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    

Buick Motor Cars Flange Sign 1920's Porcelain Original From Old Dealership Disney Disneyland Hotel Logo Resort Used Rare Small Sign Plaque Prop DisplayOriginal Phillips 66 Porcelain Sign W/hanging Frame Double Face1930s Vintage Atlas Tire - Battery Advertising Working Wall Clock; Lighted SignOriginal Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer Neon Advertising Porcelain SignSharp Unusual And Unique Old Double Sided Coca Cola Flange Sign,flange Coke Sign1950s Original 36" Coca Cola Cleveland Neon Clock SignVtg Toledo Steel Auto & Aircraft Advertising Lighted Neon Clock Gas Oil Sign PamRare 1930s Orange Squeeze Embossed Tin Sign1940s Porcelain Double Cola Sign License TopperOriginal Kendall Motor Oil Sign 1930's Rare Large Vintage C.1940 Goodyear Tires 72" Porcelain Metal Gas & Oil SignOriginal Mobilgas Socony-vacuum Pegasus Porcelain Advertising SignOriginal Orange Crush Non-porcelain Embossed Painted Tin Advertising Sign 57"Super Rare Vintage 1920's Akron Tourist Tubes Metal Condom Tin W/zeppelin SignDl Vtg Art Deco Exit Light Red Glass Domed Globe Sign Industrial Theater HotelRare & Clean 1930's Red Indian Aviation Motor Oil Quart Tin Can Sign CanadaOriginal Sinclair Gasoline "h-c" Porcelain Sign W/hanging Frame Double Face1940's Porcelain Coca Cola Yellow Button SignOriginal Oldsmobile Service Porcelain Double Face Sign 60" LargeVintage Texaco Motor Oil Porcelain Double Sided Flange Sign, PetroliniaOriginal Rare Nevr Nox Ethyl 30 Inch Double Sided Porcelain SignVintage Neon Clock Oilzum Nash Service Not Porcelain SignLarge Vintage 1952 Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle 54" Metal SignVintage Tydol Porcelain Sign Double Sided 30" Gas & Oil Advertising Rare Sign1960's Triumph Motorcycle Original Dealer Sign Banner T120 Bonneville Tr6 Trophy1920"s Concord Punch Tin Soda SignLarge Vintage 1920's Sinclair Gasoline 48" Porcelain Metal Gas & Oil SignVintage 1930**rare**mobil Porcelain Double Sided Mobilgas Oil Sign. Fill Up!Vintage 1920's Rack W/8 Glass 1 Quart Motor Oil Bottles Metal Holder SignVintage 1950 Coca Cola 5c Soda Pop Bottle 27" Metal SignNos Unused Near Mint 1966 Vintage Coca Cola Fishtail & Bottle Old Tin SignVintage 1960's Briggs & Stratton Engines 38" Lighted Metal Gas & Oil Clock SignPorcelain Neon Pontiac SignOriginal Western Auto Advertising Porcelain Sign Double Face W/bracketsGenuine Harley Davidson Illuminated Hanging Dealer Type Sign Not Vintage Is CoolRare Early 1900s Vintage Abe Lincoln Paints Old Graphic Porcelain Flange SignOriginal Drink Coca Cola "sign Of Good Taste" Advertising Display Porcelain SignRare Vintage C.1910 Famous O.i.c. Swine Pig Hog Farm Metal SignOld Vintage Original 1940's Large Jd John Deere Metal Dealer Sign Tecumseh,michVintage Railroad Tracks 2 Sided Lighted Switch Signal Light 51" Metal SignMetal Mason's Root Beer Thermometer SignLarge Vintage 1950's Pepsi Cola Soda Pop Bottle Cap 47" Embossed Metal SignVintage 1950's Hy-line Chicks Chicken Feed & Seed Farm 2 Sided 21" Metal SignVintage 1950's Coca Cola Button Sign Coke Bottle Large 24 Inch White Tin Sign Large Vintage C.1940 Goodyear Tires 65" Porcelain Metal Gas & Oil SignDrink Frostie Root Beer Vertical Advertising Metal Door Push Plate Sign Elf Logo Original Oldsmobile Service Single Face Porcelain Sign 42"Super Clean Condition 1950's Pioneer Chainsaw Thermometer Tin Sign CanadaEarly 1900s Hires Root Beer Embossed Tin Sign, 36" X 8"Vtg 1939 Roi-tan Cigar Chevrolet Steel Toy Car Tobacco Advertising Display SignLarge Vintage 1950's Triple "f" Feeds Chicken Cow Pig Farm 40" Metal SignRare Vintage 1920's Keynoil Motor Oil Bottle Can 20" Metal Holder Rack SignVintage Rc Cola '6-pack' Tin Litho Door Pull/push Sign W/bakelite Handle-12x2.5!Vintage 1950's Cadillac Car Dealership 10" Lighted Clock Gas & Oil Sign~worksDisney Star Wars Disneyland Star Tours Arrivals Departure Park Display Prop SignVintage Admiration Cigars Mild And Mellow To The Last Inch Sign Vtg Stihl Chainsaws Lighted Sign & Clock Vintage C.1950 Pepsi Cola Soda Pop Bottle Picnic Cooler 19" Embossed Metal SignVintage Yellow Black British Railway Signal Arm Sign Train Signals Distant

Recent News: Signs

Source: Google News

Electronic Patient Surveillance Cuts Mortality Rate 15%
Health IT Outcomes (press release), September 30th

“The processes involved with vital sign collection and charting; their integration, interpretation and analysis; and the delivery of decision support regarding subsequent clinical care are subject to potential error and/or failure.” The Mirror reports...Read more

Car-crazy brothers restore vintage Gulf station downtown
Waco Tribune-Herald, September 29th

And along the way, they began dressing it up with Gulf memorabilia, including vintage signs from Pennsylvania and Maine and some gas pumps from around 1950 that had been stored in a barn in West. “We're also getting a Gulf neon sign to go on top of the ...Read more

North East barn reborn as wine shop, brewery, pub
GoErie.com, September 27th

Even the original cider mill and other vintage signs can be found throughout as décor. Guests who want a taste of Arundel right now have plenty from which to choose. The front of the barn, which once was a fruit stand, also has been completely...Read more

Paxton to celebrate picker
Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette, September 27th

PAXTON — Paxton antique dealer Robin McNish and "American Pickers" co-star Frank Fritz will hunt for "rusty gold" today at two undisclosed properties north of Paxton. With barns and sheds full of vintage signs, gas pumps and "boxes and boxes of old ...Read more

Sign of the times: eulogy for the El Mo
Toronto Star, September 25th

Like the fake street signs, news boxes and yellow cabs hauled out when a movie set in New York is shot here, our antique signs could be permanent set dressing — props from a film about life set in the past, one that plays constantly in the minds of...Read more

Keeping the vintage feel of a Route 66 landmark
Los Angeles Register, September 22nd

“It's a classic vintage sign, a part of Eagle Rock, a part of that history and it's fallen in disrepair,” Rosenbluh said. “We want to restore its tradition, preserve its original feel and vibe of the diner, keep its '50s vintage feel without being a...Read more

Big Fresno Fair looks to conserve water
ABC30.com, September 22nd

Alkire said, "There's only been a few fairs to take this on but I think in our area it's very important we stay cognizant there is a water shortage and we need to address that." With vintage signs and tractor parts grabbing your attention, the Big...Read more

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