ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Collecting Antique Vintage Signs

Updated on July 9, 2011

Thanks to popular TV shows like American Pickers, Antiques Roadshow and even Pawn Stars, more people are discovering how valuable many vintage items can be. One of the most popular categories of vintage collectibles is signs and advertisements. Vintage signs are a fantastic way to stroll down memory lane and are fascinating conversation pieces. They can also provide historic value and decorative beauty. Vintage signs were primarily made of materials such as tin, wood and porcelain. However, neon signs became popular in the 1920’s and can be quite valuable because of their fragile nature.

Neon Signs once ruled American highways
Neon Signs once ruled American highways
Porcelain Esso signs are highly collectible
Porcelain Esso signs are highly collectible
A porcelain Coca-Cola advertisement
A porcelain Coca-Cola advertisement
A tin Squirt sign from 1958
A tin Squirt sign from 1958

Types of Vintage Signs

Vintage Porcelain Signs

Porcelain signs were first manufactured in Europe in the 1800’s and made their way to the United States in the 1890’s. Porcelain signs were made by fusing powdered glass onto rolled iron. Different colors were stenciled on and fired, creating a different layer for each color. In the U.S. sign makers began using silkscreened designs and steel instead of iron. Porcelain signs proved to be very durable and were perfect for withstanding the weather, so they became the advertising standard around the country. Around 1950, porcelain sign materials and labor became too costly, so the advertising industry began shifting more toward tin signs. It is very difficult to find porcelain signs in original condition, so they can command a high value.

Vintage Tin Signs

Tin signs have been around since the turn of the century, but were most popular during the 1920’s. They were easy to manufacturer and were generally painted with enamel colors. During World War II, there was a dire need for metal to produce military equipment, so the majority of tin advertising signs were melted down. This is why pre-war vintage metal signs are so valuable. Tin signs had a small resurgence in the 1950’s, but they never regained the popularity they once had among advertisers. It can be difficult to find good tin signs because of their vulnerability to rust and vandalism.

Neon Signs

Neon signs were a French invention in the early 1900’s. The first business in the U.S. to use a neon sign for advertisement purposes was a Packard auto dealer in Los Angeles, CA in 1923. Their ability to grab attention assured their popularity among advertisers. A vintage neon sign’s high value can be attributed to several factors. Neon signs had to be handmade so that the small glass tubes could be bent and turned and the inert gas filled and locked in. Most early neon signs were also very large and difficult to move around. The 1950’s were the heyday for neon signage. All along Route 66, as well as entertainment meccas like Las Vegas, NV, the neon sign was a staple of Americana. However, the 1960’s saw many cities pass laws that regulated the used on neon signs along their highways which eventually led to their decline.

Value and Caution

When it comes to vintage signs, several factors need to be considered when determining value. As with any vintage item, age is a prerequisite, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that older is more valuable. Generally, vintage signs were manufactured from about 1900 to 1960. Scarcity is another factor. The war years took a heavy toll on advertising signs and most were melted down to aid the war effort. A sign from the early 1940’s, regardless of condition, is usually considered quite valuable. A sign’s condition is also a major factor for most collectors. These signs spent the majority of their time outside and were abused by the weather and the public. This makes flawless signs an extremely rare find, so the better the condition, the higher the value.

Collecting Vintage signs can be fun and profitable. The Internet has made it easy to find a ton of information on the subject before buying or selling, but always be alert for scams. Vintage signs are relatively easy to reproduce, so doing research and knowing what to look for on original signs is the only way not to get burned on a deal. Many vintage were stamped with a manufacture date and knowledge about antique signs is the best way to spot counterfeits.

An Avid Sign Collector


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)