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What's the Best Way to Hang Vintage Tin Signs

Updated on May 24, 2011

Tin Signs with a Guitar

Cool way to display your guitar with a tin sign
Cool way to display your guitar with a tin sign | Source

Decorating Your Home with Tin Signs

A Fun & Nostalgic Wall Decor Ideas

Tin and metal signs have been part of the American culture since the first merchant hung a sign on their business door it has become a way to attract attention. From neon to wood advertising signs came in all shapes and sizes. For home (and even businesses today) tin signs are an inexpensive decor item to create a unique look. If you are starting up or already own a local diner, hanging a retro tin signs on the wall captures the atmosphere of good food & coffee from the past. I like to think of these vintage looking signs as “comfort decor” that fits right in with the feeling we associate to comfort foods.

Vintage Tin Sign v.s. Reproductions

As you start your decorating project the first plan is the budget. Looking for old advertising signs maybe the start of your search process. Original vintage tin signs are not cheap. Tin signs have become a collectors item and the demand increased from the limited supply, prices have risen over time. Here’s a bit of history about these vintage signs and why the became so expensive.

To be protected from the harsh outdoor elements these signs were not made of tin but steel instead and were coated with a thick porcelain enamel finish. This technique started in Germany and was imported into the U.S in the early 1900’s. It didn’t take long for this to become the staple of outdoor advertising as more bold colors and graphics were used on the signs. Not requiring electricity and very durable to the weather soon there was signs just about for every consumer product advertise from cigarettes, diners, beer to farm equipment, there was a sign for that. The porcelain enamel coating is the most costly part of the sign and in time costs were reduce by changing to a tin base and silk screening printing on that surface.

It is only in the last 20 or 30 years that these original metal signs became collector items as World War II greatly reduced the numbers where metal was in such high demand for the war effort. Finding an antique original porcelain enamel signs in excellent condition is rare and collectors will pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars for the right sign. Advertising signs for businesses no longer in business or unique slogans hold the highest value.

This little bit of “tin sign” history if helpful to understand that today there are many companies selling distressed reproductions of tin signs that are made to look old. There is nothing wrong with the products they are selling or illegal, they are just more affordable. Of course if they are claiming these are not reproductions and are originals and their prices are very low, under twenty dollars of a sign, you may want to question them on this. One other way to identify an original vintage vintage signs is they may have a stamp with the date they were manufactured on the back. Or do some more research or even talk with a knowledgable antique dealer to help figure out the original or reproduction.

Affordable Reproduction Tin Signs

If you budget and time doesn’t warrant requiring hanging original vintage signs on the walls, then reproductions are the next best thing. There a lots of choices and themes for any room in the house or business. From bathroom, kitchen to even the Man cave there any many tin signs to choose. The advantage of reproduction tin signs if their inexpensive costs means you can change around the signs on a regular basis. Or use them as adjuncts to an original vintage sign that may have acquired.

Tin Signs Decorating Tips

Here are just a few ideas or tips when decorating with tin signs or original vintages signs

  • Get a current assessed value of all of your original vintage signs for insurance records in case of damage or theft.
  • Create a theme with old slogans or brand. Popular cultural has changed with the times and this is something to highlight
  • A single sign is a lonely sign. Create a wall decor of a mix of large and small signs of all shapes
  • Use tin signs as backdrops to other collector items. They add some nice accent just about any collectors items.


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