What Makes a Sign Antique and Does That Make it Valuable?

Technically, an antique is defined by the US Customs Office as a collectible object being over 100 years old. By that measure, not many of the signs you’ll ever see will be real antiques. However, most people will refer to anything old and collectible as an antique in common speech. It’s really not important to be picky about what’s an “antique” and what’s not because with these porcelain enamel signs the value is usually not based on the age as much as the imagery, brand, condition and rarity.

Even if age was an especially important determining factor it would still be very difficult because unless there are obvious features like a date on the sign there are not very many options for dating most signs. In the case of some companies you can get an age range based off of the particular features of a logo or trademark. You can also sometimes get a date range if you can determine what company manufactured the sign, but even then you get a range of decades in many cases.

old bad
an old sign that isn’t worth much…


I have a lot of people send me contacts concerned primarily with the age of their sign. The age really isn’t that important for the value compared to condition and demand from collectors. In general, there’s a large market out there for petroliana signs for example that tends to keep prices high for signs related to oil and gas stations so even signs from the 50s and 60s regularly sell for over $1000 while signs of similar condition and age from different subject matter might sell for half as much.

What is an Antique Sign?

The term “antique” generally refers to items that are at least 100 years old. However, the specific definition of an antique can vary depending on the context and the specific object in question. In the case of vintage advertising signs, an antique might be considered any sign that is more than 100 years old and is considered to be of historical or cultural significance.

What Makes Signs Valuable?

There are several factors that can contribute to the value of an antique advertising sign. These can include the rarity of the sign, the quality of the materials used, the craftsmanship, and the overall condition of the sign. Signs that are in good condition and have been well-preserved are typically more valuable than those that are damaged or have been poorly maintained.

In addition to age and condition, the subject matter of the sign can also affect its value. Signs that depict iconic products, famous brands, or historical events are often more valuable than those that are more generic in nature. The demand for a particular type of sign can also influence its value, with signs for certain products or brands being more sought after by collectors.

Overall, the value of an antique advertising sign is determined by a combination of its age, condition, subject matter, and demand.