When did original vintage advertising signage start?
Old vintage advertising signs began to become common following the patenting of an enamel process by Benjamin Baugh in Birmingham in 1859. This enabled the application of enamel (glass) in bright colours to metal. Within 20 years there were upwards of 15 manufacturers of such signage in and around Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
Antique advertising signs become commonplace
Pre-1900 most signs were white with blue writing and logos to keep costs down (each enamel colour is a separate firing). Post 1900 and with the advent of the motor vehicle, the need for signs grew and they were everywhere. Interestingly though, due to the costs, they tended to remain fairly generic, so Coleman’s English Mustard, rather than anything more complex. This ensured the longevity of the message and more value for money. When garages and petrol advertising became competitive, there was a far greater proliferation of signage.
Changes in materials over time
Over the 20th Century iron signs became steel, then tin, then aluminium. The majority of signs for sale today are vintage tin advertising signs. In design terms, as the tin-coated rolled steel to be enamelled became thinner and more likely to bend, the bending could crack the enamel and lead to rust. This is usually apparent around any screw holes.
Advertising signage changed later on to printed steel and as with most things, thence to plastic.
There are no hard and fast rules but here are some pointers for you:
If the sign is very heavy it is likely to be cast metal and probably older
If it is enamelled on both sides it is probably older, as enamelling on both sides quickly became a cost issue and was discontinued.
If it is light and flexible, enamelled and has no damage or chips or rust at all, it is probably not an original.
An old single-sided item should have some drips or runs of enamel to the rear.
Ask yourself “Was this brand around in the time period of this type of sign?”. For example, if you saw a sign advertised as an antique tin MacDonald's advertising sign, would you believe it to be real?
As with a lot of collectables, the more rare the item is (and therefore more valuable), the more likely that it will be a fake.
If you like this quality selection and would like to look at some other second hand Eclectica-related products, please take a look at the rest of our Eclectica here - it's easy to browse and select. If you would like further information or product detail about our specific vintage design items, don't hesitate to contact us.