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.


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Recent News: Signs

Source: Google News

Cisco Home opens at South Coast Collection
Los Angeles Times, August 28th

Cisco Home, known for its sustainable, made-in-L.A. furniture, opened its new showroom this week at the South Coast Collection in Costa Mesa. Cisco Home, known for its sustainable, made-in-L.A. furniture, opened its new showroom this week at the South ...Read more

Medical marijuana shops get neon-sign waiver
Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 27th

Some of the vintage signs from casinos of the past are being overhauled and installed as part of an improvement project for the designated National Scenic Byway, which was recently expanded to include Las Vegas Boulevard north of Sahara Avenue to ...Read more

Cleveland Labor Day Weekend: A guide to festivals, parties, Americana, ice ...
The Plain Dealer - cleveland.com, August 27th

Located 45 miles east of Cleveland in Ashtabula County, the Lake Erie resort town is a timeless strip of penny arcades, vintage signs, food stands and biker bars full of hard-rockin' cover bands. It celebrates Labor Day Weekend as if it's a last lease...Read more

Collectibles and curiosities
Creston News Advertiser, August 26th

The collection features hundreds of toy tractors, belt buckles, artwork and a miniature library. The rustic farm equipment serves as a reminder of how far ag-technology has come. Listening to Miller describe the vintage signs displayed around his shed...Read more

General store marks 99 years
StarPhoenix, August 25th

In a shop that's been operating for 99 years and is packed from floor to ceiling with everything from antique signs to flying pigs, that's a lot of stories. Victor Prytula, a spry 86-year-old, started working as a teen in his father's store in Tway...Read more

Australian Vintage signs China wine distribution deal
Reuters, August 24th

SYDNEY Aug 25 (Reuters) - Australian Vintage Ltd, the maker of McGuigan Wines, said on Monday it had signed a distribution deal with a Chinese company aimed at boosting its sales in a rapidly growing market. Australian Vintage did not disclose the...Read more

El Monte sells vintage signs after costly replacement project
San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 17th

El Monte sells vintage signs after costly replacement project. Street signs at Valley Mall in El Monte are shown earlier this year. staff file photo. By Rebecca Kimitch, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Posted: 08/17/14, 7:18 PM PDT | Updated: 1 week, 4...Read more

Classic McDonald's sign gets new paint job
Green Bay Press Gazette, August 6th

The vintage sign at the Shawano Avenue McDonald's restaurant is getting a touchup, which it needs every few years. With Speedee looking on, Casey McDonald (yes, really!) works to touch up the iconic red paint. (Photo: Jim Matthews/Press-Gazette ...Read more