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
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
Man jailed for forging e-receipts and embezzlementYahoo! Maktoob News, May 19th
M.B. used to take the cash from the accountant and sign collection receipts to be able to pay Customs fees pertaining to import and export of cars. After completing the Customs' transactions he used to give us back e-receipts supposedly obtained from...Read more
Ace Sign Co. restoring iconic Bel-Aire 'Sputnik' for local museumThe State Journal-Register, May 18th
Sputnik will twinkle again. Crews from Ace Sign. Co. of Springfield removed the iconic satellite over the weekend from its decades'-long perch atop the soon-to-be-demolished Bel-Aire Motel building. The fiberglass ball of spikes, frayed wires and...Read more
The Official Sign Maker Of Up North LifeTraverse City Ticker, May 15th
Ultimately it was a single phone call in 1992 that led him to vintage sign making. “The guy wanted a sign that said 'Grand Central Station,' and it had to be one of a kind and look old. For me, that was the important word right there – old,” Gerathy...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
Why You Should Take the Kids to Las VegasHuffington Post, May 15th
In the evening, consider a guided tour of the Neon Museum, where vintage signs recall the city's glittering past. Budget-Friendly Attractions. Families seeking free activities in Las Vegas have several options. On the Strip, stop by the Bellagio to see...Read more
Why You Should Take the Kids to Las Vegas This SummerYahoo Travel, May 14th
In the evening, consider a guided tour of the Neon Museum, where vintage signs recall the city's glittering past. More: Wallet-Friendly Las Vegas Hotels for Families. Budget-Friendly Attractions. Families seeking free activities in Las Vegas have...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