh Up With 7up All Family Drink Case Seven Up Soda Porcelain Door Push Sign