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”)

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Historical Marker Database

Historical Marker Database

If you're the type who pulls over when you see a 'historic marker ahead' sign, you'll love this site. Orchestrated … [read review or visit site]

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Ralph and Carol Falvo's excellent collection of automobiles, petroliana, jukeboxes, soda, and general store items. … [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Indian Motorcycle Dealership Neon SignNos!! Porcelain Oldsmobile Service Sign Never Hung Still Crated 1940s 60"Antique Early 20thc Embossed Enamel Tin, H.p. Hood & Sons Milk Sign, NrVintage 1941 Coca Cola Soda Pop 2 Side 32" Lollipop Porcelain Metal Sign W/frameVintage Johann Faber 'golden Rod' Pencil Pictorial Enamel Advertising SignTrains 6 Antique 2ft Tall Porcelain Railroad Advertising Sign Letters, NrLarge Vintage 1940s Westinghouse Appliance Gas Oil 67" Neon Porcelain Metal SignVintage 1950's Buster Brown Shoes Shoe Store Gas Oil 2 Sided 40" Sign~very NeatAll Original 1950's Minnitoys B/a Tanker Truck // Advertising Sign Motor Oil CanVintage 1950's Coca Cola Soda Pop Gas Station 2 Sided 19" Metal Flange SignRare Vintage C.1930 Coca Cola Sold Here Soda Pop 2 Sided 13" Metal Flange SignVintage 1965 Quaker State Motor Oil Gas Station 24" Bubble Front Metal SignLarge Vintage 1950's Kist Orange Soda Pop Bottle 54" Embossed Metal SignVintage 1966 Kickapoo Joy Juice Soda Pop 16" Metal Thermometer Sign~mint W/boxEffinger Beer & Cigar Sign Schlehen Brau Brew Baraboo Wis. By American Art WorksMichelin Tires Bibendum Man 2-sided Flange Porcelain Sign Gas Oil Farm SeedOriginal 30" Phillips 66 Porcelain Gas Oil SignLarge Vintage 1954 Drink Coca Cola Bottles Button Soda Pop 36" Curved Metal SignRare! Maibohm Six Automobile Advertising Thermometer Sign Mann Motor Car BostonRare Old Husky Motor Oil Can Quart Non Porcelain Sign Graphic Minneapolis MnVintage 1961 Pennzoil Sound Your Z Motor Oil Gas Station 2 Sided 31" Metal SignVintage 1930's Drink Tested Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle 28" Embossed Metal SignVintage Eco Air Meter Gas Station Gas Oil Sign **no Reserve**Vintage C.1950 Old Gold Cigarettes Tobacco Gas Station Metal Door Pull Push SignRare Vintage 1933 Pennzoil Motor Oil Gas Station 2 Sided 14" Metal Sign~niceRoute 66 Porcelain Buz's Desert Store Station Vintage Advertising Gas Oil SignVintage 1940's Tootsie Rolls Chewy Candy Store 20" Embossed Metal Sign~niceVintage 1923 Hires Root Beer Soda Pop In Bottles 28" Embossed Metal SignWhite House Coffee Flange SignAntique Folk Art Gas & Oil, Fishel Gas Station Garage Advertising Tin SignOriginal Rare Coca Cola "take A Carton Home" SignVintage 1970 Oilzum Motor Oil Gas Station 36" Metal SignVintage 1950s Dekalb Chix Chicken Farm Feed 12" Metal Glass Pam Thermometer Sign18 Foot Sinclair Porcelain Large Sign, Will Ship, Non Mobil, Texaco, Shell, GulfVintage Pepsi Cola Sign Thermometer 26.5"Vintage Metal Hood Tire Sign Original Great Condition1965 Hamms Rippler Motion Lighted Beer Waterfall Bar SignVintage 1950's Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle 19" Embossed Metal Picnic Cooler SignScarce 1953 7up Family Pack 24 Metal Sign Beer Soda Pop Farm Barn Gas Oil Ca1938 Falls City Beer Large Size Advertising Sign Pin-up Girl By CrandellVintage Mobil Mobiloil Gargoyle Race Car 16" X 10" Porcelain 2 Sided Flange SignVintage Jeep 4-wheel Dealership Flange 2-sided Metal Sign Soda Farm Barn IhVintage Working Rca Radio Television Antique Advertising Lightup Motion Sign Cook's Goldblume Kraeusened Beer Ale Bottles Toc Tin Sign Evansville IndianaVintage C1950 Ruby Chevrolet Dealership Gas Oil 12" Metal Glass Thermometer SignWalt Disney World River Country Slippery Slide Falls Water Park Used Sign PropVintage 1930's Dandy Vender "penny Smoke" Trade Stimulator 1 Cent Gumball ~signVintage Orange Crush Thermometer Sign 1960 Original Exc. Condition No Reserve!!Vintage 1950's Ih International Harvester Farm Tractor Battery 26" Metal SignVintage Goodyear Tires Gas Station Oil 34" Lighted Metal Sign~worksVintage 1950's Pike Hybrid Seed Corn Farm Metal Sign W/fishVintage 1926 Hires Root Beer Soda Pop Bottle 28" Embossed Metal SignVintage 1940's Drink Coca Cola Soda Pop Porcelain Metal Door Push Sign~niceVintage 7up 7 Up Soda Pop Bottle Gas Station 2 Sided 19" Metal Flange Sign14 Foot Gas Station Sinclair Oil Porcelain Sign . Will Ship, Non Mobil, TexacoVintage Coca Cola 1950's Cardboard Sign Exc. Condition No Reserve!!+++ Rare Vintage 1930's Dr Pepper Door Push Sign New Old Stock +++Vintage 1958 Imperial Television Gas Oil 12" Metal Glass Pam Thermometer SignUtica Club Pilsener Old Tin Over Cardboard Beer Advertising SignScarce Kingsbury Beer Glass Countertop Lightup Sign Manitowoc, Wi, Works!