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60 Rare and Unusual Vintage Signs

In the U.S., most outdoor signs made between 1890 and and 1950 were constructed of a base of heavy rolled iron, which was die cut into the desired shape, then coated with layers of colored powdered glass and fired in a kiln. This process made them durable and weather-resistant. Signs made this way were known as porcelain enamel signs or simply enamel signs.

Porcelain enamel signs originated in Germany and were imported into the U.S. They quickly became a staple of outdoor advertising across the country. Around 1900, designers experimented with bold colors and graphics on the signs and they were used to advertise everything from cigarettes and beer to farm equipment and tires. Early designs were stenciled, but American designers switched to silkscreens and started using a steel base instead of iron. Later, when porcelain enamel became too costly, tin bases were used instead of steel.

Now it is difficult to find antique porcelain enamel signs in excellent condition. Collectors pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars for each addition to their collections. Many of the signs were vandalized, discarded due to etching or crazing in the finish or melted down for the metal during World War II. After the war, the signs were too expensive to manufacture, so we are left with only the dazzling pieces that remain from the era.

Signs were later made of tin and other materials and painted with enamel paint. More of these types of signs remain, but they are often rusted, scratched and distressed. After WWII, “enamel” signs were simply enamel paint on a metal, usually tin, base.

There is a huge market for vintage signs and collectors must be wary of distressed reproductions. Often vintage signs are stamped with the date they were manufactured, while other times research and knowledge about antique signs may be required to discern a real antique from a knockoff.

You may also enjoy these previous articles:

Rare and Unusual Antique, Vintage and Retro Signs Link

Vintage Tin 7up Display Sign
This vintage 7up sign was made to be attached to the rods of a wire display inside a store. It is believed to have been manufactured in the 1950s or 1960s by the Indiana Wire and Specialty Company of Indianapolis, Indiana and measures 12″ x 12″.


Vintage 7up Enamel Painted Store Sign
This 7up sign is stamped metal and is painted with enamel paint. It measures 20″ x 18″ and was manufactured in 1963 by Stout Sign Co. in St. Louis.


Southwestern Bell Porcelain Sign
This is a large metal Southwestern Bell sign, measuring approximately 28″ to 30″ tall and 19″ to 20″ wide. This sign is still faily shiny, but does have a few chips and some rust spots.

Southwestern Bell5

Chevrolet Bel Air Dealer Poster
In the 1950s, car dealerships used posters like this one as indoor signage. These posters were eye-catching and colorful and could be easily changed when new models were introduced.


Vintage Tin Hrobak’s Beverages Sign
This is a rare sign from Hrobak’s Beverages in Philadelphia. It is believed to have been made in the 1940s and measures approximately 20″ x 9″.


Blue Bell Tobacco Porcelain Sign
This is a heavy steel and porcelain double sided sign. It measures 14″ x 22″ and is in great shape for its age.


Antique Buick Dealership Sign
This is an antique neon sign from a Buick car dealership. It was likely manufactured in the 1950s.


Cadbury’s Chocolate Enamel Sign
Cadbury’s chocolate is a favorite in Europe, which is likely where this antique painted enamel sign was made.


Canada Dry Beverages Porcelain Sign
This vintage sign is porcelain over metal and was manufactured for Canada Dry Beverages. It measures 24″ x 7″ and has chips in the porcelain and rust on the base. Despite its flaws, it is still a valuable collectors item.

Canada Dry10

Chesterfield Cigarettes Sign
This vintage Chesterfield Cigarettes sign was found hanging on the side of a shed at a gas station in North Carolina. Its age is unknown, but it is authentic. It measures 34″ x 12″ and was likely manufactured in the 1930s or 1940s.


Stothers Chest & Lung Mixture Sign

This vintage sign was likely made in the 1940s. While is is slightly warped along the bottom, it is still in good condition for its age.

Chest and Lung11

Large Vintage Coca-Cola Sign
This 1939 Coca-Cola sign remains in the wooden frame in which it was originally shipped. It measures 71.5″ x 35.75 and has some dents and surface rust, but is still a nice piece for a collector.


Rare Coca-Cola Cardboard Sign
This Coca-Cola sign is printed on cardboard and measures 20″ x 36″. It was shrink wrapped onto an acid-free backing board. Printed during the war in 1944, it features two young woman pointing to the area on the globe where their men are serving.


Post-WWII Cardboard Coca-Cola Sign
After WWII, signs had to be made more inexpensively. One option used by Coca-Cola were cardboard signs. This Coca-Cola sign was made in 1948 by Edwards & Deutsch Lith Co. in Chicago and measures 27″ x 16″.


Congress Beer Pressed Tin Sign
This pressed tin sign advertises Congress Beer, which was made by the Haberle Congress Brewing Company in Syracuse, New York. Age has yellowed the lettering on the sign, but it is otherwise in good condition and is a nice collectors item.


Wolf’s Head Oil & Lubes
This unique sign was produced in the 1940s and is 22″ x 17″. It is an original piece and has been preserved over the years so that it remains in excellent condition. This type of sign in this condition is rather rare and is sought after by the choosiest collectors.

Courage Wolf16

Crown Gasoline Double Sided Porcelain Sign
This Crown Gasoine Standard Oil Company sign is double sided, which is somewhat unusal for a porcelain sign. It measures 26″ square and is showing signs of its age, but is still extremely valuable.

Crown Gasoline17

Dad’s Root Beer Tin Sign
This is a 1950s Dad’s Rootbeer sign measuring 27″ x 13″. It is enamel paint on a tin base and has rusted a bit around the edges.


Delaware Quality Feeds Metal Sign
This vintage Delaware Quality Feeds sign doubled as a public service announcement to warn of an upcoming cow pass. This unique piece measures 12″ x 15″ and is extremely weathered.


Vintage Dr. Pepper Metal Sign
This style of Dr. Pepper sign was introduced in 1958 and discontinued in the early 1970s. It measures approximately 20″ x 7″ and is constructed of thin sheet metal and enamel paint.

Dr. Pepper20

Extremely Rare Eldredge Brewing Company Sign
This antique sign was produced in the 1800s for Eldredge Brewing Company in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It is marked “Wells & Hope Co. Pat Metallic Advertising Signs, Philada, P.A.” and features an image of a man and a woman enjoying Eldredge lager beer. It measures 20″ x 29″ and aside from some minor wear around the edges, is in wonderful condition.


“Standard” Esso Porcelain Sign
The essense of vintage Americana, this large porcelain Esso sign is a valuable collectors item. Esso stations were the original ExxonMobile gas stations and these signs were once very common along U.S. roadways.


Vintage Foot Rest Hosiery Sign
This vintage sign measures 11.25″ x 17.25 and is constructed of tin with a cardboard backing. The image of the child holding the sign is one example of classic antique advertising.

Foot Rest23

Vintage Coca-Cola Fountain Service Sign
This porcelain sign was made in 1933. It measures 25.5″ x 23″ and shows some signs of its age, but is still a sought-after collectors item.


Mitchell’s “Golden Dawn” Cigarettes
Made in an era when smoking cigarettes was glamorized, this tin enamel sign is was designed to be simple and shiny. The name of the company and little else is displayed on the face, which is now chipped and rusting with age.

Golden Dawn25

Unique Good Year Tire Porcelain Signs
These winged Good Year Tire porcelain signs are embossed on the back with “Property of Good Year Rubber Company W-73″. These are large signs, with the larger one measuring 64″ x 23″ and the smaller measuring 46.5″ x 17”. Both signs were originally white, but a clear lacquer has yellowed the smaller one.

Good Year26

Hi-Plane Tobacco Sign
This 1940s tin store sign advertises an all but forgotten brand of tobacco. It measures 35″ x 12″ and is a colorful collectors item.

Hi-Plane Tobacco27

Vintage Hires Root Beer Sign
This vintage Hires Root Beer sign measures 9.5″ x 27.5″ and was manufactured by Press Sign Co. in St. Louis.

Hires Root Beer28

Merry War Lye Sign
This vintage Merry War Lye sign was made in the 1940s. It was found in the back room of an old general store and measures 14″ x 11″.

Merry War Lye29

Kool Cigarettes Sign
This store sign was made in the 1950s to advertise Kool cigarettes. It measures 26″ x 11″ and has raised letters and design.

Kool Cigarettes30

Leaf Spearmint Gum Sign
This Leaf Spearmint Gum sign was made in the 1940s and measures 25″ x 9″ and is in fairly good condition for its age. Its colorful design makes it a popular collectors item.

Leaf Gum31

Miller “High Life” Beverages Sign
This sign is an original advertisement for Miller “High Life” Beverages. It was made in the 1940s and measures 20″ x 13.5″.

Miller Beer32

MobileGas Porcelain Restroom Pledge Sign
This heavy porcelain sign is measures 7.5″ x 7.75″. It is a rare and nostalgic piece, bound to bring back memories of the time when customer service was everything.


Vintage Mr. Cola Sign
This unique Mr. Cola sign was made in 1945 by Stout Sign Co. of St. Louis. It measures 11.75 square and the lettering is embossed.

34Mr. Cola

Muratti’s Cigarettes Sign
This colorful tin sign is an antique lithographed advertisement for Muratti’s cigarettes. A collectors item for sure, the sign promotes cigarettes for “young ladies.”

Muratti's Cigarettes35

Old Virginia Cheroots Sign
This turn of the century sign measures 8.5″ square and is extremely rare. The graphic is lithographed onto a tin base

Old Virginia

Green Spot Orange Drink Sign
This vintage Green Spot Orange Drink sign was used on an in-store advertising rack. It measured 22″ x 19″ and was manufactured by Arnamac Products Inc. in Cincinatti, Ohio.

Green Spot Orange Drink36

Pabst Blue Ribbon Sign
This is a 1940s Pabst Blue Ribbon beer sign constructed of tin over cardboard, which advertises beer for 15 cents.

Bjork - Wanderlust37

Pee Gee Paint Sign
This double sided porcelain Pee Gee Paint sign was made in the early 1920s. Although it is definitely showing some age, it is sitll very valuable to collectors.

Pee Gee Paint38

Vintage Cardboard Pepsi-Cola Sign
This vintage Pepsi-Cola sign was made in the 1950s and measures 8.25″ x 15″. During this time period, companies were tring to save money and printing on thick cardboard was cheaper than making metal signs.


Phillips 66 Porcelain Sign
This porcelain Phillips 66 sign was made in 1945. It is a double sided sign and likely one of the last porcelain signs of its kind. It was manufactured by Veribrite Signs in Chicago.

Phillips 6640

Red Coon Tobacco Sign
This brightly colored vintage sign measures 10″ x 14″.

Red Coon Tobacco41

Vintage Redman Tobacco Die Cut Paper Sign
This original die cut Redman Tobacco sign is believed to have been made in the 1950s. It measures 20.5″ x 15.5,” is made of paper and is in remarkably good condition.


Antique Railroad Sign
This antique railroad crossing sign is stamped on the back with “National Colortype Co. Signs and Signals, Bellvue, K.Y.” It is constructed of metal and has cat eye marble reflectors.

Antique Railroad Sign43

Antique Railroad Stop Sign
This antique railroad stop sign has cat-eye marbles spelling out the word “Stop,” making it a unique collectors item.

Stop Sign44

Vintage Salvation Army Sign
This original Salvation Army Thrift Store sign measures 18″ x 16″ and has some chipping, but is in good condition overall.

Salvation Army45

Senior Service Tobacco Sign
This unique sign is believed to have been made in the 1930s and measures 12″ x 4″.

Senior Service46

Porcelain No Smoking Gas Station Sign
This vintage porcelain “No Smoking” sign came from a gas station. It is still in very good condition and measures 18″ x 5.5″.

No Smoking47

Vintage Squirt Soda Sign
This tin sign advertising Squirt soda was made in 1958. It features an embossed design and measures 27.5″ x 9″.


Standard Feeds Metal Sign
This old metal farm sign measures 23.5″ x 11.75″. It is an original made by Stout Sign Co. of St. Louis, Missouri.


Porcelain Star Tobacco Sign
This is a very early porcelain sign, likely made at the turn of the century. Signs this old and in this condition are rare and quite valuable.

Star Tobacco50

Double Sided Star Motor Gasoline Sign
This double sided flange metal sign is measures about 12″ in diameter. It is an original sign, likely produced in the 40s.

Star Motor Gasoline51

Raybestos Brake Service
This rare vintage sign is double sided and flanged and measures 18″ x 13.75″. It is believed to have been made in the 1950s.


Sunbeam Bread Door Push Plate
This is a door push plate measuring 4″ x 12″. It was produced in 1953, but never used, which makes it a rare item for the serious collector.


Vintage John Graf Sylvan Dry Soda Sign
This is a vintage tin sign that measures 20″ x 11.5″. It was manufactured by Donaldson Art Sign in the 1940s.

Sylvan Dry Soda54

Allied Mills Inc. Wayne Feeds Sign
This is an original die cut Allied Mills Inc, Wayne Feeds tin sign. It measures 14″ x16″ and is believed to have been made in the early 1930s.

Wayne Feeds55

Vintage Whistle Soda Sign
This 19″ x 27″ tin Whistle soda sign is believed to have been made in the 1930s. It features embossing on the entire design and lettering on the sign state it was manufactured by “The American Art Works, Inc., Coshocton, O.”

Whistle Soda56

Sweet-ORR Porcelain Sign
Sweet-ORR produced Union Made pants, shirts and overalls. This 23.5″ x 10″ porcelain sign has some wear, but is still in relatively good condition and would be valuable to a collector.


Dairy Queen License Plate Topper
This metal 6.25″ license plate topper was made in the 1960s. Because this one was never used, it remains in perfect condition.

DQ Topper58

Antique Beech-Nut Tobacco Porcelain Sign
This is an original Regina Beech-Nut tobacco 12″ x 9″ porcelain sign, showing signs of its age on the edges.


Further Resources Link

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Gerri Elder is a content producer and social media strategist who has worked full-time on Internet development and marketing since 1997. Her current projects include ChicagoNow, GreenBiz and ProspectMX. Gerri can be reached on Facebook or Twitter and is often found on the Web under the username "absolutelytrue".

  1. 1

    These where clearly made on a PC, which is way better then a Mac

    • 2

      What a great collection of antigue signs. I liked the coke cola signs especially.

    • 3

      tina mrowczynski

      January 21, 2011 3:30 am


    • 4

      “These where clearly made on a PC, which is way better then a Mac”

      You are clearly wrong Max as only the Amiga computer had enough colors to do the art. Laugh, laugh

  2. 5

    I love how things from the 1950’s are considered vintage in America. In my town there’s shops with signs that date back to 1870’s. The buildings themselves sometimes are from 1700 odd :P

  3. 6

    I love this add way!
    I like it when very old companies make their new ads in their old fasion style.
    Like “persil”, or “milka”

  4. 7

    Vintage <33

    Great roundup :D Some of these look a little like some recent design trends ironically, history repeats itself?

  5. 8
  6. 9

    Jose Espinal

    June 13, 2009 5:11 pm

    This is true art.

  7. 10

    Mom used to run an antique shop… not so rare to me =]

  8. 11

    Brian Temecula

    June 13, 2009 5:25 pm

    Gotta love the old signs.

  9. 12

    Jerry Yarnetsky

    June 13, 2009 5:40 pm

    The library where I work has a digital archive of 1920s to 1950s photography in Madison, Indiana. Here are a bunch of Coca-Cola signs on billboard and advertising signs at the time….

  10. 13

    Feel like I just walked into a Cracker Barrel restaurant.

  11. 14

    Wow, what a trip down memory lane that was! Amazing.

  12. 16

    Brandon Cox

    June 13, 2009 6:45 pm

    Wow, love these! I have an upcoming project that requires me to dive into the vintage/retro feel and I’m definitely coming back here for inspiration!

  13. 18

    Love them :)
    I can’t emulate that style, unfortunately.

  14. 19

    You can see that the marketing companies at that time in our country’s history had respect for people regardless of income level, had morals in that they didn’t need to show someone naked to get your attention and were not dumbed down by today’s school systems. Also, people back then were more articulate and didn’t need to use vulgarity to get their point across . Kids, believe it or not, a 5th grader in those days could read, write, do math and comprehend better then college aged young adults do now, I know I have three in college and they tell me what they have to do and learn just to get good grades,,,it’s shameful. We are being dumbed down and don’t even know it..Please, learn from this and study OUR history, the History that is real and NOT embelished by teachers and professors to damn this country and make you ashamed to be an American.

  15. 20

    Jasper Kennis

    June 13, 2009 10:36 pm

    Did you search on ebay to get these images? Damn, this is one of the most lazy posts ever, why is this Smashing content? Sad!

  16. 21

    Jasper Kennis, what a closed minded, um, person.

    Ah well, loved the actual post, nice to see a little variation once in a while

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  18. 23

    TOG design/graphics

    June 13, 2009 11:32 pm

    hehe i like all of them. thank you guys!

  19. 24

    Great collection! Last night I was in a bar where more of these vintage signs were hanging, coincedence.

  20. 25

    What is the point of smashing magazine? You seem to just publish whatever you can find within the parameters of very tenuous headlines. I’m waiting for the day “100 Websites” hit’s the Digg Front page, wherein you list 100 websites at random.


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