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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Walker Center's old 'W' welcomed at new high school homefox13now.com, August 20th
“I just have a mad love for vintage signs,” Terry Bayerlein said. “I'm always on the lookout for things like that. And I happened on Rainbow Signs and went to the back lot, because that's usually where the fun historical stuff is. I thought, this has...Read more
El Monte sells vintage signs after costly replacement projectSan 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: 13 secs ago...Read more
It's a man's world: What every guy needs in his 'man cave'Sioux City Journal, August 16th
Among Witkowski's more unusual items are vintage signs advertising "old school" beers. "For instance, I love this old wooden Pabst Blue Ribbon sign," he said. "It's 100 years old and actually has real bullet holes in it. I think that's a nice selling...Read more
From the Travel Desk: Drive-ins delight during road tripMinneapolis Star Tribune, August 16th
The family-owned restaurant commands attention with diamond-shaped vintage signs advertising hot dogs and cones, and cheerful white and red stripes topping the building. Picnic tables under an awning look like an open invitation (1-507-283-8317)...Read more
U-Hungry Truck: Wichita's first food truck?Kansas.com, August 15th
he got a huge line that he couldn't handle. His method works better, he said, and his regulars know his patterns. Those who want to try U-Hungry can call Ray at 810-210-2592 to find out where he is. The truck is red and decorated with lots of...Read more
Carnegie welcomes veteran rock producerThe Turlock Journal, August 14th
A Marshall stack used by Steve Vai on David Lee Roth's "Eat Em and Smile" tour will be on view along with an original 1959 Telefunken microphone used by Les Paul, a Monteleone guitar, and memorabilia such as a vintage sign proclaiming "The Iridium ...Read more
Looking for beer taps, railroad lanterns? Lamp Post Inn in Middletown holding ...The Patriot-News - PennLive.com, August 12th
The bulk of the items on the auction block are décor items such as beer mirrors, tap handles, neon lights, vintage signs and bar glassware, he said. In addition, railroad memorabilia including lanterns and a spittoon, as well as furniture ranging from...Read more
Classic McDonald's sign gets new paint jobGreen 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