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
Antique Tractor and Toy Show draws crowdGreat Falls Tribune, January 24th
The two-day show offered everything from model trains, cars and airplanes to handcrafted walking sticks, games, dolls, silverware, vintage signs and even an antique Singer sewing machine. “This show is for both the young and the old,” event co...Read more
Museum collects neon blast from Orlando's pastOrlando Sentinel, January 23rd
A variety of vintage neon signs are displayed in a private warehouse belonging to the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, in Winter Park, Fla., photographed Thursday, January 15, 2015. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel). A variety of vintage neon ...Read more
Readers picked most romantic restaurant in Baton Rouge, and the winner is ...NOLA.com, January 21st
Tucked into a corner space in a shopping center off Perkins Road near the interstate 10 overpass, this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with red and white checkered table cloths is filled to the brim with various vintage signs, offbeat decorations...Read more
Armadillos to the Highest Bidder: Eddie Wilson banks at Saturday's AWHQ auctionAustin Chronicle, January 19th
Notable venue owners were visible in the crowd, including Continental Club owner Steve Wertheimer and Hotel Vegas honcho Jason McNeely, who acquired a vintage sign reading, “Raven & Giese Auto Repairing. Phone 6470. 605 Red River.” That address ...Read more
Braving storm, poncho-clad pope visits typhoon zoneCrux: Covering all things Catholic, January 16th
“I'm here to be with you,” he said. “I'm a little bit late, to tell the truth, but I'm here.” Although Francis had a prepared text in English, he dispensed with it in order to speak extemporaneously in Spanish, which is a vintage sign that the pope is...Read more
A model boat and Volkswagen bed: Five cool finds at Yellow Dog MarketplaceMLive.com, January 13th
The business, which opened last year by owner Marla Millar, has items from antiques and vintage signs to entire furniture sets for rooms. While there are plenty of unique finds at Yellow Dog, 7285 S. State Road, here are a few that stick out as you...Read more
Milford vintage signs still for saleMilford Daily News, December 29th
MILFORD – Eleven vintage street signs survived the Christmas Season and are still on sale at the Milford Town Library. But they won't be around long, as the drive ends Dec. 31. “These were up for God knows how many years. These are antique signs,” said ...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