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
Pittsburgh Signs Project
Falvo Collectables Gallery
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Signs
Source: Google News
Philadelphia: The City That Begs The Question, 'Why Not?'The Daily Meal, April 24th
Antique Sign for a Tea Room. Photo courtesy of Jessica Yeager. Pulling into the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia, we squeeze our car into a spot, hop out, walk past the French coffee shop that begs us to take a trip to Paris, and find...Read more
Queens Native Is Rescuer Of Vintage SignsWestern Queens Gazette, April 23rd
Photos Jason D. Antos A sign collector from Queens is preserving elements of his hometown borough's slowly vanishing history in a very unique way. When one visits the junkyard of Jimmy Ruocco in Freeport, Long Island, it is here that Hale Storm keeps...Read more
Best Toronto Brunch 2014: Restaurants To Try On Weekend MorningsHuffington Post Canada, April 22nd
The restaurant is tiny and decorated with vintage signs and posters. If you get there before it opens at 8 a.m., you can sit by the window and just drink in the smell of bacon. <strong>Standout Dish:</strong> Scrambled eggs with thick toast and spicy...Read more
[Deal Alert] Refurbished Nexus 7 (2013) WiFi 16GB For $149.99 Shipped On ...Android Police, April 19th
by day and XDA's resident archivist for Nexus and Google Play Edition device OTA updates by night. When not immersing himself in code or Android, he can be found hunting down antique signs, taking road trips, listening to music, or playing video games...Read more
Antique toy collector shares his wares with Glen Rock Historical SocietyNorthJersey.com, April 17th
Related to the displays will be antique signs, puzzles and other thematic accents. Even the seating areas might be "period," if he brings along bench seats from full-size antique vehicles that are part of his collection. Korn, who was still fine-tuning...Read more
Night Ranger to Play Carnegie ROCKS! Exhibit Openingwww.TurlockCityNews.com, April 16th
A vintage sign saying “The Iridium Proudly Presents Les Paul” from the Iridium Jazz Club in New York. The exhibit will also have several video stations where visitors can see the items on display being used in performances. The exhibit will be on view...Read more
Art Thrives Again On Chung King RoadNeon Tommy, April 15th
On a recent Saturday night in downtown L.A., six art galleries coordinated opening receptions drawing bustling, stylish crowds to a perfectly timeless pedestrian street. Through a brilliantly bright window display, under a vintage sign reading “Win Sun ...Read more
Old Belfast Restaurant to Become Bowling AlleyWABI, April 15th
The new facility will feature a few old relics from Jed's including booths, the old vintage sign, and of course, Jed himself watching over everyone. “Here in Belfast we know it's a growing community and we're trying to offer families a safe environment...Read more