Antique Road Signs
Antique Road Signs are collectible road signs, valued for their age, rarity and design.
Antique road signs that were built before 1950 are a hot commodity for any antique memorabilia collector, and can range from stop or yield signs, street signs, traffic marker signs, guide signs, highway signs, rail road signs, speed limit signs and many more.Brief history
Some collectors prefer to collect antique road signs from a specific area or region, while others like to collect antique road signs from a certain time period.
Antique stop signs are typically yellow and black (as the now common red and white stop signs weren't built until the early 1950s), while authentic antique Route 66 signs have a "cat eye" shape and spell out a state name or "US" on the top of the sign.
Antique rail road signs have screws which hold the back panel and the reflecting buttons together, while in later years it was changed to rivets.
Antique porcelain enamel road signs are some of the most popular among road sign collectors. These signs originated in Germany but were very common in the U.S. between 1890 and 1950. Porcelain enamel signs were built using a base of heavy rolled iron and then later coated with coloured powdered glass and fired in a kiln. Because of this process, porcelain enamel road signs that were built during this period tended to be more weather-resistant and durable.
American road sign designers eventually started using silkscreens and a steel base instead of iron to make these signs, and later started using tin bases instead of steel when porcelain enamel became too expensive.
Types of antique road signs and notable sales
RM Auctions sold:
- An original brown and white Route 66 road sign from New Mexico (24" x 30") for $1,300 in June of 2006.
- A black and orange Phillips Route 66 sign (29" x 29") for $500 in October of 2004.
- A lot of five different antique road signs such as an original red Fleet Motor Oil sign with a small black airplane drawing in the left hand corner, a reproduction of a California "Route 66" road sign, an original New Texaco Motor Oil sign which reads "Stay Full Longer" and features a man in a green outfit in the center, a reproduction of a blue Chevrolet sign which reads "For Economical Transportation," and an original porcelain Quaker State Motor Oil sign for $600 in June of 2008.
Brian Lebel's Old West Auction in Los Angeles, California sold a black Bucking Horse Pictures tin road sign with bright gold lettering which reads "Bucking Horse Pictures, While You Wait, HWY. 14 & 20 I MI. W. Of CODY,WYO" (20" x 28 1/2") which was used on a road to Yellowstone, Wyoming in the U.S. (circa 1950) for $500 in June of 2008.
Victorian Casino Antiques in Las Vegas, Nevada sold a lot of three different antique embossed cast-iron road signs, such as a bridge sign from 1914 (23" x 12"), a Co-Operative Wholesale Society Ltd. Builders Petersboro building plate (11" x 7") an a British Kingsley Road street sign (68" x 9") for $300 in January of 2012.
Bonhams in London sold:
- A large cast iron body "Keep Left" road sign which was made in Cardiff in the 1930s (65") for £115 in December of 2003.
- A set of five A. A. Patrolmen road signs (circa 1938) for £227 in June of 2004.
Rail road signs
Conlee Auctions in Bryan, Texas sold a lot of nine different antique rail road crossing signs, some of which read "Stop on Red Signal," "Tracks" and "Rail Road" for $250 in April of 2007.
Clark Art & Antiques, Mark Mattox Auctioneer in Lexington, Kentucky sold a Lexington, Kentucky rail road sign which read "Lexington" from the C. & O. Station on Liberty Road in Lexington which was removed before the "demolition" of the local train station for $200 in May of 2008.
Bonhams in California sold a large, cast iron, double-sided rail-road crossing sign (circa 1920; 5 feet x 5 feet) for $1,250 in November of 2011.
Speed Limit signs
Victorian Casino Antiques in Las Vegas, Nevada sold an antique metal speed limit road sign from the California State Automobile Association which reads "Speed Limit 25 Miles" for $175 in October of 2011.
Guide for collectors
Porcelain enamel road signs which were built between 1890 and 1950 are considered to be the most expensive and rare, as well as antique rail road signs.
Antique road signs, or more specifically, antique speed limit road signs which have jewels embedded inside of the numbers drive up the value of the item.
Antique "Route 66" road signs are considered to be valuable among collectors as well, and even reproductions of "Route 66" signs are sometimes valuable.
Restoration of an antique road sign is not recommended.
For more information regarding antique road signs, visit websites such as Collectors Weekly, Signalfan, Road Relics, the American Sign Museum or Old Sign.
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