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
Roots: A friend keeps Victor store goingRochester Democrat and Chronicle, February 11th
Antique signs, machinery and collectibles are set amidst an array of landscaping vehicles and tools at Victor Power Equipment. The collection reflects the history of the barn at 39 Maple Ave., which has been associated with lawn mower sales for 50 some ...Read more
9 fun, free things to do in the Valley,across the state from AAA ArizonaABC15 Arizona, February 11th
Whether it is through preservation of the still existing historic buildings and vintage signs, or the cruising experience overall, take a road trip through this historic route. Visit the towns of Williams, Flagstaff, Winslow and Kingman for a trip back...Read more
The Best Old School NYC Places To Take Your ValentineGothamist, February 10th
Its gorgeous vintage sign was installed around 1968. Most of the interior is original, including the lunch counter and stools. Wilson Tang revealed to us, “As far as Chinese restaurants are concerned, I am able to bridge the gap between a traditional...Read more
Cambria's meadow sign has mysterious past, new coat of paintThe San Luis Obispo Tribune, February 10th
I wondered to myself why this vintage sign – so clearly visible from the highway near the road that serves as a key entryway to Cambria — wasn't looking a little better. Now, it is — thanks to the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce and a grant from...Read more
Dance like a ballerina! Outrage over 'sexist' vintage signs in CanterburyCanterbury Times, February 4th
The vintage boards, at a store the Times has chosen not to name, appear to poke fun at the differences between boys and girls. Among the 'rules' for girls were to play dress up, paint your nails, and baking cupcakes. Meanwhile, boys were told to build...Read more
This Book of Beautiful Vintage Signs Offers a Graphic Design Tour of ItalyCurbed, January 27th
All images from Signs of Italy (Lazy Dog Press) by James Clough. All images courtesy Lazy Dog Press. In a nation that excels at beauty, aesthetics, and craft, it's no surprise high design can be found on seemingly every corner or side street in Italy...Read more
Vintage signs for saleBelmond Indepedent, January 27th
Need a Belmond-Klemme Broncos sign or flag for your home? Then show up at the basketball games January 29 for your chance to place the winning bid on one of these signs that graced a gymnasium in the old North Iowa Conference. The signs will be sold ...Read more
Tampa Bay man's colossal sign collection will amaze youWFLA, November 19th
They are collectors of vintage signs, driven in part by nostalgia for days gone by. There is nothing slight about Tommy Small's colossal collection. Step inside his 12,000-square-foot backyard museum and you stand in awe. Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...Read more